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Stories from school and college

You Have To Watch Out For People Like That

, , , , , | Learning | January 19, 2022

I am in my freshman year of college, living in the dorms. My roommate and I immediately become the best of friends. 

One day, I realize I’ve misplaced a watch that my father gave me. I’m sad as I really loved it. About a week later, it shows up on my roommate’s half of my shared desk. I’m thrilled to see it and immediately put it on. 

A few hours later, my roommate comes in from class.

Roommate: “Hey, I’d put a watch on my desk. Did you see it?”

Me: “Oh! That was my watch I’d lost. Where did you find it?”

Roommate: “Uh, no, that was my friend’s watch that she left here. I was saving it for her.”

Me: “I just lost my watch somewhere around here a week ago. I’m pretty sure this is mine. Did your friend have the same brand?”

Roommate: “You’re lying. My friend lost her watch, and I found it in the common area where we were hanging out. No way you also lost yours there.”

Me: “Um… I mean, this is the watch I lost. And I sit in the common area, too.”

Roommate: “NO! You just want it for yourself!”

She starts screaming at me. I’m completely stunned as she’s never been mean to me and I can’t understand why she thinks I’m lying. I have anxiety, as well, and I can’t help but tear up.

The commotion gets the Resident Assistant’s attention. 

RA: “What’s going on here?”

Roommate: “She stole my friend’s watch! I found it and I already told her, and [My Name] is pretending it’s hers.”

RA: *To me* “Is this true?”

Me: *In tears* “No. It’s my watch that my father gave me. It’s really important to me. I lost it and I saw it on the desk and thought [Roommate] had found it.”

Roommate: “LIAR!”

RA: “Calm down, [Roommate]. [My Name], can you prove it’s yours?”

Me: “I mean, it looks just like the one I lost here in the dorm. Haven’t either of you seen me wearing it?”

Roommate: “All I know is, my friend lost her watch and I found this one. It’s gotta be hers. [My Name] is just jealous because she doesn’t have nice things so she’s trying to steal it!”

My family has never been well-off, and I have been mocked for years for wearing secondhand clothing and not owning expensive things. I’m so hurt at this point.

RA: “Okay, that’s enough. I’m keeping the watch until this is resolved. [Roommate], have your friend send a detailed description of their lost watch. [My Name], you write down all the details you remember.”

The next day…

RA: “Okay, I’ve compared the two descriptions to the watch. They are very similar, to the point that I almost couldn’t find the difference. But one detail stood out to me that proves…”

I’m thinking, “Get to the point!” [Roommate] stares smugly at me. 

RA: “…that this is [My Name]’s watch.”

Roommate: “WHAT?! That’s not fair! She had time to study it!”

RA: “That may be true, but your friend said that her watch used Roman numerals. And this watch uses Arabic numerals…”

Roommate: “She could have misremembered!”

RA: “…and [My Name] said her watch used Arabic numerals.” *Hands me the watch* “So, here you go.”

Roommate: “THAT’S NOT FAIR!”

RA: “Enough. It’s resolved, and I don’t want to hear any more about this.”

While I have my beloved watch back, my roommate stares daggers at me. Our friendship is over. A few days later, I overhear her talking to her friend.

Roommate: *On the phone* “Oh… you found your watch?” *Nervous laugh* “That’s great!”

Still, she never forgave me. She made mean comments every chance she got. I caught her messing with my belongings several times. Eventually, she was bullying me so badly that I had to switch roommates. I was glad to be rid of her, although that incident definitely gave me trust issues for years!

And yes, I still have the watch fifteen years later.

It’s All Negative Until Papa Bear Steps In

, , , , | Learning | January 17, 2022

While at school, I had free school meals. When I started high school, they were introducing fancy thumbprint scanners for paying. I got £2.10 a day which, conveniently, was the same price as dinner with a little pudding.

