When I was weighing whether or not to take this job, I asked a veteran dean how bad it was and he told me that during his entire first year, he probably only had five bad days. He was trying to make it sound appealing, but to me, five bad days was five more than I wanted to have. Still I was willing to give it a shot anyway because teaching the same thing six times a day to kids who refused to do any work or didn’t even bother coming to class at all was becoming unbearable.
Little did I know that Patriot would take a drastic turn for the worse right after I became a dean (no cause and effect I’m sure), and that instead of five bad days a year, it would be more like five not-bad days a year. And in the three years since, things have not let up – especially recently. I honestly cannot remember the last day we were not inundated with uncontrollable fights, besieged by wild packs of hall-walkers, and surrounded by unending referrals from teachers for various other delinquencies. I’ve become so used to it that every once in a while, as I walk through a cloud of marijuana smoke in hall (which I now completely ignore), I have to conciously remind myself that this place is not normal.
All the shit kind of folds into itself in my memory, but an image that stands out from Friday was a boy’s face dripping profuse amounts of blood onto the stairs as the horde of students during change of periods ignored our commands to use another stairwell, and just skipped over the blood puddles like a sadistic one thousand person game of hop-scotch.
Then Monday, I had to use 100% of my strength to restrain a true beast of a teenager who had just had a fight and was being led through the crowd by two small female Safety Agents. The other “body” from the fight was being held in a classroom, and as the first guy passed by the door I saw his eyes shift and I knew he was going to make a dash and that the Agents would not be able to hold him. I lunged in front of him right as he broke free but he slipped past me and into the room so I grabbed one of his arms and pulled as hard as I could until I was able to get him out of the room. Then I locked my arms around his waist and drove him into the wall. He was still trying to fight his way out when two large agents ran up and put him in a choke. I walked back to the office, checking myself for injuries.
Which brings us to today, when we were charged with yet another case of a girl threatening and harassing other girls and screaming about fighting them at the top of her lungs in our office. “They don’t know me!” She screamed, stomping her feet and waving her hands. “How you gonna do that! I’m gonna beat the shit out of that bitch! No! No I ain’t doin’ no mediation! That smut gonna get her ass beat today!”
I’m just zoning out to this shit when I hear one of our 20 year old students yelling in another dean’s face who was suspending him for pushing him in the hallway. “Oh now you say I ‘pushed past you’! Before you said I ‘pushed you’! Which one is it! Now you a liar!”
“What’s the difference, Tayshaun if you pushed me or you pushed past me? Okay, write that he ‘pushed past’ me on my statement, Vicki. Okay? Is that better Tayshaun? You happy now?”
“You just scared to tell the truth!”
“I am NOT scared to tell the truth! I WILL tell the truth and I AM telling the truth! You will not be allowed to walk these halls like you own this building and treat us like garbage! You’re 20! You’re 20! Grow up!”
As I tried to ignore it all and make a call to the parent of another boy who was being suspended for cursing out the head of security, Dave walked by my desk.
“Pleasant working environment, isn’t it?” he said with a smile.
I chuckled back.
Meanwhile, Dean Flint was escorting the girl who was being threatened by the first girl to her father’s car in the front of the building. Suddenly, his static filled cries exploded over the radio, “SHE CAME OUTTA NOWHERE! kschh….. I NEED SECURITY!”
After the attack had been dealt with, the head of security was dictating to Veronica what to write in the online report. “She then used her body as a projectile and- and dove? Lunged? Yeah, put LUNGED into the student, knocking her to the ground and causing cuts to her face and hands. Make sure you say she used her body as a projectile!”
Dean Flint walked over to my desk and tossed a newspaper at me. “I gotta an extra one foah ya, Pistol.” Then he stood there looking at me, shaking his head. The ol’ Dean’s Office Head Shake. I know it too well.
“Hey, whaddya gonna do?” I said, in an attempt to both recognize the suffering and also accept our powerlessness over the situation while at the same time finding peace in that very act of surrender. But mainly I said it to break the silence.
“NO!” Dean Flint bellowed back at me. “NOT ‘WHATTYA GONNA DO!’ NO! I AIN’T THAT KINDA PERSON!”
“Okay,” I muttered. I guess he hadn’t quite calmed down from the female body as projectile ambush yet.
“I AIN’T THAT KINDA PERSON, PISTOL! THESE KIDS GOTTA GO OUTTA HERE IN HANDCUFFS! BUT THAT’S NOT HAPPENIN’! AND THAT’S A PRAHBLEM!”
“You know there was a movie a long time ago,” he said cryptically, as he stood there fuming for a few seconds to build the tension and add to the gravity of what was coming next. Then he added, “CHARLES BRONSON!” and he just walked away.
“Charles Bronson knew how to handle things?” I called out after him meekly.
He stopped in his tracks and turned back around. “YEAH! CHARLES BRONSON KNEW HOW TO HANDLE THINGS!”
I thought for second and then a light bulb went off. “Are you talking about Death Wish?”
“THAT’S RIGHT! DEATH WISH!”
Death Wish is about a regular Joe turned vigilante in 1970s New York City, who blows away muggers and thugs with a 44 Magnum left and right in an attempt to clean up the city after his wife is murdered. I had to give that one a good ol’ Dean’s Office Head Shake and a little chuckle. Then I went back to my paperwork.