Thursday, November 2, 2017
Checking in at the school for my many day sub job this week at 7:30 am, I saw the other scary old clown sub version of me in the office. Me if I stay here longer, me if I travel mostly by Greyhound and think that a chalky red lipstick in the bottom of a bag is going to help the look of my face.
When you check in as a sub you’re like the vagrant of an already hostile office. They know the rules, you don’t. They have all the keys, you don’t, they have a mental map of the school, you’re an explorer. They frankly don’t want your problems, and you hope like hell you will never be on the other side of the desk, in their tired tennis shoes.
Rolling backpack old clown sub with the wrinkles you can pack a suitcase in is wondering where the bathroom is. I’ve been here 2 whole days, a virtual tenured sub, so I highly recommend the spookiest bathroom on campus (also the only one I can find) where the boiler room tubes line the walls directly by where you wedge your knees when sitting on the toilet. Something highly comforting about the lack of space in that bathroom, the habitat for a gerbil who killed someone and must never, never be released again.
I look at rolling backpack clown sub lady and think please, please can I get a job that doesn’t require death of soul quite this extreme. Can I please have my short funny film at Sundance, where I win an award and get to make a speech about how I once subbed at LAUSD in a boiler room bathroom and once flung horse poop under a tin roofed barn in the rolling hills of Maryland and once raised 3 tiny people into strapping lovely adults and once was a fairly decent daughter and good mom and terrible wife.
The best part of subbing is the kids. Their fresh faces and newness of each class and each kid, the chance to learn something funny or interesting in a weird environment and then leave at 2 and never see those people again. The one night stand of the teaching world. Sub em and leave em.
The worst part about subbing is the kids. They need stuff. They battle. They are loud. They are tricky. But there is that one chance I might excite a kid to like words and be a writer. Or that maybe a kid will feel seen or heard by a kind, encouraging, temporary person.
I look at the different versions of subs around me, and I think thank god, I bring me. I also think, look at my tribe of vagrant, slightly off-center temporary people, who thrive on the newness of things, and the uncertainty of connection, and the all out energy you can generate when you know you only have to do it for a few days in a row. Except none of the other subs look all that energized. They’ve clocked in at like giving 5%, and most of that is following the rules. I’m clocking in at 95%, and that’s because I only use the rules that make sense, plus I tone it down from 110% energy after learning it’s better mommy doesn’t have a breakdown at the end.
Today was the best day in our little class, though, because instead of math we wrote a story. We were brainstorming ideas about settings and characters for a scary story and suddenly a WAVE of fun hit and we were all shouting on a volcano erupting, the class was so excited with ideas about making their stories happen. When I went to lunch with all their shining shouting in my head, I called my friend the non-religious Rev and said I just had a story meeting with 30 writers working for free. Working for maybe a grape jolly rancher at the end. I told her from now on when I sub I’m not going to do any of the work the teacher leaves, I’m going to bring in one of my old scripts, and say “let’s write a story” and then give them the basics of my script and have them solve all my plot problems. Then I will repay them by mentioning them in my Oscar speech when I win Best Screenplay. This is exciting to me. Staffs of writers, all new, every time, excited to be there and totally free.
Aside from that, the school job that I finish tomorrow when the teacher gets back from jury duty – my first writers’ group - I will miss this class. The school is so huge, it looks like an abandoned factory. We’re on the far upstairs classroom, so we never see anyone. We had to do a proverb today “no man is an island,” except we are, we’re alone. It’s ideal, because I like to do work and then take a lot of breaks, and it turns out the kids like that too. And it’s been dark and stormy each day, like we’re in Alaska and it’s about to snow its balls off. So I’m no longer in LA, under these otherworldly, cloaking clouds. I never can see myself, quite, especially lately since I seem to be morphing into someone else, all open cocooned and squeezing out. But the kids can see me, and they’re all versions of Earth, space travelers, all with funny names, all made to laugh, made to sit with me for a few hours this stormy week in a warm secluded classroom and talk about baseball and make up stories.
Tomorrow is my last day in the boiler room bathroom, where I get to go during recess, and pretend I’m on the Titanic, in its last moments. It’s a boat, Jack.