It was hard to fall asleep, but Mr. Webb managed to get six solid hours of sleep before the big first day. There wasn’t anything special to wear or anything special to eat: what made the day special was getting to school in time to get a decent parking space. The faculty lot was on the side of the building opposite Mr. Webb’s room. That was a huge schlep, so Mr. Webb parked in the student lot that was practically outside his door. If he got there early enough, he could get a pull-through spot in the first row.
Lucky day! Mr. Webb got the spot he wanted. He got out of his car and waved at the other teachers and the students he knew as they wended their way into the building. As soon as Mr. Webb got inside, hapless freshmen asked him about where their fist classrooms were located. It seemed to be a rule to have the freshmen schedules set up so that they would criss-cross the building from period to period. Passing periods were six minutes, so they could get from one end to the other in that time, but there would be no time for getting to the bathroom. Kids weren’t supposed to be allowed to use the bathroom for the first fifteen or the last fifteen minutes of a 50-minute class, so that really limited their opportunities to feel comfortable in the educational environment.
Mr. Webb saw a senior that he knew was in one of his classes. “Say, Oscar, can I see your schedule?”
Oscar smiled as he pulled out his schedule. “Sure. You have a good summer?”
“Yes, I did, thanks. And you?” Mr. Webb looked to see what room the schedule said he was in.
“I had a good one. Went back to Manila to see my grandma. What do you need my schedule for, anyway?”
Mr. Webb pointed at his room assignment. “That.”
“Yeah, I’m in your class. I’m stoked.”
“No, you don’t get it. Look at the number.”
“It says A121.”
“OK, now look at the number on the men’s room here.”
“A121 – oh snap!”
Mr. Webb’s room was actually A119B. The ISS room was A119A. Every now and again, not only would the scheduling program put Mr. Webb’s AP classes against other sections that were more in demand, the scheduling program would also decide that it couldn’t handle an A or a B after a room number and would assign Mr. Webb to the next available room number, A121. A120 was a computer classroom, so that wasn’t available.
While people that had been to Teller before were pretty familiar with where Mr. Webb’s room was by the time they were seniors, students new to Teller were going to try and find Economics in a men’s room, which was an uncomfortable prospect, at best. Mr. Webb went to his room to make a sign to put up next to the bathroom so that the kids would know where to find the real classroom.
Waiting for Mr. Webb were the kids that knew the score. Three students stood outside, waiting to put their lunches into Mr. Webb’s fridge. “Hey, Mr. Webb! Do you know what lunch you have?”
“Nope. They don’t announce lunch assignments until third period.”
“What the hell, Webb?”
“They’ve been doing that for the last few years. It used to be that the Social Studies department classes always got B lunch. Some people complained how other departments would grab up the A and C lunches, so now Mr. Hradzin makes the assignments himself.”
“So did you get, like A lunch?”
“No, I keep getting B lunch. But now I have to wait two more days to get it.”
“At least it’s not C lunch. The cafeteria always runs out of the good stuff by C lunch. All they have left is the plate lunches. It’s nasty.”
“That’s why I eat my own lunches.”
The kids put their lunches in the fridge. “What if we don’t have the same lunch as you do?”
“Just heat it up in the microwave and don’t disrupt my class, that’s all.”
“Cool. OK. Can we wait in here until the bell rings?” Nobody liked those cafeteria seats.
“Sure. Make yourselves comfortable.”
A few other kids walked in to sit in Mr. Webb’s room instead of the cafeteria. Mr. Webb started his computer so he could get some music going. “What do you guys want to hear?”
“OK.” Mr. Webb put on some nice bossa brava. That made for a cool vibe.
“Are you gonna show movies during lunch again this year?”
“Planning to. I’m going to start with ‘Dhoom’. Get some cool action.” Mr. Webb pointed at the poster for “Dhoom” on the wall. The students nodded approvingly.
“It’s got motorcycles in it, right?”
“Yeah. Lots of ridiculous chase action. Great way to kick off the year.”
“Say, did you hear about Coach Guffman?” That was the coach that was recently fired for his sexual indiscretions.
“Yes, and we’re not supposed to discuss that with students.”
“Not discuss with students? What if we’re emotionally distraught and stuff?”
“You talk to the counselor. Any of you emotionally distraught?” They all shook their heads. “Well then, that’s a non-starter. We have a replacement for Guffman, so school keeps going.”
“Does the new guy know how he got the job?” A little giggle went through the students.
“Heh.” Mr. Webb had to laugh a little, too. “I don’t know. Be kind of a bad shock to find out after you got the job. Kind of like buying a house without knowing it’s built on an Indian burial ground.”
“Dude, that would suck.”
“Indeed it would. That’s why I don’t plan to ever move. The house I got now isn’t built on any kind of grave or what-not, so I don’t want to press my luck by buying another house.”
“You know who I wish they would fire? Mr. Benton.”
“He’s an assistant band director.” That explained why Mr. Webb didn’t know him. “Total jerk.”
“If you don’t like him, why don’t you quit band?” Year in, year out, Mr. Webb asked this question.
“This is my fourth year, I want to see it through.” And that was the answer every year.
“Well, do you like band?”
“I like concert season. I hate marching.” It seemed like the only people that liked marching were the clarinets.
“You could always start your own band if you want to play concerts. You don’t have to merge your personality with a nameless mass in pseudo-fascist performances reminiscent of Hitler’s Nuremberg Rallies.”
“Wow, way to make it sound creepy, Mr. Webb.”
“It’s what it is. Aldous Huxley wrote about them in his book ‘Brave New World Revisited.’ When you march around at night, your sense of reason is diminished. When everyone else is wearing a uniform, you lose your personality. You become the mass of marchers, you merge with them. If they wanted you to become Nazis, that would be the time to do it. You should quit before they do that.”
“But I’d miss the trip to Corpus this year.”
“You know, you’re allowed to go to Corpus whenever you want to. Does band pay for the trip?”
“No, we do.”
“Well, you don’t miss anything if you bump the trip up to the summer and do a road trip on your own.”
“I hadn’t thought of that.”
“You could probably get a better hotel, too.”
“Yeah, we could.”
“So why stay in band?”
“It’s my fourth year. I’ve made it this far, I might as well see it through.”
“Or you decide that having only three years of something you don’t want is better than having four, and you enjoy the difference.”
“But if anyone tries to quit, Mr. Mastiff really lays on a guilt trip.”
“So you go to the counselor, drop the class, and tell them that you feel uncomfortable about talking about this with Mr. Mastiff.”
“But then he’d tell my parents, and my mom would kill me! She did four years of band and she’s secretary in the band booster organization.”
The bell rang. End of that conversation. The kids said bye and everyone filed out. Mr. Webb locked his door and went to his first period duty station, the tardy station by Mr. Powell’s room. Mr. Walker did duty there, too, but he’d be there in a few minutes, since he had to wrap up his zero-hour class. For the first week, most of what they’d do would be to tell people where to go. For the second week, it would be giving warnings about dress code and tardies. Starting in the third week, it would be time to enforce the rules.
The rationale behind that was that kids needed an adjustment period to get back into school mode. Mr. Webb doubted that wisdom. It’s not like the kids weren’t in a school the year before, where the exact same rules applied. So the result of the two-week grace period was that kids that wanted to make trouble, made trouble, and got away with it.
Mr. Webb wondered how many names he was going to learn this year for all the wrong reasons.