I remember bumping into my math teacher at a bowling alley my junior year of high school. I guess he played in a league. He was holding a pitcher of MGD and smoking a cigarette. I walked up to say “hello” only to catch him giving the punch line to a dirty joke. He then saw me and he was embarrassed to say the least. I could see him pondering what to say next, or how he would explain this one to his boss. It felt strange seeing him as a regular human being. I mean, all I knew of this guy was that he taught Pre-Algebra, drove a beat up Buick, and listened to Waylon Jennings. After an awkward pause, he smiled at me and said, “What? Teachers are people too. We drink, smoke, talk dirty, and fuck like everyone else.” I think it was the beer talking at that point. But now that I am a teacher I know how he felt living life in fish bowl of sorts. It does not always happen but students bump into me while I’m out and about. Some walk up and say hello, while others act very strangely. Here are a few of those stories:


While checking out at a Walmart, one of my 7th grade female students and I locked eyes. Before I could say hello she screamed really loud and turned her back to me. Her mother asked her why she was acting like idiot.  I walked over and introduced myself as her teacher and they just laughed. “Its like they don’t see you as regular people or something,” Mom said. I asked my student why she turned her back to me. Her answer was, “If I did that, then you wouldn’t be able to see me.” Of course, because that makes sense. Silly children.


My girlfriend and I were shopping at Victoria’s Secret for a pair of pajamas that she really wanted.  Suddenly, an adult woman came up to us. She looked right at me, “Did you used to teach at G@#$%^ Middle School?” I told her that I did. She called to her son, “Honey, its him! I told you it was! He recognized you when you came in and I told him to go say hello. I don’t know why he’s acting like that. Why are you hiding, get over here and say hello to your former teacher.” The kid came over and was more red in the face than Mom’s lacy, red, romper, she had draped over her shoulder. I said, “Hello young man,” and offered my hand to him. He couldn’t look me in the eye, he was so embarrassed. His mother speaking sharply, “Shake his hand!” He took my hand softly. I was starting to get annoyed with mom for doing this to the kid. “Why are you embarrassed.” I said, “What could possibly be embarrassing about your mom forcing you to talk to your teacher in the middle of all this underwear.” Its not awkward, not awkward at all!


I was stuck in a traffic jam coming home from the mall. I was a smoker at the time, trying to quit, and I started having a nicotine fit. I reached into the glove box for some gum only to find, a crushed pack of Camel’s, peeking their head out at me.  The traffic jam was getting to me, so I grabbed one and began smoking it. The windows were down and I can hear the sounds of traffic snarling as a nasty storm could be seen brewing in my rear view mirror. As the sky drew darker I got this strange feeling that I was being watched.  I slowly looked to my right and there he was. (LIGHTNING STRIKE…THUNDER ROLLS.) One of the special needs kids from my school. His face flat against the glass of the back seat window of his parents car. He had this lifeless, death stare, with unnerving blue eyes. I jumped a little and realized he could see me smoking. As his car started pulling away he slowly pointed his finger at me and I can see him mouthing “you.” It was quite possibly the creepiest run-in I have ever head.


I missed breakfast the other day and since I am off second period I decided to get an Egg McMuffin.  When I got to the delivery window, a young  woman handed me my food and coffee. I looked at her and said thank you. I can tell that she recognized me. Instead of saying hello, or acting silly, her eyes dropped in shame as she said your welcome. The drive-thru window closed and I drove off. It was odd. The moment lasted only a handful of seconds but the subtext spoke volumes. Then… it dawned on me who she was. She was a student who had a tremendous amount of behavior problems from my previous school. I replayed the moment back in my mind along with the non stop behavior problems that young lady caused me. I wanted to go back and say hello. I wanted to tell her that she didn’t need to feel ashamed of her job. Everyone has to start somewhere. I wanted to say that it was good to see her doing well and that she is probably doing better than some of her other former classmates. I wanted to praise her for her efforts! But I didn’t, and I don’t know why…

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