In seventh grade, the worst 15 minutes of my day were the first 15 minutes. It was the moment when I got off the school bus and faced the challenge of finding a group of boys to hang out with until the bell rang. It was a high stakes game of fitting in and I was usually losing. Outside the building were circles of kids standing around talking, reflecting their places in the social hierarchy. There was the popular crew, the druggies, the “trashy” kids, the smart girls, the “band nerds,” and the handful of African American kids in our…
It was Christmas Eve at the Hallmark store and the elderly cashier didn’t even look up when I said hello. I thought she might not have heard me. “Merry Christmas!” I said. Still no response. “That stuffed animal we’re buying is for our new baby — she could come any day now.” The woman barely looked up and coldly said, “You got anything else?” “Nope — that’s it. Just a little Christmas present for my new baby.” The woman charged my card and didn’t speak. “Well have a merry Christmas,” I said with a touch of irritation. She didn’t respond….
I was at a holiday party talking with a friend when I overheard a woman behind me say the name of my wife in a conversation. I naturally started listening in and then realized that the woman, a friendly acquaintance, was talking about Raquel’s ethnicity. “I’ll tell you what,” said the woman snidely with a laugh, “she looks like a Mexican if you ask me!” (Raquel is Puerto Rican).
On the night of February 7, 2003, Coco and David Treppendahl got the news that no parent ever wants to hear: their 19-year-old daughter, Laura Treppendahl, had been killed by a drunk driver as she drove home from a Bible study. The driver, one of Laura’s fellow students at the University of Mississippi, had just driven away from a bar in an SUV with eight passengers inside. Within minutes of leaving, he sideswiped one car and then ran head-on into Laura, who died at the scene of the accident.
The sky was dark outside of Petal Middle School because of a torrential rainstorm that was bearing down on our small town. All of the students were rushing to avoid the rain – all of them except me. I stopped by the gutter where water was gushing over the edges, put my head under the waterfall, drenched my hair, and then slicked it back. I thought it was hilarious. My teacher did not. When I walked into class, my teacher saw my soaking wet hair and loudly ordered me to get out of the room. I walked across the hallway…
I was in a bad mood on my way to church last weekend, and it had everything to do with the woman driving in front of me. She was going about five miles an hour down a one-way street in Washington, D.C., while looking at her phone.
As I clicked “publish” on my blog post, I had a faint hope that I would find my fifth-grade English teacher, Ms. Saucier. The blog post was titled “If Jesus were a fifth-grade teacher.” I had lost touch with Ms. Saucier several years before and despite online searches, I had come up with nothing. The blog post was both a tribute and a last-ditch effort to find her.
A few years ago, I moved to a window office at work and sent an email around letting everyone know I had relocated. In the email, I jokingly invited everyone to come by for a “tour” of the new space and apologized that I didn’t have any hors d’oeuvres for my guests. Well, I didn’t have hors d’oeuvres yet.
Several years ago, I made friends with a guy who volunteered at the same organization as me. He seemed like he wanted to be good friends, but he didn’t act like much of one. Sometimes he passive aggressively insulted me; other times he flattered me. He could be aloof, and then he could be clingy. But I stuck around because we had known each other for a while, and I felt like I owed it to him.
My friend Ann was driving through the cemetery in the blazing heat one summer afternoon and her heart was heavy with grief. Her father had died four months before and nothing could shake her of the sense of loss – until suddenly, there was an interruption.
It was Christmas Day of 2002 and I boarded a flight to Milwaukee with a ham as a carry-on. The ham was a gift from my mom to my ham-loving brother. The ham was in a box, which I put in the overhead compartment next to my bag, and then waited to take off. Unfortunately, though, we sat on the tarmac for 45 minutes, raising the risk of me missing my connecting flight in Detroit.
For a period of time in third grade, I cringed when it came time to pay for my lunch — there wasn’t enough money for us to pay for it. I felt humiliated by getting free lunch. I had seen kids walk up to the lunch lady without handing her any change and I had looked down on them. Now I was one of those kids.
One time, I met a D.C. traffic-directing cop in the line at the mall and I remarked how dangerous her job was. “I mean, people in D.C. drive so crazy,” I said. “You could get killed.” “Oh no,” she said, “don’t feel sorry for me. Feel sorry for the people in parking enforcement. They get screamed at, spat on, cursed out – you name it. It’s horrible.”
When I was in third grade, I had problems behaving. My heart was in the right place, but my good intentions didn’t make it to the surface a lot of the time. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to follow the rules.
I was standing across the counter from the lady at the hole-in-the-wall dry cleaners and I was getting irritated. She had lost my pants and I was sure of it, but I couldn’t find my ticket to prove it. The woman kept insisting that I hadn’t dropped them off with my suit jacket.