Thursday, July 25, 2013

Theory 10: Teachers are the most entertaining people on the planet.


Reader, think back through all your years in school. From kindergarten to high school to college, which teachers stand out in your memory? Which were your “favorites”? Picturing someone? Now, was that teacher an expert in Bloom’s Taxonomy, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, or cross-curricular planning with informational text? My guess is those teachers stand out for one primary reason: entertainment value!  Many folks are led to teaching careers because they want to entertain.  We need a stage. For all us amateur comedians, the classroom is the perfect theater. The audience is required by law to attend performances. The cast of characters (faculty and staff) are fodder for tragedy, romance, and comedic relief. There’s not a whole lot of money at stake, so we can take risks with our humor. If a joke bombs, hey, just turn to Page 44 and answer questions 1-15. Plus, students love stories!  And, I think—at least I hope—at least they tell me they love to hear my stories again and again.  Hmmm.

The future of America
There are many sources of entertainment via school faculty.
Teachers know how to work together.
Some teachers get loud and stay loud all day. Not a teaching strategy folks – just a quirk. Let’s call them Yellers. Many Yellers are also Bellers (ring bells, value noise). Let’s take it back to the tour-on infested hollers of East Tennessee for a bit. There, my dear family friend "Tush" worked with a Yeller/Beller. She told me, “[That teacher] would not stop ringing that dang bell. So, one day as I left school, I stole the bell. The next morning, I heard her let out a yell like no other, ‘Wheeeeerrreeeee’s MY BELL?!?’ She blamed every [child] in her room for stealing the bell. On the last day of school, I snuck the bell behind a stack of books. When [Yeller/Beller] was cleaning up [to go home for summer] she laughed and said, “I didn’t know I put the bell there!”
 Teachers are pranksters. We have to be. We say the same things over and over and must inject humor. My cousin Mooch is one of the funniest people I know. Mooch started the “Fake Rat Project” with a Halloween toy rat who bore flashing red eyes. Mooch hid the rat and declared a rule that whoever found the rat had to relocate it. Mooch and the Rat caused horror and hysterics, not to mention a few mid-day teacher costume changes.
Teachers are daring volunteers.
A goat trespassed the playground. Tush came to the rescue with a jump rope. She haltered the goat and led it through the adjacent neighborhood yelling, “I’ve got a goat! Whose goat is this?” to the delight of students and faculty. Let’s all sing in rounds, “Mary had a little goat. In Pigeon Forge. In Pigeon Forge.”
Why do students always want to make us dance? Especially those of us who are Size 12 and up. I had to jiggle through a flash mob just last year. Maybe when we embarrass ourselves on their behalf, we earn students’ trust. Still, it seems like we have to dance an awful lot.
Teachers make their own fun.
My old biology teacher, Bufe (pronounced Beeyouf, one syllable) tortured ambitious honors students by offering an A+ on the entire fetal pig dissection project if we pulled the pig’s brain and spinal cord out, completely intact. You should have seen my neurotic, genius, now chemical engineer friend TRO in a cold sweat, mini-hacking that baby pig with tweezers and tiny scalpel.
Bufe also held weekly raffles to raise money for the soccer team. Since gambling was illegal in Tennessee then, he “sold” us Solo cups with numbers on the bottom. $1 per cup. He shuffled the cups like a magician. Winners won t-shirts and game tickets.
Teachers love romance!
Delicious worked with a purvey principal who literally locked her in his office and chased her around a desk, begging for “just one little kiss.” He did stop to squirt breath spray in his mouth. It was the early 80’s. I think the amorous administrator was inspired by Dabney Coleman’s chase after Dolly Parton in “9 to 5.”
The King of Kodak (introduced in Theory?) was also the King of romance! Every Friday, he held a dating game.  He cut a small heart out of a piece of notebook paper. He laid the paper on the overhead projector and shut off the lights. He chose a female student to come up front and stand in the overhead-projected heart spotlight. The girl chose a number that correlated to another student in the King’s roll book. The boy met the girl in the light. Then, the King spun his globe to determine where they would go on their fictional date. Once, Mare got set up with my cousin Roscoe. They were destined for love in Nicaragua! I think she was excited but she never admitted it.
Teachers make the best public mistakes!
We are tired. We are punchy. We are over-stimulated throughout the day. So, we mess up. Sometimes by accident. Sometimes on purpose. Delicious is not a housekeeper. Laundry piled up at our house and every morning was harried. Well, one good old day at GP, Delicious was strolling the rows, speaking in iambic pentameter, forcing Hamlet on teenagers, while a gaggle of girls giggled. For half an hour. Finally, she confronted them and asked, “Okay, ya’ll are being rude while I teach. What is the deal?” One said, “We’re sorry Mrs. Delicious, but you’ve got panty hose coming out of your pants.” I’m not sure how she did this, but Delicious put on her polyester Kmart (I’m sure) black pants and a pair of nude hose were stuck inside, leg for leg. Basically, she looked like the house in the “Wizard of Oz” with the Wicked Witch of the East’s socks uncurled and exposed. She’d dragged those empty tan feet around all morning.
To the delight of night school students, Delicious, worn out from a long day in the garden, drug her tired self to class late and slung her tote bag hard on top of her work table in front of the room. When that cotton bag struck the Formica, Delicious’s Preparation H shot across the room, “like a torpedo.”
My old principal, Mr. Z, who was tough and tall, bragged to students that he could do a mid-air karate kick. Well, he did. But, at the height of his exhibition, he split his pants.
I taught at a really “rough” and rowdy school my first year. My classroom daily motto (which I muttered all day long to myself was “don’t cuss, don’t cry, don’t quit.” I made it all the way to May! Yay! But, I still showed my tail. Worn slap out by ruuuuuuuude 8th graders, many of whom I still love and stay in contact with, I lost my cool. I was holding a stack of math workbooks and thought, “I am so freakin’ mad I’m going to throw these across the room!” Knowing this was a bad idea, I had the presence of mind to get a teacher passing the hall to stop and witness my tantrum. She agreed. I hurled 30 books across the room and watched them smack then slide down the wall, stunning students. I put on a You-Tube worthy twenty-minute tirade. It was quite a show. The students loved it! I learned a lesson.
Teachers are creative problem solvers.
My sweet and typically soft-spoken algebra teacher, frustrated with our lack of understanding, shocked us one day. He jumped from his chair and leapt across his desk and out the door. He re-entered and sat down. Then, he dove under his desk and crawled out the door. He re-entered and sat down. Finally, he stood and sauntered out the door. When he returned, a student asked, “Mr. R, are you alright?” He said with his pointer finger in the air and his voice in a lilt, “I’m just demonstrating that there’s more than one way to solve a problem!” It was quite a show and he did not throw out his back. Teachers do that a lot, too. Whew.

