Saturday, March 8, 2014

Telling Tales Out of School

More than 20 years ago, the young, short, single mother with olive complexion, piercing eyes and long dark hair (Hispanic, maybe?) walked into my classroom with her three year old in tow. He wore a three piece suit on the first day of school. When she introduced me to "My little man" she said, "We travel all the time. I open a map and he points to a spot. Then I get reservations from  Greyhound Bus, and we go there for vacation."
I wondered if they'd taken three trips already, or more. I smiled and welcomed them. I treat everybody with kindness and respect.

Next the obese, mentally challenged parents of two sons (one institutionalized, large for his age, violent six year old) barged in to my class with their large for his age, awkward in every way three year old. They had poor personal hygiene and spoke boisterously. Newspaper reports indicated the mother earned money hooking, and I do not mean rugs. I treat everybody with respect and kindness. I smiled and welcomed them.

In December, I sent a notice announcing an upcoming field trip to Santa's house.

The little man's mama said to me, "I am not riding on that bus with that stinking man! Can't you do something about his offensive odor? I expect you to tell him to take a bath. If you don't, I am going to dump a bottle of perfume on him as I walk up the aisle."
I explained that it was not my place to discuss his personal hygiene.

The next day, I saw a paper bag outside my classroom door. The contents: half used underarm deodorant, a partial bar of used soap and other hygiene products. I placed the entire bag into the trash can in clear view of anyone walking into my classroom.
That was a mistake. We went on the field trip. There were no incidents.

I received anonymous, threatening letters, written in first, second and third person. "Your teacher, (my name) is in big trouble. They are going to get us. (Her name) has heard, we are both in danger and she will pay. (Her name) is worried about what might happen  to us..." The rambling letters arrived for a couple weeks.

I greeted that mother with a smile every day, and we both pretended we didn't know. She was extremely nice to me.
Then, one night I was teaching an adult education class when I received a phone call in the office. My ex-husband said, "Who are you messing around with?"

I immediately took offense. He said, "I don't care, but some woman just called me at my work and said, "Tonight's the night your wife is going to die."
I reported the incident to my supervisor and we called the police. I was in tears by the time they arrived. The police officer asked if I suspected anyone. I pulled her enrollment file, and we compared handwriting. BINGO!  He said that they couldn't act on idle threats, but if the woman did anything, then I should call them back. I went ballistic. I cried, "She lives in the neighborhood and I am not walking to my car alone tonight." I said a lot more. The guy was nice. He said, "What would you LIKE me to do?"

 I said, "I'd like you to accompany me to this woman's door and tell her you are concerned for HER welfare as well as mine, because I have been receiving threatening letters that include her name. Tell her you're running fingerprints, and you are this close to catching the person. That way we are not accusing her; we're appearing concerned for her, but she'll know we know."

He looked at me. "Seriously?"
I said, "Seriously. Please?"

We drove a block away, he banged on her door and repeated my schpeel.
I reiterated, "You need to be careful, you're mentioned in these letters."

She was speechless, nodded and looked like a deer caught in headlights. The officer dropped me off at school and wished me good luck. After my class I asked for an escort to my car from the custodian. The officer probably went back to the station and told everybody about the wacky teacher and the crazy perp.

The next week was Christmas. Most parents gave me Dollar Store gifts, homemade Christmas cookies or handmade ornaments from their children. (This was before gift cards)
This woman's little boy came in and presented me with TEN wrapped presents. If I ever had any doubt...
The letters ceased. When my mother sat in one day to sub for a few hours, this woman befriended her and raved on and on about how wonderful I was. There were no further incidents.

At the end of the school year, she came up to me and said, "Ms. Linda, I just want you to know I have quit drinking all together. I used to drink a lot." Neither of us mentioned the letters. This was her apology.

I smiled and said, "Good for you." Then I changed the subject and asked, "Where are you going on vacation?"

I learned from that incident that confrontation isn't always the best way to handle a problem. I also learned that when parents ask if I know anyone in the car business not to mention the dealership where my family member works. No more personal details.
I wish this were the end of the story but...during the summer I was babysitting. My granddaughter was three and misbehaving when we went into the store for milk. I'm ashamed to admit I used a colloquialism  I should have never used. I snapped, "Stop acting like a hoosier." (I did not mean a resident of Indiana.)

She asked for a definition. I said, "Someone who does not know how to behave." After I strapped her in her car seat, she saw... YOU GUESSED IT! That mother, walking across the parking lot with her little man. My little sweetie leaned her head out and shouted, "Are YOU a Hooiser?" I sped away without looking back.
I put my darling down for a nap. Then her mama came for her. She told her they were going to see her paw-paw (my ex).

My daughter called that evening to tell me about his "incident." He greeted her and teased, "Hey how's preschool. Do you have a boyfriend yet?"
"Yeah I do."

"Whose your boyfriend?"

She stomped her foot, put her hands on her hips and said, "NO, Paw-paw!"
He asked, "So, you DON'T have a boyfriend?"

She shouted, "I DO TOO!"
He said, "So, whosjyourboyfriend?"

She cried out, "He is NOT a hoosier!"

This is a true story!


Unknown said...

Well played, Linda! Great story.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Linda--Your stash of stories is bottomless. I think there's at least a couple of possible submissions here--if you haven't already sent them in.

BECKY said...

No wonder you "attract" the "offbeat" people all the time! I would have been petrified of that wacko woman, too! Glad you survived and are still here, Linda! :)
P.S. And haven't we all met a few Hoosiers in our lives?!

noexcuses said...

Wow! What a great story! Sorry you had to go through the scary part, but you handled it all perfectly! I'm also glad you are still here! Thanks for sharing!

Vicki Rocho said...

You handled that so well. Very impressed! I'd be stuck in panic mode.

Merlesworld said...

Great story the world is full of interesting people some are a bit of a worry.

Bookie said...

What a story! Isn't it amazing what we see and feel during teaching? This is a great saga!

Val said...

Sounds like that would make a good episode of Law and Order SVU. I'm sure you could dash out a script between Chicken Soup acceptances!

Pat Wahler said...

There sure are some interesting people out there.

Critter Alley

Tammy said...

You should work for the police department as a consultant. You'd be in charge of the "Hoosier Mama" (hee hee) division.

Lynn said...

You're a story teller just like your father (that you've said was a story teller).

Susan said...

Gosh, Linda. You have experienced enough life lessons to write several books.

Thanks for all your faithful visits.


Connie said...

Wow, I'm glad that ended well for you. It could have gone a lot worse. You handled it much better than I would have.

River said...

I've never heard the term Hoosier.

You handled that problem very well, I'm glad it all ended peacefully.

Shelly said...

Well told, very well told!

Mary Horner said...

Great story. I'm always amazed by the different lives people have lived before they walk into my classroom. Usually it's fun to hear about their experiences, but sometimes sad. I'm glad everything worked out well.

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

Nicely done, Linda. You're a wise woman, and kind as well. Things may have gone quite differently had you acted any other way.