Lessons Better Late than Never

It can be a bit awkward when you run into one of your former teachers.
Out of hundreds of students, you wonder, will they remember me?
Maybe, you think, I should save them the embarrassment of trying to conjure up a name to go with the face and keep on walking.
Then again you ponder, there’s the other side of the coin. Will they remember me all too well?
Much grayer and shorter than you remember, for a split second your old teacher can turn right before your eyes into a mirror of long exorcised demons.
Childhood pranks forgotten the day after detention swim into your brain.
A sense of utter shame fills your stomach to bursting.
Whether you did it on school grounds or not, you ask yourself, was that really me?
Now I don’t mean me, of course, but people I know!
You know, the type of kid who would lock the classroom door and play dumb.
The kind of kid who would switch seats with a friend just to confuse the substitute.
The kid who practiced setting paper towels alight during science experiments with the Bunsen burner or glued… well, anything to anything.
You know the type – under 18, incorrigible.
Pretty normal, overall.
Of course now that you’re well past 18, there’s always the quick once over of one’s self brought on by a run-in with your one-time educator.
Do I measure up, you wonder.
Was I one of their success stories?
Intent on proving you’re not that same doofus who couldn’t wrap her head around an isosceles triangle, you stand up tall and put on your best manners.
You smile your most charming smile, slip the stick of chewed up bubblegum beneath your tongue, discreetly tuck your shirt into the waistband of your pants.
“Hello, ma’am.”
It doesn’t matter how old you are, your teachers will always be that much older.
And at 25 or 52, you’ll still feel compelled to address them as formally as was once required – in the days when you so longed to drop “Mr.” and “Mrs.”
The greeting doesn’t come easy either.
You have to get past that frozen deer-in-the-headlights feeling that you forgot to finish your homework last night.
You rack your brain.
What happens if I get a pop quiz on subjects long relegated to the “useless knowledge” file in my brain, squished between the combination to my high school gym locker (19-9-35) and the theme song to Friends?
The value of “Pi” is 3.14159; Avogadro’s number has something to do with gases in chemistry, and every sentence should have a subject and a predicate.
Don’t be surprised if you feel a jerking in your shoulder region – teachers are used to arms raised without thought or meaning.
Just keep your eyes facing front, say “may I” instead of “can I” and “is” not “like.”
Keep that chair on all fours, and for goodness sake, use your 2-inch voice.

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