Teachers are resourceful.
Yes, we have summers off, but our time is limited. Delicious was notorious for sending students on off-campus errands (this was way before teacher evaluations and Common Core Standards). Think of the movie “Dazed and Confused.” Delicious gave senior boys her car keys and had them take Greenie (teacher cars are a whole other story) to the car wash on Highway 321. She also sent them to Proffitt’s Deli to bring back her lunch. Of course, they were compensated with freedom and hot dogs. She continued the tradition until a boy brought back a bunch of Budweiser cans and announced to the room, “Look what we found in your car!”
If you are a student, teachers are wonderful listeners. If you are an in-service trainer, teachers are terrible listeners.
Teachers love to talk. Duh. And, since their days are dynamic and harried, they don’t sit still very well. We all end up with ADHD, that is, if we stay awake.  Who wants to explain stuff all day and then listen to someone else explain stuff? It’s tough! It’s like listening to yourself explain stuff. Geez. I get so tired of my own voice!
Speaking of changing times and bad listeners, Delicious has not adjusted to the age of technology. In the late 90’s her school got a set of teacher computers and Delicious got her first email account. The trainer explained, “Decide on a password and do not tell anyone what it is.” Well, Delicious sat through the long meeting, straining to guard her new key to warp-speed, limitless communication. But, she finally broke, telling her best friend, “I can’t take this anymore! I don’t like keeping secrets. I am telling you my password.”
The much younger, tech savvy Mrs. W sighed, “Okay, what is it?”
Delicious whispered seriously through her clenched jaw, “Computer.”
A buddy said today in training that teachers are notorious for modeling the behaviors they hate in students. For example, teachers who want their classrooms super quiet are the chattiest in meetings. The ones who value punctuality are late to training. In other words, he quipped about behavior problems, “If you spot it, you’ve got it!”
Usually, in-service trainers (who are typically master teachers) schmooze the audience with prizes, school supplies, breaks, and food. Teachers love food. Just like students. What is that all about? We’ll eat anything. Any time. Any day. I’ve had pizza and cake before 9 a.m. on several occasions. I had three desserts today at an in-service. School started Tuesday for me and starts at the end of July for my students. A teacher friend said to me today, as she also gobbled down quite a sweet spread, “I just can’t start my diet ‘til I have students.”
In-service snacks
Readers, I write about these teachers for one simple reason: I laughed with them. I learned from them. I love them! And, turns out, now I’m one of them!

So, it’s time to go back to school, which means I need some new teacher duds—a subject that honestly merits its own post, Theory 11: The only thing worse than teacher fashion is substitute teacher fashion.

See you next post! Until then, think outside the barn!

Let's talk! Find me and friend me!

