“OK, the books… I’m not a fan of them, and I’ll let you know that up front. However, I know that some of you like to do things by the book, and you can certainly get full credit for an A in this class, if you go that route. If you don’t like the book, that’s fine, too. I’ll still use the book as a basis for our discussions in class, and if you do a lot of discussing, that will be equal in my mind to what others may be doing with definitions and chapter questions. Everyone will need to be familiar with the definitions in the chapter and everyone will need to participate in class. You decide how you want to earn your grade in here. But we all get a book, so everyone come up here and get a book and a yellow form.”
And so, everyone from Preston Agee down to Paulina Vasquez came up and got a book and a yellow form.
“Make sure you fill out your yellow form completely and then bring it up here to me, with your book. I’ll check them off and you’ll be good to go.”
Calvin asked, “Do we get a grade for this?”
“No. I only take grades for things that have to do with Economics. You’re going to be financially responsible for this book if you lose it, so you got money riding on this, even if you don’t have GPA invested.”
Rashawn Turner said, “Wait, we don’t get bonus points for bringing in tissue paper? That’s how I passed Mr. Byer’s class last year.” DJ and Calvin laughed.
“You’re free to bring in tissue paper to share with everyone. I myself have a stash that I provide to everyone in my classes, along with fridge and microwave access during lunch. But if you want extra credit, you have to do Economics. Which reminds me of a story… there was a teacher here at Teller, before I got here, a really big guy… he had a schedule of various baked goods and how many points they’d earn. There were kids that baked their way to an A in his class.”
Cristina Orozco smacked her teeth and said, “Daaaaaang. I bet he was real fat.”
“I said he was a big guy. The man had a price and let it be known. As far as I’m concerned, if you want to bake, it’ll be to share with the class. You’re free to eat and drink in here, provided that you don’t leave stinky trash in my can, don’t leave any trash where you sit, and your eating isn’t a distraction. If I say it’s a distraction, it’s a distraction. To give you an example, there was this one kid that I had that brought an entire loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter every day to class. In class, he would make peanut butter sandwiches of the entire loaf and eat them. Made the whole class smell like white bread. Worse, he smacked his food.”
Cristina smacked her teeth and said, “Stoooopid!”
Mr. Webb smacked his teeth and said, “Stooooopid, indeed. We made him stop.”
Cristina and the other Mexicans laughed. “Man, you’re trippin.”
“I taught at Sunflare for two years. I picked a few things up there.”
Edgar Rocha said, “Man, that place is straight up ghetto. How many times did you get killed there?”
“About once a month.”
Smacks. “Stooooopid,” in four-part harmony.
“Yeah, I learned the ways of the cholo there. Good times. The kids were all right there, but the administration… those guys you had to watch out for.”
Back to the task at hand, though… one by one, Mr. Webb called up the students. He made sure they had the correct book number on their forms and that they had their names in their books. He entered the book numbers in his grade book and collected the yellow forms. And he waited for the inevitable question…
DJ asked it. “Can we keep our books in here?”
“Sure. Provided…” Mr. Webb pointed at the freezer part of his fridge. “You keep them in there.”
“Yes. A nicely chilled book is a pleasure on a summer’s day.”
“Leaving them on the shelves, they get picked up by other people there and find their way to other classes. You’re on the hook for the loss, and that’s no good. Sometimes, I can track down the wandering books, but I found that they’re less likely to grow legs if they’re in my freezer.”
DJ shrugged and put his book in the freezer. “I got football first period. Might be nice.”
As he stood up, he revealed that his pants were sagging. Badly. Mr. Webb had to comment. “And, while you’re up, DJ, you need to hike up the pants. I can’t stand the sag.”
“Aw, mister, the ladies like the fashion.”
“Not me!” Sakura was adamant.
“It’s so tacky.” Salina offered her cold opinion.
“Yeah, tacky.” Meron spoke her words with passion.
Mr. Webb took a survey. “Do any of the women here think that sagging is a good look?” None of the twelve women raised their hands or spoke in the affirmative.
