Murphy’s Law Regional High School

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Before leaving work for the weekend, I dropped a suggestion in the central office squawk box: Rename the school Murphy’s Law Regional and change the mascot from a wildcat to a wild card.

MONDAY… I’m the kind of person who doesn’t laugh when people trip, fall down, or otherwise get hurt or suffer. Because, as I’ve said and you’ll know if you’ve been reading this blog, I am of a generally nerdly and earnest disposition. Of late, however, I believe I’ve caught a nasty case of schadenfreude from my developmentally disabled brother, who lives with me and who finds the foibles and failings of all humankind, including himself and his caregiver–yours truly–a hilarious source of enjoyment. Luckily this newly acquired condition applies to me only with regard to extreme weather events that I think will precipitate the end of the world but that, in fact, cause no appreciable harm. They’re mainly a vehicle for my imagination, enabling me to fantasize a natural end to the challenges of everyday life on planet Earth.

So on this gray, gloomy start to a new week, rain fell in torrents. It pounded so loudly on the ceiling  in the atrium, right outside the sandwich station, that I had to strain to hear the kids ordering their lunch. Harder and harder and whoa!

“It broke through the glass!” said Lynetta.

The water puddled on the exotic plant garden that sat directly beneath the usually sunny skylight. Then it began to overflow.

“Look at Tommy!” said Turkey on a Kaiser Roll Boy, pointing to the maintenance guy. “He’s trying to wipe it all up with that tiny mop,” he said, and laughed hysterically.

My mind began to wander as my body went into automatic pilot. Rip, rip, rip went the entire ceiling. No matter that there were two floors above this one. In my fantasy, water flooded the first floor. In  floated an ark from the Advanced Woodworking class. I gave up my place on it to Gross Sandwich Boy, so that he’d have more time to develop his impressive vocabulary.

I imagined standing in water up to my neck and Jesus coming down, saying, “Come on up, Lunch Lady. You’ve done a yeoman’s job with your brother, now come enjoy your reward.”

Then my mother appeared and said, “Excuse me, Jesus, but I beg to differ!”

And I said, “Hey, what’s she doing up there?”

Then Jesus rolled his eyes and sighed.

“You’re too forgiving!” I said.

“It’s my job,” he replied, and shrugged his enormous shoulders.

Talk about nerdly and earnest…

From somewhere inside my reverie I noticed we needed more hot sauce for the Buffalo chicken. Still not fully conscious, I turned and headed toward the cooler. By this time, the floodwaters from the atrium had seeped into the cafeteria, and in my haste…

Slip, slide, and away! I grabbed the cooler-door handles in the nick of time, and although I saved my behind from a nasty bump I couldn’t save my pride from a little bruising.

Everyone on the sandwich line applauded, and so did Lynetta.

“Thanks,” she said. “I was starting to hate this day, but now I feel better.”

I took a bow. “Glad I could provide some lunchtime entertainment,” I said, and carried on.

The rain stopped. Tommy came by with his little mop. And I somehow got through the day.

Tomorrow would surely be better.

TUESDAY… I was on hot-lunch duty, at the station across from Teeny, the pizza lady, and Bonnie, the cashier.

“Today will be like a mini-vacation,” said Bonnie. “No one’s big on meatloaf.”

“And no rain in the forecast,” added Teeny with a big grin.

Because my station was far removed from the seating area of the cafeteria, I couldn’t see the kids, but I could hear them. Considering that I was still embarrassed from yesterday’s mishap, I appreciated the relative privacy. I figured it would give me a chance to recuperate, so to speak.

The day went by quickly, mellow and uneventful, right through fourth lunch. I’d served the last of the six kids on the fifth-lunch line and breathed a sigh of relief.

Before I could exhale came a loud crack-bang-thud!

It was followed by a collective gasp and then dead silence.

Teeny’s eyes were wide as saucers as she stared at God knows what scene in the seating area.

“What?!” I yelled.

“It’s Coach Grant,” she said.

“Who shot him?” I asked.

Bonnie came around the corner and put her hand on my shoulder. “No one,” she said. “The chair broke, and he hit the floor hard.”

We watched as two EMTs came scurrying down the hallway with a stretcher, followed by Tommy with his mop.

The remainder of this day passed by in silence. No one applauded. No one laughed.

WEDNESDAY… The good news of the day was that, aside from a few stitches on his noggin and a concussion, Coach Grant was going to be okay. Two new lunch ladies were starting work this morning, and Lina would be training them before they were shipped off to the junior high across the road and the elementary school seven miles away.

“I’m gonna keep you back here in the kitchen today,” Lina said to me, as the delivery guy from Crispo finally showed up, two days late. “There’s lots of food to prep, and I’ll be busy with the new girls,” she added as she ushered them away from the kitchen.

“Yes, ma’am!” I said, thrilled to be hiding where it was safe.