Also, visit Amazon.com or my website to read about my book, The Eye of Adoption, my short story, Field Day, and my collection of essays for parents and teachers, Parents, Stop and Think.

Author website: www.jodydyer.com

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Theory 9: The more a zoo advertises a critter, the less likely visitors are to see it.

It’s summer and I’m a public school teacher, so I entertain Sharky and the Gnome on a dime. Luckily, we live close to the Great Smoky Mountains and The University of Tennessee—budget friendly attractions. But, when my beautiful, sweet niece E came to visit for a week from our state’s capital, I had to step up my game. I took them trudging through my Appalachian home place—The Crippled Beagle Farm, we caught lightening bugs in our front yard, and we bowled at The University of Tennessee’s student center. But E had souvenir money from her dog sitting business to burn, so I had to find a gift shop before she returned to Nashville! Where is a great place to see stuff and spend money? The zoo!
I’ll begin by promising you readers that I LOVE the Knoxville Zoo. I’ve gone to several animal themed parks, petting exhibits, fairs, and zoos in my life but The Knoxville Zoo reigns supreme! It’s clean, convenient, well-managed, and the animals enjoy considerable habitat space. “Habitat” is what you call cages and pens with synthetic rocks and fake tropical waterfalls to convince the animals that they are in Thailand, not Tennessee.
The worst thing I ever saw at the Knoxville Zoo was a 50 pound Aldabran Tortoise stuck on his side. He just paddled away, with no friction to save his balance. His scaly claws fought for naught. But, within moments, a zoo employee rescued him by carefully setting him upright. The second worst thing I ever saw at the zoo was when Sharky, then age 4, escaped his rented stroller (which, by the way, are the best strollers ever because they are light, simple, and low enough for a child to step into and out of by himself, thus saving my aching back). Why can’t regular folks buy those? They are almost as handy as the church’s highchairs.  Anyway, unfortunately, Sharky could also unbuckle himself.  I said something like, “Let’s go see the lions!” and he furiously unsnapped his safety belt and zoomed like a bullet down the path. But, he tripped, went airborne, and soared into a mound of black dusty mulch. He was a Southern Ground Hornbill!
The best thing I’ve ever seen at the Knoxville Zoo is old Tonka, who is still there, and has been since my 1980’s childhood (thus the name Tonka, as in Tonka Tough trucks). He’s an African elephant and I can count on seeing him. The second best thing about the Knoxville Zoo is Dippin' Dots, the world’s coldest ice cream. It really doesn’t matter what month it is when you go to the zoo, you will be hot. Basically, you tromp around a 50+ acre hilly farm and, when you tell me I’m in Africa or I see that Brazilian Rainbow Boa glassed in a humid box,  the power of suggestion just gives me hot flashes and I need cooling off with some Cookies-n-Cream. Just like when I gaze at the Toco Toucan I crave Fruit Loops and a Margarita.
All that being said, I have a theory about zoos in general. The more the zoo advertises a critter, the less likely visitors are to see it. The zoo is a unique experience.
I once heard a Fox News anchor say something like, “Why do people keep making Pandas have more Pandas?” I can tell you why, Brian. Supply for demand. Zoos advertise exotic visitors (animals they rent or borrow from other zoos) to ramp up visitation, but most folks just hear the ad or see the billboard in passing and think the animals have made a home in the local habitat. Not so. How many of you have been lured into the zoo, to the tune of $19.95 for adults and $17.95 for children over the age of 2 to see a critter from another part of the world, only to spend, sweat, and see this:


Of course!


So off E, Sharky, the Gnome, and I went to the zoo. E is not a fan of hot uphill hiking, but when I told her about the White Alligator and gift shop, she grabbed her iPod Touch (camera) and spending money! We saw black bears recline, penguins waddle, and Tonka scoop water with his trunk. We looked through a huge habitat for the Western lowland gorillas, but found only one. Another large gorilla rested inside a concrete structure. Sharky didn’t like that environment and said, “He is miserable.” 

I said, “He is fine. Maybe he just likes being in the shade.”

Sharky argued, “Really? Check out the look on his face.”

I’m no Jane Goodall, but Sharky had a point. Sometimes I think animals are smarter than humans. They don't trip. They don’t argue with nature. They lie in the shade and refresh themselves with water. We eat hot nachos and hoof it up hills. We gawk. They yawn. Who is watching whom here? I’ve never heard a lion roar, but I’m sure those lions have heard plenty of mamas yell.

As my little wards gazed upon the grasslands zebras, E (very much a girl) squished up her face and asked, “Aunt Bug, can we go to another part of the zoo. It stinks over here. Ewww, what is that smell?”

Tired, I explained, “Zebra sht.”

