April 05, 2010

Article at Authory

The High School Earthquake

The odd convergence of recently friending on social media with a number of people I knew in high school with the earthquake yesterday reminded me of a now-funny event when I was a sophomore in high school. To appreciate the story, you should know that, while I wasn't the most diligent student academically, I did try hard to be a "good girl" in class.

One night at dinner in 1987 or 1988 (my sophomore year), there was a strong earthquake. I was terrified. That night I couldn't sleep because I kept thinking I "felt" aftershocks. Finally, around 3 AM, I dropped off to sleep ... only to be yanked awake around 4 by another strong earthquake. I should have pled illness to Mom and Dad (I was very good at that even when I didn't have strong reason, as I did that day), but I trudged off to school anyway, semi-conscious.

In my sixteen-year-old mind, the perfect antidote was plenty of sugar and caffeine, which I promptly bought from the school vending machines and called "breakfast." (This was in the days before schools realized it was Bad, Terrible, Child Abuse to stock high school vending machines with soda and chocolate cookies.)

My first two periods consisted of a two-hour Humanities class, a combination of history and English. The sugar and caffeine got me through the first period fine. Second period, we were to have a speaker come in and lecture us on the Peloponnesian War. (Funny that I remember the topic, given what came next.) Well, five minutes into the talk, I was unconscious and drooling on my desk. Which wouldn't have been so bad if I had been seated in a remote corner in the back of the classroom. But I was in the front row, right in front of the speaker's podium—basically, in front of his face. Either he didn't have the gumption to wake me up, didn't notice, or attempts to do so had been futile.

Next thing I knew, a classmate was shaking me awake. The teacher, probably hideously embarrassed, was heading my away with a predatory gleam in his eyes. The guest speaker was wrapping up the class and I had missed the whole thing. The bell rang and I ran out of the classroom to avoid the teacher's justified wrath.

But it couldn't be held off forever. The next day, before class, he asked me about what happened. My "good girl" image had come in handy because he had gone from angry to puzzled over why I, of all of his students, would do such a thing. I explained, he accepted, and that was that.

In retrospect, although I now find the experience hilarious, I think the teacher faltered in classroom discipline. Although my reason for falling asleep in front of the guest speaker's face was entirely understandable, it wasn't excusable without an apology. The teacher should have required me to write a letter of explanation and apology to the guest speaker.

At the time though, I was grateful that "that was that."

(Image: Vintage classroom, Pixabay.)