Saturday coffee.

Spiced grasshoppers in Oaxaca. NY Times.

The joke each June as school ends is that every day is Saturday.

This is not quite true since it takes a week or two for my internal clock to reset. To stop waking up at 5AM. To stop making me sleepy at 9:30 PM.

Years ago I would build something the first week of summer break. Like a planter box.

I’m no handyman. But with a drill and a saw I can build things that have straight lines and corners. This is a perfect skill for building planter boxes for our backyard. And once I had built one, I was done for the summer. And if I was asked what I was doing with my time, I could honestly answer, “Oh. I’ve done a little construction around the house.”

This was not true when I began teaching.

In those days financial need required me to teach summer school.

Back in the mid-80’s Chicago had one of those God-awful summers – just miserably hot and muggy. For days on end without end.

It was my second year in the school district. I was teaching two computer art classes a day in the corner room on the second floor of an old brick elementary school that had no air conditioning.

We were given one box fan. It was barely enough to cause air movement. By the Friday of the now week-long heat wave, the room was hell. In fact hell would be where to go to cool off.

In those days, the regular school principals would rotate in each week. This particular week the principal was Dr. Long, an old school type who was known for being emotionally unpredictable. Today she would probably be diagnosed as having bi-polar disorder. In those days teachers just thought she was nuts.

She would strike fear in the heart of any staff member simply by placing a yellow note in their box that said, “See me.”

On this particular Friday morning I opened the door to my classroom and the heat snapped my head back as if I had just opened an oven door.

I went down to the office, which had AC.

Why is it that in school buildings that have no central air it is always the non-teaching areas that are air-conditioned?

I asked the secretary to call the custodian and ask for a second box fan so that I might be able to create a cross breeze from the cooler hallway to an open window.

“Tell Klonsky he only gets one.”

“Uh, That’s not really an acceptable response,” I said.

At that point Dr. Long, who had been in her air-conditioned office, which she had never left all week, turned in her chair and said, “You knew it would be hot when you took the job.”

“That’s not really an acceptable response either.”

Dr. Long pounced from her swivel chair and came charging at me. We went at it for about five minutes until I turned and left.

About twenty minutes later, the assistant superintendent, a guy named John Fletcher, showed up at my door. Fletcher was known as a good man. Somehow he had gotten word of the confrontation.

“Fred. I’ve got a truckload of fans coming over for all the classrooms.”

All the rest of that day teachers would drop by my room to thank me for the extra fan.

Dr. Long put out word that I was never to step foot in her building again.

But my reputation was now secure. Dr. Long retired a few years later and I spent my last fifteen years teaching in what was her building.

And I never taught summer school again.

5 Replies to “Saturday coffee.”

  1. Fred, never saw these but Mary Heins sent it. LOVE it. Yes John Fletcher was the best. Enjoy retirement. Hi to Anne Reta K

  2. Fred, great story. I remember that day as I had set up all the computers in that art room for you. Hot as hell that summer and the computers only added to the heat. GB

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