We migrated over to the baboon cage. Again, “Aunt Bug, it stinks over here, too! What is that smell?”
“E, that’s Baboon sht.”  FYI - Teachers aren’t the most patient summer babysitters.
Two hours, two fruit slushies, and two plastic animal toys in, Sharky said, “Let’s go to the other side.”
E almost cried, “There’s another side?”
“Yes! We have to go see the White Alligator! I heard about it on the news!” 
I was hot and tired, too, but I wanted to get the best bang for my buck, especially since that money should have gone toward the light bill, and was determined that my brood would see every caged critter. E and I rallied when we saw the Dippin’ Dots stand and took a much needed break. Ahhh. Cool, refreshing, summertime ice cream. I could never eat meat at the zoo.  Who could eat chicken nuggets while watching a bird show? Delicious hasn’t eat a hamburger since the time she pattied out ground beef and looked out her kitchen window to see a cow, fifteen feet away, make its own patty.
Restored by our freezing cold sweet treat, we set out to see the White Alligator on the far side of the 56 acre zoo. Halfway there, E, who was pushing Sharky in the awesome stroller, stopped and gasped, “Oh my gosh Aunt Bug, what time is it?”
I said, “3:30. Why?”
She said, “Oh no! I am missing a show I really wanted to watch.”
I asked, “What show?”
She said, “It’s a show about wild animals on Nickelodeon.”
What'chu talkin' 'bout, Willis?
I said, “E! There’s a rhino forty feet from you and a Red Panda right beside you!” I later laughed with Delicous about the exchange and she said E was onto something—air conditioning and good editing: she could snack in comfort and be guaranteed a quality animal performance. TV shows feature active animals, not yawners.
Some critters did perform for us. The Gnome hooted as he watched North American River Otters through a glass wall dive, flip, and splash.  And you can always count on lemurs. No matter where I go, if animals are on display, lemurs abound. Aren’t they like rodents? Teachers are always hustling for extra money. Maybe I should start a lemur breeding business.

Zoo babies and friend

Off we went to the petting zoo to brush fat goats. Then to Kids Cove, a sweet little artificial creek bed where Gnomes can mimic their new river otter friends as their worn out mamas can rest in rocking chairs. The playground looked spotless, but when I saw goat-brushing, breast-feeding, nacho eating, and a sign reading “Children who are not potty-trained must wear swim diapers” in one panoramic view, I got a little grossed out.  I packed up my crew and said, “Let’s see this White Alligator and head home.”
Another short hike to see the highly advertised and regarded gator. But guess what? He wasn’t there! I asked an attendant who explained, “We just sent him to another zoo up north.”
Uh-huh. Sure you did.
On the way home, I asked the Gnome, who appeared to have a blast throughout the day, “What was your faaaaaavorite animal at the zoo today?”
With certainty and excitement, he announced, “The whale!”
Really? I paid $17.95 for him to imaginarily see the most impossible animal to contain in a zoo? Next time, we’re going to PetSmart to “see” a whale. It’s much cheaper and I can pick up dog food while I’m there.
As I sat in my den typing up this post a few days ago, I yelled to Tall Child, "What do you think about the zoo?”
He answered, “I don’t.” 
What’s his problem? He is missing out on a great workout, first-hand experience with exotic creatures, goat-brushing, lemurs, imaginary 300,000 pound whales, and Dippin’ Dots!
FYI: The  Atlanta Zoo has twin Panda cubs right now.  Aaaaaallegedly.

Uh Huh

Speaking of exotic creatures and blow holes, school starts for many teachers next week. Which brings me to Theory 10: Teachers are the most entertaining people on the planet.
See you next post! Until then, think outside the barn.
Let's talk! Find me and friend me!

Also, visit Amazon.com or my website to read about my book, The Eye of Adoption, my short story, Field Day, and my collection of essays for parents and teachers, Parents, Stop and Think.

Author website: www.jodydyer.com

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Theory 8: In youth sports, parents are the true performers.



I come from a long line of multi-sport athletes. So, despite my personal lack of talent (See Theory 5: Play a sport, even if you suck at it), when Sharky, age 5, debuted in tee ball, I expected genetic skill to skip through and shine. At the first game, a batter knocked a bullet off the tee and Sharky snagged it. Out! What a stud! I was elated! But, the coach gave a different boy the game ball. I was miffed. I complained to Delicious, who counseled, “Bug, if you’re going to watch your child play sports, you’re going to have to get control of yourself.” Sharky has played in at least 200 baseball games and 100 basketball games since then.  I try to stay composed, but even the most well-mannered mama and papa bears take a step back in evolution when our cubs are under pressure or “mistreated.” We’ve got scoreboards for the kiddos, but parents’ behavior is hard to track.  I thank my crowd for helping me label what we see at games. I’m keeping descriptions pretty general so as not to identify anyone. I mean, we are talking about teachers, preachers, social workers, doctors, bankers, repairmen, and accountants, after all. So, which of these performing parents are you?