I loaded up tray after tray of this, that, and the other. Cookies, chicken patties, Philly cheese steaks, popcorn chicken, french fries, burgers, and so on. With each new food item, I’d slipped on a clean pair of gloves over the previous pair.

By the end of the day, mired in all that latex, my hands probably weighed five pounds each and were hard as rocks. I couldn’t even bend them.

As I was ambling around the kitchen, grunting and imitating the Mummy, alarms began to sound. They were different from the bells that signaled the beginning or end of lunch and classes.

“It’s a lockdown!” shouted Carrie-Ann.

“Go close the shutter by the dishwasher,” Kerri ordered me. “And make sure you lock it!”

I managed to get the shutter down but my hands were too unwieldy to work the lock.

Aunt Bea stomped her foot and yelled at me, “By the time you get all those gloves off, we’ll all be shot.”

But I managed and then went to join the others in the storeroom, where we were instructed to crouch down and be quiet.

I couldn’t imagine which of the students would be a threat.

“You think it’s an intruder?” I whispered.

“Shhh!” Aunt Bea scolded me.

Carrie-Ann shrugged.

After the longest ten minutes of my life, we heard the crackling of the public-address system.

“Sorry,” came a contrite voice. “It was a false alarm.”

THURSDAY… I’m glad it’s payday, I thought to myself, because I really need the motivation to be here. Not that the hourly rate provides much impetus, but that’s a topic for another time.

It was Luau Day, and I was back on hot-lunch duty. Peony, the director of Food Services, made me wear a lei and a straw hat.

Denise must’ve seen the look on my face after Peony plopped the hat on top of my already visored head because she said, “Hawaiian women don’t wear straw hats, they wear flowers in their hair.” Then she swiped the hat off my head, plucked a flower from the lei, and stuck it in the bun on top of my head.

“Now go serve ham and corn bread.”

“I owe you one,” I whispered to her on my way out with the food cart.

With each new lunch period, I endured the requisite jokes–“Hey, the lunch lady got lei’d!” and “Where’s your grass skirt?”

“I’m glad I’m serving chicken parm,” said Teeny.

“Oh, it’s okay,” I said. “It could be worse…”

“What’s that smell?” asked Bonnie as she rounded the corner and stood near our stations, sniffing.

“Oh my God!” screamed Teeny. “It’s a skunk!”

A bunch of girls were yelling. “It’s loose in the building! We’re getting out of here!” And they ran out the doors and into the parking lot.

Just then, Lina appeared. “Stay put,” she said. “No one leaves her station.”

The odor became more pungent. I closed my eyes, held my nose, and tried to recall skunk-spray antidotes as I resigned myself to a smelly fate.

“Look!” said Teeny, and she pointed toward the hallway.

I turned around, and we both watched as people from Animal Control ran in with traps and other equipment.

After a minute, we saw Tommy go by, with his mop.

TGIF … The last day of this godforsaken week was finally here. I was so happy that before I left for work I played that awful song by teenaged YouTube sensation Rebecca Black. “It’s Friday” blasted through the speakers on my computer, and I sang with it in my worst screechy voice.

I was almost afraid to step inside the school, but really, what else could go wrong?

Nine, ten, eleven, twelve o’clock. All’s well.

It was one o’clock, and I was picking up the leftover hot and cold food, along with all the dirty trays and stuff from Teeny’s station. After a few minutes, I noticed that the other lunch ladies had disappeared, and I was alone.

It was quiet. There were no bad smells. I didn’t see Tommy and his mop. So I figured it was no big deal and made my way into the kitchen.

All the lunch ladies were in a huddle.

“What?” I asked.

“Didn’t you hear the police sirens?” asked Lynetta.

I shook my head from side to side.

“Ohhh…,” she said.

“What!” I said.

“Mr. Perry…,” she said, and trailed off.

“Who’s that?” I asked.

“One of the assistant principals,” said Kerri.

“Did he fall off a chair?” I asked.

“He fell from grace,” said Lynetta.

Aunt Bea glared at Lynetta and barked, “Stop being so dramatic!”

Then she looked at me, “He’s an addict,” she declared. “The cops caught him buying prescription drugs in the parking lot.”

“They’ve been watching him,” said Denise, “and they finally caught him in the act.”

“He teaches English,” said Carrie-Ann. “The kids love him.”

“He’s a track coach,” said Bonnie.

“Not any more,” said Teeny.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen to him,” said Kerri.

Another teacher behaving badly, I thought to myself. This school needs an exorcism.

“If they let him retire,” said Aunt Bea, “the bastard will get an eighty-five-thousand-dollar-a-year pension.”

And the lunch ladies need a raise…

Before leaving work for the weekend, I dropped a suggestion in the central office squawk box: Rename the school Murphy’s Law Regional and change the mascot from a wildcat to a wild card.

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