“Well, I’m not trying to go out with any of the chicks here.” DJ backpedaled.
“Good.” Salina didn’t let up.
Mr. Webb tried to offer a reasonable argument. “Part of school’s mission is to prepare you for the workplace. You really can’t sag anywhere where it’s decent to work. Might as well get used to it. Pull ’em up.”
DJ had a ready response. “Dude. I’m gonna be a rapper. I gotta sag if I’m gonna rap.”
Mr. Webb wasn’t impressed. “A rapper, eh? So, let me check Monster.com to see if there are any rap shortages anywhere in the USA…” He pretended to type and click on his laptop. “Oh, here’s an opening. They need a rapper in Lincoln, Nebraska. They’re offering $8.50 an hour.”
“Really?” DJ looked hopeful.
“Seriously?” Mr. Webb shattered those hopes.
“Man, don’t hate.”
“I’m not hatin, just letting you know… making it in the arts can be very difficult. Chances are, you’re going to need a day job until you get enough interest to be able to make a living on the road. I did stand-up comedy a few years ago, during the summer. I saw a lot of great comics that were just looking for that one break. Some of them were actually able to work the club circuit, but they were always on the road. No family life for those guys. It was a hard life. The rest of the comedians worked during the day. It wasn’t because they weren’t good. They were hilarious. They just didn’t have the same luck that the others had.”
DJ didn’t seem to be moved by reason.
“Also, I’ll email Coach Sheppard that you’re sagging.”
DJ pulled his pants up. Although everyone knew that the office wouldn’t take referrals for tardies or dress code violations during the first two weeks, Coach Sheppard, the athletic director, held his athletes to a higher standard. Falling short of that standard meant not playing or running extra laps. As long as DJ was a starting fullback, he had a reason to keep his pants up. If he played basketball, they’d stay up through the end of the semester.
“As long as the belt loops are above your butt muffin, I’m cool.” Sakura and Meron nearly choked with laughter at “butt muffin.” Mr. Webb continued, “I don’t want to bust your chops, either, but this is a rule I do feel strongly about. That and no pickles.”
“No pickles?” Sakura had to ask.
“I cannot stand the smell of pickles. At all. Do not bring any into my class, not even as a test. I will smell them and I will lose my mind and I will come up with some kind of punishment that you will not like. I don’t know what it will be, but I am a creative man and I will think of something that you will not like.” A look around the room confirmed that, yes, Mr. Webb had creativity, even if he didn’t have the best taste in décor.
“I could bring a durian, for example.”
Quynh Nguyen gagged. “God, no.”
Sakura looked confused. “What’s… durian?”
“The worst-smelling thing in the world, with a hint of onion, right, Quynh?”
Quynh nodded. “I hate it whenever my grandma brings it over. She loves the stuff. They have to eat it outside, though, or I’ll die.”
Sakura looked terrified. “You’ll diiiiiiie?” Meron also looked terrified. Salina looked moderately concerned.
Mr. Webb said, “It’s against the law in Singapore and Malaysia to bring durian into public transportation or hotels. It’s a massive, spiked fruit whose smell can draw elephants from two miles away. It’s absolutely horrid. It’s a weapon of mass destruction. And I love the way it tastes.”
Quynh couldn’t believe what he just heard. “You… like… it?”
“Love it. Two out of every three people in the world find that, after tasting it, it’s not so bad. Half of those people absolutely love it, in spite of the way it first smells. Eating it makes it change how it smells. It’s amazing.”
“Not for me, mister.”
“Well, you’re in the one out of every three humans that find that it tastes as bad as it smells. Sorry.” Mr. Webb addressed the rest of the class. “But now you all know that it’s not an idle threat. No pickles, and I’m serious as a heart attack about that rule.”
With the books and basic rules out of the way, Mr. Webb saw fit to commence the Economics lesson: “OK, kids… scarcity… that’s the foundation of Economics. Scarcity. What is it?”
Dead air. Time to fill the void with information.