When year twelve starts, I get the same amount every day, but dinner with a little pudding increases in price to £2.20. I start having a slice of toast at break time and a panini at lunchtime and save up the 10ps that are leftover. While I could just alternate between having a pudding or not each day, I decide instead to save up those 10ps and treat myself to a milkshake every couple of weeks. After all, I can’t usually have one since I’d have nothing to eat for lunch.

There are no problems with this until, one day, I’m waiting for my friend and check the machine that lets me know how much money is on my account on a whim. The balance is negative. I did not know the balance could go negative. I assumed that if I tried to buy anything costing more than I had, I wouldn’t be able to buy it. Also, there is some mild panic because I wasn’t buying anything I couldn’t in the first place, right?

Turns out the paninis had increased in price by about 20p without me noticing. I’d just assumed there were no issues because I hadn’t had any issues buying anything. After this, I mess around with what I get a bit more, always double-checking it’s under the £2.10 I get, to try and pay it off with the leftover money.

This takes a while and I have very little self-control; some days I get something more, like the £2.20 dinner with a little pudding, and tell myself it’s okay if I spend half the 20p I saved yesterday on eating this today. However, I don’t remember to keep checking the machine to watch the debt go down. 

Fairly late into the school year, I’m called to the kitchen’s office. My debt has grown to £10. I’m almost an adult, but I’m fairly sheltered and this feels like a lot of money to me. Plus, I’m a huge crybaby, so I feel like a pathetic mess as I try to explain to the lunch lady through tears that I don’t know why it’s gotten that bad.

She explains to me that I never was able to stack up my lunch money. If I don’t spend all of the £2.10 I got today, it will reset itself tomorrow. So, all that time I thought I was saving up for something extra, the extra I spent went straight into my debt. The £2.10 I got each day was for me to buy food, so it wasn’t allowed to be used for the debt.

The long and short of it is that I need to bring in physical money to pay off what I owe the school. All I can think is, “My dad is going to kill me.” This is not an insignificant amount of money, and my sister was recently grounded for stealing a similar amount to buy herself sweets, and there’s a lot of other “stuff” going on at home which means my dad isn’t in the best of moods. I’ve basically just done the same thing, and I do not want to get in trouble.

Thankfully, it was my birthday or something the other day, and my dad gifted me a £10 note. I was saving it for the next time we went to a big store so I could buy a book. My dad does not take the news well that I am going to spend it on school lunch. I listen as he lectures and lectures about how much of a waste it is to spend my money on food that is temporary when I could spend it on something that will last. It’s all stuff I already know, but this is what I’ve decided I’m going to do.

Eventually, the pressure of keeping it from him gets to me and I break into tears and explain why I need to use it on the food. He goes quiet, tells me it’s stupid that the school let me go into debt, and tells me I’m stupid for not keeping better track of my money. Then, he gets on the phone and goes full rage mode on whoever it is at the school that answers.

When he gets off the phone, he tells me that the debt I gathered was cleared. Also, I’m now able to get a dinner with a little pudding every lunch and the dinner ladies type it in as £2.10. He also tells me that if my balance ever goes negative again, I will be paying for it myself since I’ve now been warned.

It is kind of embarrassing to face the lunch ladies after that. I didn’t mean for my dad to go nuts at them. I didn’t mean for him to weaponise my disability or our family circumstances at them. Still, though, they didn’t treat me any differently other than the price adjustments. They are very nice people.

Weirdly Unfamiliar With Garbage, All Things Considered

, , , | Learning | January 15, 2022

I was doing undergraduate research in a lab, working toward my thesis. The other people were a hard-working, tightly-knit, mutually supportive group, with a few notable exceptions. One of these exceptions was a girl who did not absolutely care one jot beyond her own immediate needs, and a few things she did still stick out in my memory, years later.

One of the postgrads, who was supposed to mentor this girl, vanished during the weekend; he left on Friday afternoon with a curt “bye” and did not show up on Monday… or Tuesday… or Wednesday. We did ask around whether he was ill or inconvenienced, but she did not volunteer any information. Then, the head of the lab, who was not in any way involved with the post-grad, asked [Girl] if she was going to be able to cope doing the project without assistance.

