I could have been a teacher.
I wanted to be one. I coached middle school girls’ soccer for three seasons, and high school girls’ soccer for one. This happened after my journalism career came to an unceremonious end and I muddled around in jobs in call centers and hotels.
The plan: Get my teaching certificate, teach English, and become faculty and coach. Summers off, days spent teaching writing. I could think of worse ways to go. Before any of that could get off the ground, I got the call from Muzak, to write on-hold messages for businesses.
Yes, on-hold messages. But it was writing. And I wanted to write.
I still teach. My kids, sometimes. Myself, often. And a kid recently referred to me as his soccer teacher. Nothing wrong with that. Even after 12 years on a sideline, there’s much to teach, you know.
And there’s a ton to learn.
1. Why do you always call my teachers by their first names?
Fundamentally, I can’t do certain things, such as:
- Order the little cheeseburger at Five Guys restaurants.
- Eat a salad and call it a meal.
- Call another grown-ass person Mr. or Mrs.
I’m also not down with attaching a prefix to a kids’ name. Mr. Samuel. What the hell? Sounds like a character in a kids’ book. No the good kind, either. Sammy gets into mischief. Mr. Samuel alphabetizes his mother’s spice rack on Sunday afternoons. Every Sunday afternoon.
I call your teachers by their first name because it humanizes them. Heather and Errin, Phillip and Nellie. You might not think of a teacher as human. But they are.
When you see your home room teacher in the 7 Eleven buying beef jerky, you tend to want to call her Shannon and not Ms. Shellenbrogter.*
Plus, there’s mischief involved. We’d call our teachers by their first names all the time when I was a kid. Never within earshot. Larry, Dave, Karen. Except for Ms. Champagne.
She was the middle school science teacher who wore shawls and dangly earrings and brightly colored capris. I don’t remember her first name. But I remember the capris. Again, I digress.
*Name changed to protect the innocent.
2. How much is the land and sea sandwich at McDonald’s?
You forgot the air part, kids.
The gluttonous pile of fast food, The Land, Sea, Air Burger, comes straight off the McDonald’s Secret Menu. (James Bond ain’t got nothing on the red-headed clown, y’all.)
It contains patties repping land (beef), air (chicken, although how much air time does one get on average?) and sea (the filet-o-fish.)
Why read about this behemoth when I could experience it?
I set off for McDonald’s and requested the Land, Sea and Air Burger.
“It’s a McDouble with a chicken patty and a filet-o-fish stuck in it. You know,” I said, leaning in. “From the secret menu.”
“I’ll get a manager.”
I decided right then to give it 2 minutes. If no manager emerged by then, I’d hightail it before the law got here. Lucky for my sterling police record, Mr. Manager (doh!) showed up with a mop.
“We don’t do that,” he said, with a degree of consternation. You’d have thought I’d ordered a Whopper.
HackTheMenu.com lists a symphony of secret menu items, yours if you’re privy. Also for the clandestine taking: Neapolitan shake, McCrepe, and the Chicken McGriddle.
It’s tough to nail anyone down on this secret menu. Some sites tell you to make your own secret menu item, such as the Mc10:35. (At the end of breakfast and beginning of lunch, order an Egg McMuffin and McDouble.
(Then put it together yourself!)
No thanks. Put together my own secret menu item? That’s about as dumb as a self-check register.
Or a salad for dinner.
3. Why are gas prices so low?
There are several reasons I can get gas as cheap as $1.86 in South Carolina.
(Fill up a mile north in North Carolina, and it could cost a whopping $2.25!) One reason: More crude oil comes from Merica. As domestic crude production increases, we don’t buy as much of the expensive foreign stuff.
The Gulf of Mexico, where much domestic drilling takes place, has steered clear of disaster, natural and otherwise, lately. Yet, one study estimates that dropping gas prices leads to more highway deaths.
4. Who was the oldest president?
We’ve had some old dudes as commander in chief, haven’t we?
Gerald Ford lived the longest: 93 (and 165 days). Ronald Reagan was a month and a half younger. If George H.W. Bush I makes it to Nov. 24, 2017, he’ll tie Ford.
If you’re talking age on the day of inauguration, Reagan is your man. Bernie Sanders, at age 75.2, would pass Reagan on the geezer chart if he becomes president.
Heck, Hillary Clinton would be the third oldest president on inauguration day, just ahead of William Harrison and Harry Truman.
5. Why do we have to dress up for church?
Sometimes, the kids on my soccer teams fight over who will take a goal kick or make a throw-in.
The eager kids play so much more into the trivial, flying out of bounds faster than they moved on the field. There’s some bickering, some whining and a whole lot of nonsense.
Church can be like this, too.
Rather than key on the message, we fixate on the messenger.
Instead of appreciating one’s attendance, we criticize clothing.
At a time we’re challenged to practice humility, we’re quick to keep score.
We have to dress up for church only because of the expectation we’ve established for ourselves. It’s easy and even a bit admirable to concentrate on wanting our best foot forward toward God.
My suspicion is God cares much more where that foot is and who it’s attached to, than how fancy the shoe is.
Just ask a teacher.