Sunday, May 17, 2009

Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder

The e-mail came around announcing J Squared 80th birthday. It asked everyone to let by gones be by gones and encouraged us all to send her a card, congratulating her on 80th birthday.

J Squared was evil, through and through. The stories I could write about her would sound like fiction, but they are all true. She made a woman who recently had back surgery drag books back to the book room, she called homes of absent teachers at 6:00 in the morning, disturbing wives and children. (These teachers were hardly ever out so there was no excuse for her behavior.) The dead pigeons the custodians left in her mail box, the chains that were taken to her car and even the poor cafeteria worker who was threatened when he offered to drive her to school were retaliations against the wicked things she had done to people in the school, to the careers she had ruined.

J Squared was always nice to me until I asked not to be her department assistant any longer. I found myself answering people in the same manner she answered them and I was afraid I was going to grow in her image. I had to get away to save myself.

Luckily for me, it did not take J Squared very long to recover from this slight. She actually needed me on her side as most of the department hated her. (That never happened.) I remember how we all used to give her the silent treatment at department meetings and she would get so frustrated, she let us leave early.

My real problems with J Squared came when I told her I was going to take an extended (multiple year) child care leave. She couldn't understand how I could not consider coming back to work two weeks after giving birth like she did. To punish me, she gave me 5 classes, in 5 rooms, on 4 floors. I had to walk across a crowded cafeteria to get from room to room. I know it was her plan, because the program chairman showed me the original schedule with me in just one room, next to the bathroom. Even after I gave birth, J Squared would not let up on me. She called me in the hospital, hours after my C-section, telling me to come back to work. She called me at home and only when I hung up to care for a screaming baby did the calls stop.

At one point during my child care leave, I applied for a job at a local college. They were all set to hire me, they just needed a letter of recommendation from J Squared. She refused to give it to me, claiming it was summer and she had no school stationary. Luckily, I had lots of good observation reports and letters from her praising my teaching skills. I was able to substitute these for what she would not write.

I must be mellowing in my old age. As soon as I got the e-mail, I sent her a card. I figured, what could it hurt. She's an old woman now and she might not even remember me. My friends were shocked. No one expected too many of us to want to wish her well and I was high on that list. She called to thank me for the card. It is hard to believe that it has been almost 30 years and she still has my number. My friends found it harder to believe that I actually returned her call. We had a pleasant conversation, catching up on our lives and then on the sorry state of education today.

I'm a grudge holder, cross me once and I don't forget. It is usually impossible to get off the doo doo list once you are on it, yet I called her anyways. And, I am glad I did. Most of my friends that sent the cards only sent them because a spouse encouraged them to be nice. I was nice on my own and that is completely out of character for me. Will 30 years be long enough for me to get over my grudge against ex-Principal Suit? Will we live that long? I certainly don't see it happening but I never thought I could have a civil conversation with J Squared either. Only time will tell.


Chaz said...

How long will it be before you forgive nyc educator for dissing Math teachers? Remind me never to cross you,I have enough people angry at me.

PO'ds daughter said...

I told you you were getting soft in your old age.

Mrs. T said...

You know, if she's really that evil, she'll probably live another 30 years! Then you can send her another card, along with the one to ex-Principal Suit. ;)