Girl: “Yes, I can manage. [Postgrad] left me all the instructions and notes.”

Head Of Lab: “Oh, so he knew in advance that he was going to be away?”

Girl: “Yes, he’s quit. He told me a week ago that he had found a proper job.”

And we were wondering whether he was in hospital!

We also had to move because the prefab building where the lab was located was literally losing bits of roof. The movers took care of the large stuff but we had to pack the smaller equipment ourselves. [Girl] and I were in charge of wrapping glassware and putting it into boxes. At one point, I saw the corner of a familiar-looking aluminium plate poking out of a black bag. Because it was just the two of us, and I would never throw that away, there could be only one culprit.

Me: “[Girl], that would not be the aluminium plate from [piece of machinery that I used and she did not], would it?”

Girl: “How would I know?! It’s just some garbage.”

Me: “It’s not garbage! It’s important for spreading the heat evenly across the electrophoresis gel. [Girl], just ask before throwing away techware that you don’t know about. We are already on a tight budget without having to replace lost equipment.”

She just shrugged. I took out the aluminium plate, checked whether anything else of value had been chucked out — it had: clamps, gaskets, stirring magnets, and several other bits and bobs of a chemistry lab — and resumed packing.

During the lunch break, [Girl] told everyone who would listen the story of how I was salvaging garbage from the black bags, a thing she found hilarious.

A few years ago, the former lab group had a reunion. I was invited; she wasn’t.

Don’t Hold Back!

, , , , , | Learning | January 13, 2022

I used to teach at a primary school, I loved those kids, even the ones that were naughty or cheeky. What I hated was the parents — so many, rude, obnoxious, apathetic individuals who wanted us to parent their children for them.

The one I actually despised was a mother to one of the boys in my class. There was no other word for it: she was trashy. She would rock up to collection, late again, still wearing the dressing gown and slippers she dropped him off in. Her boy would never have the full equipment; he’d be missing sunscreen, a hat, water bottle, etc. But she’d always stink of cigarettes.

She was aggressive, too; nothing bad could be said about her boy, yet she clearly didn’t spend any time with him. Homework was never done, he was never read to, etc.

After he left my class, I bumped into his mum wearing another one of her dressing gown combos, despite it being 1:00 pm on a weekday.

Mother: “Oh, hiya. You were [Son]’s teacher.”

Me: “Oh, hi. Yeah, I have to go. Got to get to work.”

Mother: “Oh, I see how it is. No time for me now. Think you’re better than me.”

A million things went through my head. I could have de-escalated it. But instead, I answered.

Me: “Yes, I think I probably am. In fact, most people are. You’re rude, aggressive, and trashy. If you put any effort into your own child, he would actually do wonderfully well. But your own ego won’t let you. Get a job, have a wash, and parent your children.”

This caught her by surprise. I was a few steps away before she managed to put a sentence together.

Mother: “You little b****! How f****** dare you?! I will get you f****** fired. You b****, you f****** b****!”

Me: “Good luck with that.”

Of course, I had long left the school, mainly because of the treatment we received from people like her, and because I was totally unsupported and ignored by the office team — the same office staff [Mother] will be on her way to shout at. Best of luck.

Transcending Understanding

, , , , , , | Learning | January 11, 2022

I am teaching American literature to juniors — kids roughly sixteen to seventeen years old. The class is usually taught chronologically, starting with colonial literature, and I try to show how history is directly reflected in literary styles and topics. 

We’ve finished Romanticism and its death in the Civil War and have moved on to Western expansion (cowboys, Native Americans, the Wild West, etc.) and the literary genres of Realism and Regionalism. I’m grading a short quiz over what we’ve covered so far.

Quiz Question: “Identify one technological advancement in the US that led to increased popularity in the style of either Realism or Regionalism.”

Student’s Answer: “The Transcendental Railroad.”

My Only Thought: “Totally far out, pardner…”