Wednesday, July 06, 2005

School Daze part II

Seeing as not much has happened over the past few days, and because I’m getting a little desperate for material, I decided to regale you with yet another schooldays story.

Remember how yesterday, I told you I only got into serious trouble twice? Well here is the second time. It’s not quite as spectacular as the first, but still bears repeating.

Remember Mrs. Catpiss? This story involves her also.

Picture the scene. Young Paulius is back in Business Studies class. (I say ‘back’ in Business Studies, but this event happened about 6 months prior to the ‘Thumb Trick’ incident).

Now Business Studies was a really boring subject. In fact, the reason most of us where there is because we wanted to take Computer Studies class, but due to the lack of space and budget, the number of students wanting to take computers far outstripped the school’s capacity.

Of course, thinking back, this wasn’t our problem. The school should have hired extra teachers, more computers etc, but we were young and naïve, and at this point, still believed our teachers weren’t the lying assholes they were.

“You want to take computers? We’re sorry, that class is full up. Take Business Studies, those two classes are very similar.”

Unfortunately, the similarity began and ended with the fact that you got to use a computer in both classes. Or in other words, Business Studies allowed you to use a word processor about once every two weeks.

So you can imagine the mood in that room. No student actually wants to be there, the computers that ran 24/7 (The teachers didn’t even know how hard-drives worked, and assumed if you turned them off, you would lose everything on it) turned the room into a blast furnace and the room was also next door to the woodworking room, so we often had ‘silent reading sessions’ being serenaded by band-saws and angle-grinders.

Add onto all that, Mrs. Catpiss. Another of the many teachers at that school that had the Victorian style of teaching. She wouldn’t walk into the classroom and say “Quiet please, everyone!” She’d walk in and shout “Shut up and sit down!”

You sat up straight. You went to the bathroom before you entered the class (taking a piss wasn’t allowed, despite the fact that this was a triple period, nearly two hours long). You spoke only when spoken to. You answered questions correctly and promptly.

In other words, she was a real bitch. I don’t mean in the way you think 90% of your teachers are bitches when you’re at school. I don’t mean she was a bitch because she was strict, or gave me detention for forgetting homework. I mean she was a cast iron, platinum plated bitch. The kind of teacher who would call you to the front of the class, and read your assignment in the most sarcastic way possible when you got something wrong, including lots of jokes at your expense. A teacher who thought public humiliation was a valid teaching tool.

Oh, and she absolutely stunk of cat piss. That isn’t a joke either. She absolutely reeked.

Let’s begin the story.

Young Paulius is in his seat at the back of the room. If we zoom the camera closer, we can see he’s meant to be writing a report on what ‘Divorce of Ownership From Control’ means.

However, as it is over a hundred degrees in that room, and the whine of drill presses and band saws are filling the air, he is instead playing tic-tac-toe with a similarly bored student next to him.

Suddenly, from off camera, a furtive whisper:

“Paulius, oi! Paulius!”

We see the student next to him hand him a piece of paper.

Zoom closer as Young Paulius opens it.

The picture is of a woman, who bears a striking resemblance to our good teacher. The wide staring eyes, the period wig style hair has been captured particularly well, as well as the savage gnashing teeth.

Above the picture is the legend: “Mrs. Catpiss”, Oh, and if we examine the picture closer, we see that there are, indeed, a multitude of cats pissing on her. There are even ‘stink lines’.

Truly, it is a work of art, that should have pride of place at the Louvre. It is destined to become an instant classic and will pass through many grubby hands before the end of it’s life.

Unfortunately, it’s path the greatness is cut short. Cut short, because Young Paulius is caught of guard, and lets fly with a snigger-laugh.

Mrs. Catpiss’ teacher radar springs into action. Her eyes focus on me.

“You there!” (Another Mrs. Catpiss phenomenon, the flat out refusal to remember anyone’s name). “What is that! Bring it here!”

Young Paulius’ life flashes before his eyes. He notices the complete lack of girls and fun. It’s enough to spring his mind like a bear-trap. Everything becomes clear.