The Gnome consoles Tall Child after umpires kicked him off the field


Make-the-Mosters: From my friend “Baton Swiper” who is married to former UT musician “Stud Trombone” - Well, once there were these beautiful over-zealous mom’s who created a run-through sign, boom box music, and opening excitement for their sons [kindergarten] basketball team. Baton Swiper and I graciously wrote both teams’ players’ names on paper and held the banner’s edges. After a pre-game bathroom break, the little boys lined up. Trombone Stud hit play. The teams ripped onto the court to warm-up.  Some parents probably thought we were nuts, but some of their boys will never rip through paper again. In one of our last games, I said to the other team’s coach (who looked unhappy—probably because we’d beaten him three times already), “Hey, we’re going to line up to run through the paper in about two minutes.” He pouted, “My team will NOT be running through your paper!” Hint: If you do the paper thing, be sure to poke holes. When Sharky did a practice run at home, his then 44 lb. body hit that banner with full force, and with equal force shot backward into the wall.
From my aunt, “Terrific”: I was always the "Boom Box" lady for A-Boo’s preppy yet fierce “The Yummyville School” softball teams...age 9-17. I probably went a little overboard with song selections...including a rousing round of Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" at the conclusion of victories, which were numerous.  Other teams and coaches despised "The Yummyville School" team. Later, A-Boo played collegiate golf for Vanderbilt. During her sophomore year she was paired against a University of Alabama player at a golf tournament in Athens, GA. As small talk progressed, we discovered that the Bama golfer had played high school softball for our elite competitors in Oconee. When she realized we were from "The Yummyville School" she exclaimed, "Oh, that's the team with the OBNOXIOUS Boom Box Lady!" A-Boo hung her head, pointed at me (her mother) and said "Yep, and that would be her."
Outfielders: They sit alone way down the first base line or they stand in the gym corner. Maybe they’re nervous, maybe they’re focused on the game, maybe they’re doing some intense one-on-one parent-child coaching. Or, maybe they just don’t want to hear the women in the bleachers swap recipes and talk about “The Walking Dead.” Sorry, guys.
Budgeteers: Gate passes, $3 nachos, gas, hotels, and Gatorades add up fast. Why not tuck your body between a cooler, a bat bag, and a stadium throw in the back of your SUV? Don’t breathe. And, once you are in, don’t leave.
On-The-Road-Off-Duty Parents: Parents (typically male) who forsake normal supervisory responsibilities on road trips. Post-match, they crowd the hotel lobby to imbibe adult juice boxes and rehash game highlights as their children (also typically male) ride elevators, vandalize the hotel work-out facilities, and ding-dong-ditch unfortunate hotel room neighbors.  
I once asked a mother, who was obviously worn out from keeping up with five children at an out of town tourney in suffocating humidity, “Where are your little ones?” She sighed, “They are either on the playground or in a van half-way to Michigan.”
These parents’ children score lots of bling: Phiten necklaces, tourney t-shirts, sunglasses, etc.
Rule Freaks: Those who, as Terrific likes to say, are “often wrong but never in doubt.” Rule Freaks like to second-guess the umpires, forgetting that different age groups and leagues have different rules. Rule freaks also question players’ ages, as in “That boy can not be 11 years old and be that tall.” When your mama is 6’4 and looks like an Auburn linebacker, yes, you can be that tall.
One-Time One-Liners: Guilty. Sometimes I do this one just for my own amusement. These parents have a combo flash of bravado and wit. In the safe cloud of fan noise, we scream out mean things we’d never say anywhere else, like “Are you freakin’ kidding me?”, “Are you stupid?”, or my favorite, “You suck!”  One of my own relatives yelled at a female referee, “Get back to your ironing board!” Funny, but kind of mean, right? Still. Funny.
Lobbyists: These parents kiss up to the coach, sweet-talk the coach’s wife, and criticize other players, hoping to get their children more playing time. As a coach’s wife, I like these parents because they help organize team parties and order trophies!
Paranoid Schizophrenics: Some parents are convinced their child is about to get cut. There’s so much at stake: college scholarships, the draft on TV where all the turd nay-sayers will eat crow, the NBA/NFL lifestyle, the quan! As the child sits out a quarter or inning, these parents look intensely quiet and nervous. Sometimes they whisper to one another. But, when the child hits an RBI or a buzzer-beater, they high-five and test their bras and belts with vigorous middle-aged jumping jacks!
Worriers: Parents (typically women) who squeal and gasp every time their angels foul hard, collide, or go full-speed coast to coast toward a backboard and the wall behind it, with only four-pads of skimpy protection. They cover all sharp corners, close bleachers, and concrete stairs at Rocky Hill Elementary. Whew.
Space Hogs – Some of us have back problems, okay? We get a good comfy spot on the top bleacher where we can lean. Ahhhh. Or, a shady spot behind the backstop. Relaxing. Great view of every play. Why should we leave just because our team isn’t playing again for two hours. Competition at its toughest. If you want to see the mother of the super-stud athlete with un-teachable competitive drive, just scan the backstop or the top bleacher.
Out of Touchers: Once, a mother asked Tall Child to change the tournament schedule because her son wanted to go to a birthday party.
My friend, Ole Miss Glamour Girl (OMGG) once interrupted baseball practice because she had dinner reservations. Here’s how it went down:
OMGG yelled across the field to her son, “Phenom” get your stuff. We have to leave!”
Coach: “What?!? No!”
OMGG yelled, “We have dinner reservations!”
Coach: “It’s Tuesday!”
OMGG: “It’s Cinco De Mayo!”
Coach: “You’re not Mexican!”
Now, OMGG is one of my best buds. She knows how to have a good time. We threw a tailgate complete with sandwich platters, adult juice boxes, tablecloths, and flowers. Think: The Grove at Ole Miss. She also once said, “How can that umpire tell if it’s a ball or a strike? He’s standing behind the base!”
Annoyers:  Wrong, not Christian, but I HATE the lady who shook a plastic bottle full of coins for an entire ballgame in Orlando, Florida. I complained to the concession stand woman. Her response? “I’m in food.” Really? You know it’s bad when you are strategizing with an eight grader about how to take down a granny. Watch out coin lady! Who’s got my back?
Grandparents: Speaking of grannies, Delicious and Boppy are not fans of the bunt. Even if Sharky was 0 for 12 three weekends in a row, they are 100% certain he can hit a grand slam, if only the coach will give the signal.

