Unbagging the Cats 1

Unbagging the Cats 1

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Salad Days of Sidestream Smoke

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.


Bailey Hammond said...

So...this is what I have to look forward to? Huh. I was kinda hoping I'd get a jacket, like the Pink Ladies, and have catch-phrases that the not-as-cool people wouldn't understand. Of course, I also hope that one day I'll be able to fly and/or apparate of my own will power. *flash* *whirr* Yep. One day. One day.

Linda O'Connell said...

Teachers Lounge, isn't that an oxymoron? It was a cool concept when we were establishing the small school a which I work. We even imagined a small sofa for when or headaches from little Johnny or Janie made us want to lie down. ha! It is a junk room with barely enough seating for lunch. Oh but I do remember when.

Val Thevictorian said...

No jacket. You might get a school shirt to wear on rare designated days. Catch-phrases, yes. But they are not for public consumption.

We eat lunch with the kids. At one school, we had to sit at a table with our class! At another, we had duty-free lunch, and convened in a small attic room to recharge for the afternoon.

BECKY said...

Gosh, all the rules, laws, and political correctness have taken all the fun out of EVERYTHING! I used to love smelling my clothes when I came home from a nightclub....Ahhh, cigarette smoke odor! :D

Kathy's Klothesline said...

I once substituted for occasional monies, way back when. The lounge was always standing room only with lots of ashtrays and smokers. It was a long time ago

Val Thevictorian said...

Maybe you can bottle that as a retro cologne. Kramer had the idea for The Beach. Dead fish, seaweed and all. Good enough for Calvin Klein to steal it. Now it's your turn.

Ah...good times. Now schools even ban firearms from the grounds. Can you believe it? The price of progress.