this entire story is 100% true and to the best of my memory i’m not exaggerating any of it, except for one thing. i’ll mark that with asterisks so you know.
my french teacher was Mme. Nail. again, this is 100% true, “Nail” was honestly her name. anway, she was really strict but only in bizarrely pedantic ways.
for example, talking in class was often tolerated (so long as it was “en francais”), and even eating (french food only, s’il vous plait), but forget any item on her rather extensive list of things mandatory for all french students to have at all times and it meant an instant detention. this sounds like a big deal, but it really wasn’t. it was just an hour on wednesday afternoon, usually en masse with many others who were all there for equally nutball reasons.
the list of items included your workbook and binder, paper, pens, pencils, etc. really nothing out of the ordinary. the strangeness was that the list was spot-checked, boot-camp foot-locker style, walking down each row of the classroom for inspections.
so one autumn day in French I, long before i started carrying a spare spot-check-kit containing an unused copy of each required item, i was caught without a pencil, having apparently left it in some previous class.
ok. fine. it really wasn’t so bad: one hour. usually spent cleaning blackboards or stapling papers… which incidentally were required to be stapled perfectly straight and horizontal or, i shit you not, she would make you remove them and do it again.
but on this particular wednesday she was out sick, so detention was postponed until the following wednesday.
ok. whatever. again, no big deal… except the same thing happened that wednesday too. so it was postponed again.
and the following wednesday? well, this time it was on me. i just forgot. it had been the better part of month after all. and again, this was all just because i didn’t’ have a pencil, a pretty easy thing to forget.
and when the end of the semester rolls around the rule is that all unserved detentions are automatically escalated to referrals to the vice principle. no exceptions. no excuses. this is going on your perminent record.
so a few hours into the beginning of the new semester I find myself parked outside the vice principle’s office. me, the good kid and super nerd, just sitting there with all the arsonists and paste eaters. after about an hour of waiting while trying and failing to blend, my name is called. i walk in to his public-school-shabby, wood paneled little office and head for the seat across from his desk. i think i was literally shaking, what with the whole whole “permanent record” thing. but just to terrify me a bit more he demands in a loud stern voice before my butt even hits the chair or he’s cracked open my file,
“Do you have any idea why you’re here today?”
to which I replied, in a shaky and honestly quite scared voice,
“I forgot my pencil.”
which i’m sure sounded like a wise-ass joke, but… like… what the hell else am I going to say? he doesn’t react right away, but his face turns red and i can tell he’s just about to go nuclear on my ass… but right before he does he decides to have a quick peek at my file first… and then… he just sort of deflates, shrugs, and says,
“Oh. Ok. Well, just try to keep on Stephanie’s** good side from now on, OK? You can go.”
** I just made up the name “Stephanie”. I don’t recall Mme. Nail’s actual name. It might have been Stephanie, but probably wasn’t. But I do distinctly remember the vice principle using her first name. his sudden casualness caught me off guard and i knew right then that she was probably in more trouble than i was.