Tuesday, October 07, 2008

random memory

Back in 1987, I attended the former Edmund Ignatius Rice College in Rotorua, New Zealand, while I was living there as an exchange student with AFS.

I have a lot of memories of the place, from David Baines beating up two of the fourth-formers who had been giving me a hard time; and Mark Wirihana teaching me how to use a taiaha; down to learning the Hail Mary, despite being Protestant and saying "mumble mumble mumble" during chapel whenever we were called upon to pray in unison. But one memory stands out right now, for whatever reason.

My sixth-form homeroom teacher was Brother Philip, a decent enough guy, all things considered. He was long on patience, which you had to be at an all-boys high school that was about to merge with an all-girls high school and your job was one that probably would face the ax when the music stopped. Actually, you had to be long on patience in being a teacher at an all-boys high school.

One fine afternoon, at the end of the school day, I took it upon myself to stack all the desks in Brother Philip's room. I would pick up one, and lay it flat atop another. I would then pick up a third, and carefully balance its feet atop the feet of the upended desk. After that came a fourth desk, which also would be placed, upside-down, so that in short order there were four desks stacked together, nearly touching the ceiling.

Now repeat the process until every last desk in the room has been placed into these rather awkward arrangements.

Just as I began to survey my work, it suddenly hit me: School wasn't over, and it was time for maths class. So I grabbed my bookbag, exited through the door and went down the hallway into Ms. Gosnell's class, where we were about to have a test. It didn't even occur to me to go through the door that joined the two rooms, which is probably just as well, considering what happened next.

About ten minutes into the test, Brother Philip entered the room, looking slightly aggrieved. He walked over to Ms. Goswell, spoke to her in hushed tones for a minute, and after she shook her head in dismay, left the room as quietly as he had entered.

A day or two later it hit me that he had been trying to figure out who had left him with such a mess to straighten out. At the time, I was hard at work on surds or the Pythagorean theorem or some other bit of math that I had mastered a year or two earlier back in the States, so while I registered his presence in the room, it never occurred to me to snicker or giggle, which surely would have given me away.

If they were asked, none of my classmates ratted me out. And I never told a soul that it had been me. Until now.

Copyright © 2008 by David Learn. Used with permission.

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