Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Et tu, Brute?

I'm not sure if I should reserve that phrase for my immune system (which you would think would be on MY side) or for the NYC subway system (which raised fares only two weeks ago, AGAIN), but I'll let you decide.

Sometime between Monday night and Tuesday morning, I got so completely sick that I had to stay home from school on parent-teacher conference night. Teachers, you know how sick that is. So sick that my big accomplishment for the day was moving from my bed to the couch, and putting on sweatpants. So sick that I couldn't even watch movies or read.

But last night my fever broke and I headed weakly to work this morning. Arrived at Union Square already feeling like perhaps I had overestimated my energy levels. My train arrived and sat in the station for five minutes, until...

"Due to a power outage, no trains will be running on the 4, 5, or 6 line between Union Square and 86th St."

(Universe to Ms. Frizzle: Go home! Go back to bed! It's not too late!)

Casually ignoring warnings from universe, I headed for the nearest payphone to let my colleagues know what was going on. Hmmm. I don't actually know how to use a payphone anymore... I'm standing there scratching my head, like, how much does this cost? Do I have to dial 1 first? When do you put the money in? I rang the school but did not get through.

This whole trip I was feeling like an astronaut returning to earth. Oh, that's how you use your legs! Oh, that's how you eat! Everything felt a little atrophied. The best part of the whole commute was the subway musician playing "Starman" at 34th Street... I practically wanted to hug him: "Yes! That's exactly how I feel!"

Two transfers later I arrived in the Bronx. Now, being a white woman, when I'm walking around in the Bronx, or even standing at a bus stop, the cabs practically park in front of me. They beep, they pull over, they look expectantly at me. Except today. Today I ended up walking ten blocks to work.

My favorite thing about being is absent is the absolute panic in the children's eyes the next day, as they practically attack you to make sure you understand that the REASON they didn't complete their assignment is because YOU were absent and YOU had to give them their first draft back and THAT'S why they didn't do it and WHAT are they going to DO now.... Ooof, cut your teacher a little slack! Can't you see I'm holding onto the table so I don't fall over?!

After that, the day was fine. I broke up one fight, made reproduction in mosses seem scintillating (oh, but it is!), spoke to one parent about his son's disrespectful attitude, helped one group set up a stream table for their science expo project, gave a practice test during afterschool, and managed to stay standing all day, which was more or less the goal.

Oh, and did I mention that on the way home, we arrived at Union Square only to find that the doors would not open due to a signal failure, due to - you guessed it - a power outage? They came 'round with a special key, so we got out, but after that I think everyone had to find new routes home from there. Luckily, it was my last stop.

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