“Pistol, are you going to the Christmas party?” Asked Maria.
How do I say this politely? “Uhh… I just kind of want to leave work behind when I’m done, you know?”
“Awww, I always have fun. You can drink!”
“But I live far awaaaay, so I would have to wait around heeeeere for it to staaaart..”
“What’s the matter, Pistol?” She said, getting all serious. “You seem upset.” She sat down down next to me and closed the door a little behind her.
“Really? Is it because of the Christmas party thing?”
“No, you just seem angry recently. You’re usually laid-back and relaxed. What’s going on?”
“I don’t know,” I said, feeling a little defensive. “I mean this job has always been stressful, but maybe – I guess – I feel a little like I’m on my own, you know? I kind of feel like, ‘fuck it’ sometimes. I mean – I know that everyone is working hard, but there needs to be more of a system in place so we’re all on the same page.”
The bell interrupting my rant and I was supposed to be on the first floor for passing, so I grabbed my radio, rushed out, knocked a little girl down, got caught in the log-jam at the stairs, pushed through, and spilled out on to the first floor.
There were fifty of the usual faces and a hundred unusual ones, glued to walls, stuffed in crannies, and hanging out in islands amid a river of bodies raging through it all. It reminded me of that footage of the South Asian tsunami with the trees and cars and lost children all washing down the street.
“All right! Let’s go! This is sixth period! Let’s get to class! Off the wall! You can’t stand here! Move!”
But I ‘m just a buzzing gnat, unseen and unheard. One of the weapons they wield most deftly is disrespect, and it starts by not even acknowledging your existence. No matter how close you get, no matter how directly you address them, no matter how clearly politely or sternly you phrase your request, they won’t even look at you, much less obey you. If you are lucky, they will look OVER or AROUND you, as if they hear something in the distance and then they’ll take one or two sluggish steps and stop. If you dare to insist that they continue, you might as well be shaking nitroglycerin.
With no warning, they’ll wheel around and scream at you. “Why you fiendin’! You aggravatin’ me!” There goes the left eardrum. “Damn! Why this nigga on my back!”
This is well after classes have started, mind you. Every day. Every period. It’s the same routine . The best thing to do is to just tell them to move once, pretend to write their names down and walk away.
“You writin’ my name on that piece a paper? Aww hell no! The fuck you writin’ for!”
“Because classes started and I asked you to-”
“Can’t you see I’m goin? Why you goin’ hard? Damn! This nigga fiendin’!”
“-‘the fuck you say?!”
A long female arm hits a boy’s corn-rowed head right next to me and then she grabs him by the throat. I bear-hug the girl and pull her away. Luckily the guy didn’t hit her back while I was holding her. He just taunts her.
“AHH HAHAHA! You got fucked, you smut!”
She had a slight build, but it was still difficult to hold her. It took several safety agents to get her into the elevator and up to the deans office.
Once she was sitting down, I started talking. “Look, it’s not okay for anyone to insult you but-”
She interrupted me. “Yeah, if think he can say that shit to MY face, he -”
“-BUT!” I cut her off. “It’s also not okay for you to hit someone.”
“Thass okay, I just beat his ass when we get home. I won’t do it in school, don’t worry.”
“Wait. You’re sayin’ he’s your boyfriend?”
I roll my eyes. “Okay, but you can’t hit him at home either, blah blah blah, domestic violence, blah blah blah, police, blah blah blah, jail. But apart from that, my concern is the school. And this stuff better be finished, because if it happens here again, you WILL get locked up.”
“You just wanna lock me up every time I walk in this school! Damn!”
“Come on. No we don’t just wanna lock you up. Why, did you get locked up before?”
“When I broke down the office door!” She said as if that was the only other shit we’ve dealt with in the last 6 months.
I vaguely remembered it. She was trying to attack someone in the office and she kicked a section of the door in trying to get in. When the police got here, she became hysterical, screaming, crying, threatening, banging, kicking. She wouldn’t calm down so they took her out on a disorderly conduct charge. They always try to calm them down but if they can’t chill out, or won’t chill out, then they cuff ’em. In her case they had to call the paramedics and put her on a stretcher because she was so hysterical. All this happening in a small office, mind you. And when it does, it feels like the circus came to town. Cops, paramedics, guns, secretaries, parents, students, lions, tigers. We got it all.
I was brought back from my memories by a little drop of blood forming on my finger tip.
“And you made me bleed!” I yelled at her.
“Oh mista! Now you O.D.n’ Ha! Ha!”
She was right, it was only a drop but still. “No I’m not O.D.n’. I don’t come to work so I can go home bleeding! And when a crowd gathers like that and we have to get in the middle of a fight, it puts us in danger. And that’s not right.”
“Well you don’t have to worry ’bout me because I BEEN wantin’ to beat his ass, and now I did it, so I’m all good.” She wiped her hands together to signify a job done.
When I called the boy’s mother to let her know what had happened, she knew immediately who had done it. “That girl comes around here and always startin’ trouble! She beats on him! Even her own mother won’t let her in her house. She stole 5,000 dollars from her mom and then she always callin’ over here! She was already discharged from that school too! The only reason she enrolled back in that school was to watch what he doin’ and make sure he not talkin’ to any girls! I don’t want her around my son, Mr Pistol. He just CAME to that school on a safety transfer but if I have to move him on another safety transfer then that’s what I’m gonna do!”
“Well, maybe she’ll get frustrated with this suspension and discharge herself again because she is 18. So let’s just wait and see. In the mean-time, just call me if there’s anything I can do.”
I was doing the suspension paperwork when I noticed another cut on my other hand. This one was in the shape of the delicate arc of a fingernail.
“Goddammit, she cut me twice.”
Vicki insisted that I fill out an accident report immediately. “A fingahnayall! Gawd only knows what diseases!”
Then Dean Flint, the union man, paid me a visit. “I’m gonna need ya ta fill out one a them accident repohts for me, Pistol. Okay? Gahd fuhbid that thing gets infected.”
“Yeah, I got the form right here. Thanks”
“Good, because it’s tha only way we can fight management! It’s like Frank Zappa in ’69! With tha record covah with tha guy bendin’ ovah and the little soldiahs marchin’ outta his rectum! We gotta go through ‘The System‘! Or tha otha one, where he’s holdin’ excrement in his hands and it says ‘They always wanna give you a load a shit!’ Like when I give tha kids tha Mushroom Theory of Economics! ‘Feed ’em a lotta shit and keep ’em in tha dahhhk!”‘That’s what management wants ta do with us!”
And with that, my union consultation was over. Flint heaved his massive body back to his desk and I was left in disbelief yet again. Dude needs his own show or something.
The day wasn’t over though, and the circus paid us another visit when a kid pushed a safety agent in the halls. When they brought the kid into the dean’s office he was bleeding from the head. And then came the clowns: agents, cops, deans, yadda yadda. I didn’t even want to watch because I’d seen it all before. But when I heard the kid start talking shit to the cops I had to grab some cotton candy and take a seat on the front row.
“Yoah gonna siddown and yoah gonna shuddup! Ya hear me?” one of the cops yelled. The kid wisely did as he was told. “Ya got two choices!” The cop continued. “You can take the summons or you we can take you out in cuffs!”
He took the summons. Show’s over folks.