Pouters : Parents and Daddy Ball Coaches who stomp off the field and say, “Get your bag.” One Daddy Ball Coach refused (for two seasons) to give Tall Child the “good game” hand shake. Not even a fist bump. He/his son was robbed, I am sure.
Hecklers: Parents who harass the coaches, the referees, the other teams’ coaches, the other teams’ fans, and their own children. I save my commentary for Tall Child for the car ride home. IF, IF, IF I ride home with him. You should see how he mistreats my super-athletic, often misunderstood baby Sharky sometimes! I mean, I never got that kind of treatment in the band!
Trout over-heckled the refs at Roscoe’s college basketball game, and the refs said, “You are out of here! Leave this gym!” Trout pointed at himself, and mouthed, “Me?” He’d driven a long way to watch Roscoe and was not about to leave. So, he faked them out and sneaked up to the balcony seats.
Division Ones: These parents have genetic confidence and nothing to prove (no vicarious ambition) as they were successful in their own glory days. They know the rules, so they don’t argue. They are tall, so they don’t fight for the top bleacher or backstop seats. Umps recognize their frames and gaits as “having been there” and give them the cool-rod nod.
Snappers: No one is immune. My kind-hearted, loving, philanthropic sister-in-law, the “Dogwood Debutante,” became irate after her nephew Sharky lost to Sumner County. No doubt cheated by refs, we exited in defeat and the winning team celebrated. Dogwood Deb lost her cool and screamed, “Go back home to Slumner County!”
After one baseball game, I saw a woman freak out so hard I expected to see her leave in a straight jacket. She screeched and thrashed like a wild animal. Luckily, she was inside the scorekeeper’s chain-link protective box. She was in a “cage rage.”
At the end of a basketball game, I watched in horror as a granny went postal on her grandson. She kept saying, “You look at me when I’m talkin’ to you!” He couldn’t. She had A & P eyes (one faced the Atlantic, the other the Pacific—the murky one). Think: Infected. 
So, as your child winds up to pitch, steps back in the pocket to throw, or sets up his shot, answer this question: How do you perform? Are you civilized in the shadows, or does the animal you come out to play?
See you next post. Until then, think outside the barn!

Check out these wild spectators ready to pounce on Sharky!
Let's talk! Find me and friend me!

Also, visit Amazon.com or my website to read about my book, The Eye of Adoption, my short story, Field Day, and my collection of essays for parents and teachers, Parents, Stop and Think.

Author website: www.jodydyer.com

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Friday, July 5, 2013

Theory 7: Everyone should work in a restaurant, Part 2

Perfect Moment - Spotted these fellas on my way home.


