He Was Right The First Time

, , , , , , | Learning | June 12, 2018

(I am taking a constitutional law class, and the professor is discussing equal protection and how the Constitution was used to end segregation.)

Professor: “So, this case involved a coffee shop, called the Eagle, that wouldn’t serve black customers. According to the Interstate commerce clause, private businesses can’t discriminate. However, the Evil coffee shop continued to racially discriminate…”

Class: *laughing*

Professor: “What’s funny? I’m trying to teach!”

Student: “But you called it the ‘Evil’ shop!”

Professor: “Really? Freudian slip, I guess. Anyway, the Eagle coffee shop discriminated… stop laughing! Segregation is evil!”

Try Walking A Mile In Another Wizard’s Shoes

, , , , , | Learning | June 11, 2018

(A third-grade student can’t find her shoe at the end of the day. I give her a couple of suggestions of places to check for it.)

Student #1: “Miss [Teacher], I still can’t find it.”

Me: “Sorry, [Student #1], I don’t know what else to suggest. My shoe-finding spell doesn’t work very well.”

Student #1: “What do you mean?”

Me: *waving my pen as if it were a wand* “Oh, you know— Accio shoe!

Student #2: *from under a desk across the room* “Here it is!”

Student #1: *in awe* “It worked!”

Not Shielded From Your Sarcasm

, , , , , | Learning | June 9, 2018

(I work at the largest university in Alaska, and we frequently have earthquake drills and, of course, the required fire drills. I am designated as one of our building safety personnel in charge of evacuating the building and getting people to the designated “safe” area away from the building, a large portion of which is floor-to-ceiling plate glass windows. The meeting area is located safely behind the cement parking garage, a good distance from our building. However, people get weirdly stubborn about moving to the correct area, even as I wave and point and usher them. I start becoming very creative in handling these recalcitrant evacuees.)

Me: *in official vest and over bullhorn* “Please step this way behind the parking garage, towards the designated meeting area!”

(A few people move.)

Me: “Folks, please be sure to thank those people over there—” *indicates the people still stubbornly standing right next to the giant glass building* “—who have bravely volunteered to be a human shield for you in the event of a fire or other disaster in which our building, made entirely of glass, could potentially explode outward.” *pause for effect* “Their sacrifice in protecting you from the explosive shrapnel will be much appreciated!”

(The human shields eschew the honor and glory, and move to relative safety behind the parking garage, glaring at me all the while.)

Me: *mentally shrugging; it’s part of my job and I can’t get fired over this* “Thank you for playing the ‘How to stay alive during a natural disaster’ game! Herb, tell them what they’ve won!”

(Most people were laughing pretty hard at this point. The few holdouts glowered at me the entire time.)

There’s Something About That Substitute

, , , , , | Learning | June 8, 2018

(My classmates and I are about ten or eleven years old. Our band teacher is absent for the day, so we have a substitute, a young guy somewhere in his twenties. The classroom has a TV and DVD player that the teacher uses to show us music performances. The sub offers to let us vote on a movie to watch, which he brought with him. The majority chooses “There’s Something About Mary,” a film I hadn’t even heard of. Being naive and rather innocent, all of the adult and raunchy humor flies right over my head, leaving me mostly confused. At the end of the day I go my mom’s office; she works at the school.)

Mom: *working at the computer* “So, did anything interesting happen today?”

Me: “Not really. We got to watch a movie in band, since the teacher was sick.”

Mom: “Oh? What did you watch?”

Me: “It was weird; its name was something about Mary.”

Mom: *pauses in her work and turns to look at me*There’s Something About Mary?”

Me: “Yeah, that sounds right. I didn’t get what was happening, but the other boys thought it was funny.”

Mom: *fuming* “Do you know the substitute’s name?”

Me: *feeling her anger, and getting nervous* “Uh, no. I don’t remember his name. He was young, long hair, glasses…”

(She stood up and stormed out of the room, directly to the principal’s office. Apparently, I got the guy fired and banned from being hired by the district as a sub. Even today, I feel kind of bad for costing the guy his job. I swear, I was not intentionally tattling!)

A Fret About The Serviette

, , , , , | Learning | June 6, 2018

(I am a fourth-grade student in the late 90s. Our class is having snacks.)

Me: “Does anybody have a napkin?”

Teacher: “You don’t say, ‘napkin,’ [My Name]! This is Canada!”

Me: “I’m sorry, but what am I supposed to say? I need a napkin.”

Teacher: “Don’t say, ‘napkin’! ‘Napkin’ is an American term! We call them ‘serviettes’ in Canada!”

Me: “Okay, geez, does anybody have a ‘serviette’?”

Classmate: “Here, you can have one of my napkins.”

Teacher: “SAY, ‘SERVIETTE’!”

(We didn’t want to suffer through this any further, so pretty much the entire class tried to avoid saying, ‘napkin,’ around this teacher. I was always perplexed by this experience, because every time I went to the supermarket with my parents, I only ever saw napkins being sold; I have seen ‘serviette’ used as the French word for ‘napkin,’ but I’ve never seen it used as the Canadian English term. From fifth grade onwards, I’ve gone back to calling them ‘napkins,’ and haven’t gotten into any trouble well into my adult life. If I had to take anything positive out of this, it was probably what triggered my fascination with linguistics.)

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