Let’s all pick on the short, fat kid. Oh, wait a minute, that’s me.

December 1, 2009

I mentioned Mrs. Gorsack, my Grade 8 Math teacher at Langley Secondary School, in my previous blog and that twigged a former LSS classmate to ask if I also remembered a teacher named Nancy Rowe.

My first thought was: “Hmmm, no, not really.”

My second thought was: “Teachers have first names? Since when?”

I’m a December baby, which means I wasn’t even officially a teenager when I entered Grade 8. Except for one other fellow in my class who also shared a December birthday, everyone in the school was older than me.

It was the final year LSS offered Grade 13, which means some of my fellow students were six or seven years older than I was. The boys had facial hair. Girls had boobs. They all looked to be eight feet tall.

In my mind’s eye, not a single teacher was younger than 60. The women wore matronly dresses. The men donned jackets, dress slacks and ties. They looked like they were going to a funeral after school was out for the day. Probably mine, if I didn’t improve my grades. Or cut my hair.

These people were deadly serious, despite the smudges of chalk dust on their sleeves. We addressed them as Mr. Surname or Mrs. Last Name. Yes, sir. No, ma’am. They weren’t there to mollycoddle us. They did not want to be our friends or share a joke or speculate on the rumours that Vancouver might be in line for an NHL expansion team.

They were teachers. They taught. They also looked like they smoked a lot and enjoyed a good glass of the hard stuff of an evening. Their complexions were wrinkled and yellow and they would soon perish of diseases we could not pronounce.

My early years of high school were filled with long days of pure terror. Being short and fat painted a large enough target on my back as it was. But sometime during the transitional summer between Belmont Elementary and Langley Secondary, I also made the fatal mistake of deciding a briefcase would be ideal for the transportation of assorted text books and notepads.

In principle, it was a good idea. I had the contents of my locker at my fingertips at all times.

The reality, as you might have guessed, sucked.

During one class, my briefcase went for a walkabout. While I concentrated on transcribing the teacher’s notes from the blackboard to my exercise book, my faux-leather friend was spirited away by fellow classmates more interested in mischief than Mayans. It ended up on a second-storey window ledge and had to be rescued. The fact that the person who volunteered to clamber over the sill was a girl only added to my embarrassment.

Of course, there is always an upside to every disaster. Which means my briefcase actually saved me from grievous bodily harm one day.

I was holding it in front of me, both hands clasped firmly on the handle, as I scurried down the hallway, not daring to be one second late to my next class. Some hero stuck out his foot to trip me up. I fell hard.

But my bulky friend acted like an airbag to cushion me from the impact with the linoleum. I bounced right back up, praying the incident had happened too fast for anyone to have noticed, and continued on with my sprinting.

The good news is I smartened up and ditched the briefcase before I started Grade 9. The bad news is my High School Hell lasted for another year before I grew into my bulk, and the older bullies flunked out or quit to father children so they could beat on someone else not their own size.

But I’ll save those stories for another blog. In the meantime, I’m going to do some research and see if I can’t figure out which subject Mrs., er, Nancy Rowe taught.

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2 Responses to “Let’s all pick on the short, fat kid. Oh, wait a minute, that’s me.”

  1. brooke said

    Dad. A briefcase. I knew this and yet have never riled you about it. Thanks for reminding me.

  2. barb glassford said

    Mrs. Nancy taught Grade 10 – I think – Geometry or Algebra. She threw a mean staple gun when provoked. I know.

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