In last week’s post, I explained that I’ll require Sharky and the Gnome to do restaurant work at some point in their formative years to gain real-life working knowledge of language, sexism, nepotism, favoritism, overcoming mistakes, and coping with stress. There may come a time when Sharky and the Gnome want to rip off the apron and walk out. I know. I “stuck it to the man” a few times.  Yes, kitchen managers and co-workers can make you crazy, but the customers, oh, the customers can make you mad enough to spit. Or quit. By the way, they are not always right. Typically, they are flat out wrong. Restaurant nation, feel free to finish this sentence, “Servers hate when customers _______.”
I know I hate:
·         When parents croon, “Tell the lady what you want.” It’s so obnoxious, especially when you hear it twenty times in one shift. Plus, don’t we already know what the crumb picker wants? Chicken tenders, plain hamburger, extra plate.

·         Customers who look at the menu and say, “Decisions, decisions.” Stop trying to convince everyone you can quote a president or theorist. Just decide.

·         When people order decaf. What is the point? Do you swim in your socks? I bet the same folks fish in waders and eat Egg-Beaters.

·         People who order extra lemons, squeeze them pulpless into a water glass, and stir in ten packets of sweeter. That ain’t lemonade. You are a tight wad.

·         Vinegar and oil. We all know you are trying to act sophisticated in front of your friends. Admit it, you really want Thousand Island. Plus, that’s the same oil we use in the deep fryer and the same vinegar we use to clean the coffee maker. Bon app├ętit!

·         Soup. Cottage cheese. Hot tea. Really? Really?

·         Customers who run the waiters to death. Don’t get all “lord of the manor” on us.

·         Breakfast customers who don’t tip 15% or more, just because it’s breakfast time. Breakfast servers wait on twice as many customers, carry twice as many dishes, and make half the money. Show respect.

·         Customers who discuss the tip with the server. So degrading. You never hear a server say, “You did a good job ordering and eating your nachos.”

·         Non tippers – you suck. You just never know what that server is dealing with personally or in the kitchen. Err on the side of kindness. If you can afford to eat out, you can afford to tip. Delicious worked with a girl at Heidelberg who became irate after a big table of tour-ons (half tourist, half moron) stiffed her. She chased them out of the restaurant, through Ober Gatlinburg, all the way to the Tram station. Just before the doors slid shut, she flung foul language and their pocket-change into the Tram and said, “Here, you need this more than I do!”

