How many of you ever entered a teachers' lounge prior to 1994? Anybody...anybody? Oh. Did some hands go up? I can't quite see clearly. My corneas acquired a smoky tint in the years leading up to the Pro Children Act of 1994. I might have a permanent case of red-eye. Quick! Somebody notify Ben Stein to send me a crate of Visine. I need it worse than the offspring of a flower child after a Bob Marley concert.
Yes. I said teachers' LOUNGE. Because that's what it used to be. A sanctuary. A place for teachers to let their hair down and smoke up. Only tobacco. That's where the line was drawn. A teacher could carry in a carton or two of cigarettes, and smoke them all if time allowed. Right there on school property. With only a thin wooden door separating the demon carcinogens from the student body.
Oh, the years of prime tidal volume that I wasted in those dens of impurity! All it took was one or two smokers to defile our precious adult clubhouse. Did anybody dare ask the chimneys to stop smoking? Nope. One colleague would open the door, let us see her take a maximum breath of hallway air, then plunge down the two steps into our thinly-carpeted, poorly-furnished, subterranean lair, and put her coins in the soda machine. She must have been quite the record breath-holder. Sometimes, she even bought an additional soda for her buddy. Then off she sprinted, into fresh air once more.
We had three hard-core smokers. They sat around the pedestal table with one short foot. Its teetering did not deter them from their mission. Cig after cig piled up in the ashtrays. It's amazing how much one can smoke on a thirty-minute lunch period. Students dared not enter our haven. When sent on a sortie to acquire information for an unenlightened member of the faculty, the student rapped on the hollow, windowless wooden door. Kids knew better than to open it and peer inside. They waited until one of us stuck our head out to see what was needed.
No intercom, no telephone, no window, no ventilation. Our lounge was the place to hang out if you were cool. We rocked the threadbare brown carpet over concrete slab, saggy overstuffed couch, chrome and vinyl-cushioned couch, mismatched olive-green and harvest-gold padded metal chairs, and bare overhead lightbulb that illuminated the faux-wood-paneled walls. That was it. Frat houses had classier lounges than we.
The teacher workrooms of today have no such ambiance. They are colder than a dentist's waiting room. Bright lighting, tile floor, long table with hard plastic chairs, second-hand fridge, industrial trash can, rickety mailbox cube, working copier, and nonworking copier comprise the amenities. A narrow window faces the front parking lot. Students dart in periodically to run a copy, or grab something from a mailbox. I don't know why teachers send them there to violate the sanctity of our sanctuary.
It doesn't really matter. Nobody wants to hang out there. We have too much busy work for too many new programs. No time to gossip. No time to commiserate. Why bother to take your work to the teacher workroom when you can do everything more easily in your classroom?
The salad days of sidestream smoke are long gone, my friends.