Focus on his hands, and notice how in one swift motion, he sweeps the picture to the floor as he stands up, and replaces it with the piece of paper that he and another young student have been playing Tic-Tac-Toe on.

He walks to the front, and holds out the piece of paper. Mrs. Catpiss launches into a tirade about wasted time. Including my future career.

“Future Career?” Young Paulius thinks. “One, I’m 13 years old. Two, this entire class is a waste of time, every one of us wanted to do computers!”

Of course, having just thrown himself in front of a bullet to avoid a rocket launcher, he has the self-preservation instinct to say none of this. He escapes with a simple 15 minute tirade, and is moved to a desk at the side of the room, where he can’t disrupt anyone else.

Instead, he returns to his desk, safe in the knowledge that he hasn’t broken The Unbreakable Rule Of The Schoolyard, in that he hasn’t told on anyone for drawing the Catpiss picture, or dropped anyone in the cacky for playing Tic-Tac-Toe.

We follow young Paulius to the back of the room, where he chooses a new desk, and begins typing on the computer.

It should be made clear that this event took place when the internet was in its infancy, and therefore, things like email and instant messaging aren’t commonplace.

However, Young Paulius is a bright individual, and has realized that all the computers in this classroom are on a network, and everything is saved in open folders.

Usually, this is used in the following way. The entire class waits until the single interested student in the class completes their report and saves it.

Then the entire class makes a copy of that report, changes the words around a bit, puts their own names on it, changes the font, and prints it as their own. This was a Business Studies tradition, and it shows what kind of school I went to that this went on for 3 years, and Mrs. Catpiss never noticed

(I should also point out that there were quite a few students who left my school unable to read. It’s amazing that place is still open)

However, as already stated, Young Paulius is both bright, and enterprising. Taking the tools at hand, he realized that it was also possible to write a message to someone in his own folder, then with a cough, alert the recipient to check it. The recipient would then replace the message with their reply, and re-save it.

In this way, it was possible to converse, without Mrs. Catpiss noticing, and giving every impression of actually doing some work. Crude and slow, maybe, but also very effective

Watch Young Paulius’ hands as he deftly types a note. Watch as he coughs loudly, and catches the Catpiss Artist’s eye. We see a barely perceptible nod, followed by some furious mouse-clicking.

The recipient reads the message.

“You complete and utter bastard, you owe me one, you cock-rocket!”

At this point, you should be made aware of the Second Unbreakable Rule Of The Schoolyard:

“Although Thou May Not Get Thy Friends In Trouble, You May Take Great Pleasure In It And Laugh When They Do.”

Obviously following this rule, the recipient laughs heartily.

“STOP LAUGHING!” Bellows a voice from off camera. Apparently Mrs Catpiss is annoyed at being distracted from the copy of ‘Woman’s World’ that she thinks no one can see her reading under the table.

She leaps to her feet, and strides towards the recipient, who Young Paulius is glad to see has the presence of mind to close down the word-processing program (I can’t remember what program we used. We didn’t have PC’s, we had Acorn computers, the Amiga’s younger, less intelligent brother).

Unfortunately, as you will be horrified to see, lacking Young Paulius’ finesse, he did not manage to hide the action from Mrs. Catpiss.

She sits at the computer, and begins clicking wildly. It is a lucky side effect of the painfully slow Acorns, that her progress was limited. Giving Young Paulius’ bear-trap mind a chance to work.

The camera zooms across the room, and we see Young Paulius working wildly. ‘Mrs Catpiss Class’ (click) ‘Projects’ (click) ‘Paulius’ (Click) ‘Doc1.doc’ (Click click) ‘Delete’ (Click click) ‘Are You Sure?’ (click click click click click).

It is also a good indicator on how qualified this teacher is that I managed to do all this in the time it took her to open the word processor, and simply click the last document on the list.

‘Doc1.doc Not Found. It may have been moved, changed or deleted’

Unfortunately, it also shows where ‘Doc1.doc’ was stored. Luckily, The Unbreakable Rule protects me from being betrayed.

“Paulius!” Mrs. Catpiss bellows, turning to face me. “What are you playing at?!”

“Miss?” Young Paulius replies, perfectly feigning innocence.