How to quit
Tall Child (a salesman) and I (a public school teacher and writer) have great work ethic. Our jobs are important, crucial to our well-being, and MUCH appreciated. But, there’s only so much one can take, especially in the retail restaurant business. So, if Sharky and Gnome have to toss the apron, they can learn from their familial predecessors how to do it with flair.
·         My uncle, Mule, was kitchen manager at a pancake house for a few years. When he quit, he just showed up unannounced on his day off and said, “Hey, I just came by to pick up my paycheck and tell you that yesterday is my last day.”
·         Zero’s purvey moves got old (see last week’s post) so I decided to ditch the job.  My college sweetheart, a huge Richard Nixon fan, coached me on how to confront Zero. After my shift, I went to tiny Zero’s tiny office and said, “I am quitting. You are dishonest. You can’t talk to women the way you do. This is America. You don’t have Jody Cantrell to kick around anymore.”
·         Big Booty J, then 18, began her first shift at Howard Johnsons. As she puts it, “a table full of Yankees ordered ice cream sodas.” BBJ, being from the Deep South, had no clue what an ice cream soda was. Instead of attempting the impossible task of making the dessert, she deserted. She sprinted out the back door into the Smoky Mountain mist, in uniform.
How to get fired
Another summer, BBJ, madly in love with townie stud Gravy, waitressed at The Wagon Wheel, a.k.a. “The Spoke.” (The dimmest lit eating establishing in Gatlinburg.) BBJ called in sick on Friday and showed up for her Saturday shift with a motor-cycle windburn, ski-boat sunburn, and Budweiser headburn as a result of her “sick day.” A fellow waitress met her at the door and said, “Thar ain’t no use you comin’ in here. You done got fired.”
When business is slow, servers get mischievous. A bored Delicious and another waitress grabbed a plus-sized co-worker, slid open the beer cooler, and pushed her down into the frozen box. Her plump rear was wedged between metal sliding doors and ice cold beer. She was giggling so hard she couldn’t climb out. Delicious and her buddy took on the challenge of seeing how much crushed ice they could throw up the girl’s pencil skirt, from across the kitchen. All three got caught. All three got fired.
My uncle (brother to Delicious) worked at Hobies, where waiters could eat free but from a limited menu. He couldn’t resist the off-limits fried Rainbow Trout. Sneaky and good-looking, he sweet-talked a waitress into forging an order every night at the end of his pearl-diving shift. Each evening, he wrapped the plated contra-ban delicacy in aluminum foil, grabbed silverware, and slid home to enjoy his meals. By summers end he had 12 place settings of Hobies dinnerware, the nickname “Trout,” and no job.
Romance!
Yes, the band bus is hot and heavy, but there’s something special about summer kitchen chaos. Delicious (a UGA graduate then English teacher) fled Georgia in late May in the summers of ’67-‘71. She hustled tables in numerous eateries in the arts and crafts community of Gatlinburg. She admits she was far from professional and her main goals were to make enough tips to buy a twin-pack of Ruffles potato chips and a twelve-pack of Budweiser every night. She’d wrap up her side work around 11 p.m. and crowd into a car with crushes and friends and head to Newfound Gap parking lot to drink, eat, flirt, and watch the spectacular Smoky Mountain hot pink, purple, and gold sun rise. The course of humanity was altered when the meat grinder at Steak & Lobster broke down. On July 3, 1972 of the kitchen at Howard’s Restaurant, Delicious (5-10, lean, with a jet black “real” shag haircut and a summer creek tan) sashayed with her drink tray into the kitchen and saw a blonde, curly headed boy with wire-rimmed glasses and a cigarette hanging from his mouth, its ashes a half-inch long and falling into the hamburger meat he was grinding. He worked at Steak & Lobster and had to do a quick meat-grinding run to Delicious’s workplace. She said, “What’s your name? I’ve never seen you before.” Taken by surprise, he sheepishly squeaked out his full name. His nickname growing up was Pot, because he stayed outside and filthy as a little boy. His nickname in Gatlinburg summers was Smoke. Ironic? Go figure. The cooks, Butch and Jim, told Smoke, “She is warm for your form and hot for your bod.” They also told Smoke that Delicious had a wild streak, which was not true. See Theory 4:  Don’t judge a woman by her accent or her breast size. In great anticipation, the next time Delicious swung open the kitchen doors to pick up her sizzle platter of steaks, a fired up Smoke asked Delicious, “Would you like to go for a Jeep ride tomorrow morning?” She said, “Sure.” August 19, Delicious drove home to Columbus, Georgia to teach junior English. September 16, the madly in love Smoke and Delicious got married. Two years later they welcomed their first child. ME!
Tall Child missed his chance, thus I am tasked with enlightening him as we dine.  But, Boppy (his mama) taught him well, thank goodness. One extra-lemon episode during our courtship and I would have 86’d him on the fly. My brother-in-law “J-Bird” and my sister-in-law “The Debutante” recently engaged in a heated argument debating the merits of public school vs. private school.  After about twenty minutes, J-Bird asked me, the TEACHER, “Don’t you think children need to be around people from all walks of life to learn how to interact with them and work with them? Don’t you think they learn more about life in a rougher public school instead of being in a private school bubble?” I summarized, “There are fantastic public schools and terrible private schools. If you want your child to master academic content, give her the safest, most intellectually challenging school—public or private. If you want her to learn the facts of life, give her one summer in a restaurant.”
There’s no better crash course on EVERYTHING hard, hilarious, and human. Sharky got a taste of the retail restaurant business last spring when his baseball team held a pancake breakfast at a local Chili’s.  He had to brush his hair, brush his teeth, WASH HIS HANDS, and show up at 7 a.m. to serve brave diners (mostly smitten grandparents) pancakes, bacon, and hot hot hot coffee.  His #1 customer, my cousin Fuzz, a former Golden Corral waitress herself, told him, “I’m going to make you work for it, Sharky.” Sharky and his buddy made three trips (as a pair) to begin Fuzz’s breakfast experience. 1. Coffee 2. Sugar 3. Cream. Two hours in, I looked to see a slouching Sharky in a booth (a no-no) with his own stack of pancakes and a mug of Dr. Pepper. I should have yelled, “Animal, get back in the kitchen!”
You learn a lot about yourself and others in the restaurant setting. Your patience, virtue, character, and composure are tested in public. For many years after I retired from the restaurant business, I missed the unique opportunity to demonstrate grace under fire.  But, thanks to Sharky’s athleticism, I have new venues in which to strive for self- control while squelching sarcasm and rear-ended behavior: basketball gyms and baseball parks.  Which reminds me of Theory 8: In youth sports, parents are the true performers.

See you next post. Until then, think outside the barn!


Sharky and friend couldn't take the heat. Had to get out of the kitchen.

Let's talk! Find me and friend me!

Also, visit Amazon.com or my website to read about my book, The Eye of Adoption, my short story, Field Day, and my collection of essays for parents and teachers, Parents, Stop and Think.

Author website: www.jodydyer.com

Facebook: Theories: Size 12 (See each post, comment, share, and talk directly with others readers and me!) I'd LOVE to hear your theories!

Facebook: Jody Cantrell Dyer
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Read reviews and/or purchase The Eye of Adoption here: Amazon.com