“He was in your file, and you must have deleted something, what was it!?!”

Bear-trap mind springs again.

“What was it called?”

“It was just Doc-one! What was it!?”

“Ah!” Young Paulius announces, as an almost visible light bulb appears above his head. “That was my report. I saved it when you made me move, but re-named it when I finished it. That’s why the computer can’t find it.”

Unbreakable Rule #3

“While You May Not Drop A Friend In The Cacky, You May Defend Yourself. If Defending Yourself Implicates Another In An Imagined Crime, It’s Tough Luck For Them.”

In other words, Young Paulius covered the actual crime. If this lead Mrs. Catpiss to believe that another student was trying to copy my work, tough. Also, as the note said, the recipient owed Young Paulius one.

Two bullets dodged. Young Paulius, as a sign of his youth, does not know to not push his luck.

“Copying!” Accuses Mrs. Catpiss. “Stay after class, I want a word with you!”

“But Miss!” the Recipient protests, with some damn fine acting. “I just wanted to see if I’d missed anything out!”

A few moments later, the bell rings. All file out, besides the Recipient.

Now we move to a new location. The Woodworking shop next door to the computer lab. All students have to walk through this room from the computer lab to reach freedom. The Woodwork class is also over, and that room is slowly emptying.

We focus on Young Paulius, as he laughingly regales some classmates of the true events of that days class. There is lots of laughter, and many cries of “You Lucky Bastard!”

Slowly, the room empties. All except for Young Paulius.

What is the reason for him staying behind?

The Recipient, is also one of Young Paulius’ best friends. The Best friend that he catches the bus home with after school. Simply, he is waiting for his friend.

Watch Young Paulius’ eyes. See how he notices the plate glass window above the door, the door that leads into the Business Studies room.

Not see how he notices the relative height of the window, versus his own height, plus the height of the stools around the workbench.

Notice the lightbulb appear above his head once more.

We follow young Paulius as he procures a stool, and places it next to the door. He climbs onto said stool, and we see his elation at his discovery that he is now at the perfect height to look through the window.

We also see how delighted he is that Mr. Recipient is still in his chair at the back of the room. We also see that he catches Mr. Recipient’s eye.

Cue lots of choice mouthed words, including accompanying hand gestures.

Unfortunately, Young Paulius is in the middle of an award winning, silent, four letter tirade, with some very imaginative hand gestures, and is so engrossed in his creativity, that he doesn’t notice the sudden change in his friends demeanor.

He almost doesn’t notice as the door in front of him slowly creaks open, inwards.

We witness one of those moments that will only be remembered in slow motion. We see Young Paulius’ face turn ashen. We also see how reluctant he is to look down.

Young Paulius is paralyzed with fear.

Mrs. Catpiss is paralyzed with rage.

Unfortunately, the screen goes fuzzy here, as Young Paulius, to this day, cannot actually recall what was said. However, a fuzzy voice can be heard, trying to sell a story that Young Paulius is on the stool, in fact, because he saw an unusually large rat.

We can hear from the screaming, that the story is not believed

The screen clears just in time to see Young Paulius being marched into the Headmaster’s office. We see how relieved he is that the Headmaster is not in, the Deputy Headmaster, however is.

We see Young Paulius being forced to recount the story to the Deputy Headmaster, who then dismisses Mrs. Catpiss. It is comforting to Young Paulius that the Deputy Head is, in fact, one of the few good teachers at the school. He is in fact the only reason that Young Paulius, who was forecasted an ’F’in Math, actually left that school with a ‘B’.

Young Paulius gets a long talking to. Including everything from disrupting the class to the ‘dangerous stunt’ (IE standing on a stool).

We also get the sense, that while the Deputy Head is trying to remain grave faced, he is indeed trying not to laugh.

Paulius is also dismissed, given the task of writing “I must not disrupt the class and stand on school property’, 1000 times.

We see Young Paulius wrestle with a dilemma, but instead just leaves.

The dilemma?

Whether or not to ask how he can come to school tomorrow if he’s no longer allowed to ‘stand on school property’.

The Moral of the Story?

Even with a Bear-trap like mind, your luck only extends so far.

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