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Snow, snow, glorious snow

Social Chaos: Bill's Briefs

Two days ago a friend from Maine called and announced, “It is 31 degrees, so don’t tell me you’re freezing at 60.” The edge to his voice warned of instant disconnection should I dare. What an old crab.

It reminded me, however, of the happy (not) winter struggles of walking home at minus 10 degrees, icicles growing on my nose hairs when I inhaled and mother pulling off my mittens because my fingers wouldn’t bend.

We kids with our many layers of shirts, pants, coats and scarves looked and walked like penguins. Luckily, we had our earmuffs – Maine’s greatest invention (Google “Chester Greenwood” the star of a wild festival every December). True, the endless snow was beautiful; the fights were fun and the girls enjoyed making themselves snow-angels, although that paled in comparison to the boys’ joy of writing their name in golden script in the snow.

At home Dad, for our health (not the heating bill), decreed no heat upstairs – except for their bathroom. He explained it was “for Mother.” Likewise, the only electric blanket was theirs, “for Mother.” We got up at 6, scraped off the iced window condensation to see if snow had fallen, raced across the freezing linoleum for our clothes to put on downstairs, then out to shovel the driveway (Dad had to eat breakfast). Only Northerners can understand the fury and frustration of watching the snowplow come and undo the hard-won pathway to the street. Great memories.

As for our freezing friends today, there is no need to compare temperatures; that would be rude and unkind. Do what I do – ask them to, “Hold on a minute. Can’t hear you. Let me turn down the air conditioner.”

School starts in Japan

April is upon us and my mind returns to my former life in Japan. The school year is just starting there and I recall my trepidation as I headed for the classroom for the first time. I had been told it was an English conversation class of 12-20 freshmen women – a piece of cake to get them talking together.

I opened the door at the back of an enormous classroom and beheld a sea of black heads. They turned en mass to reveal what resembled a herd of deer with their eyes caught in the headlights; frozen, they stared at me. Frozen, I stared at them. All 130 of them – for conversation?

Obviously a mistake had been made. I put on a brave face and grinning like Batman’s Joker asked everyone their name (first name, family name, given name, last name, surname, Christian name). It killed 90 very long minutes before I was free to go and get things straightened out.

The woman in the office listened politely, joined me in my horror at the situation and went to a large book, ran her finger down the correct page and then looked up puzzled and said, “But the room has 140 seats.”

Off to my department head. He listened, nodded sagely and informed me it was too late to change anything. He then imparted what I learned was his standard answer to any and all problems, “Do your best.”

So I told the 130 to open their books and whenever I came near I expected them to be asking each other questions in English. At other times, if they were quiet, I would see and hear nothing. So they read, wrote, studied, knitted, etc.

It worked. Everyone got an A; my department head was pleased not to be bothered further by the foreigner and his problems and I had learned far more than the students.

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Posted by on Mar 28, 2013. Filed under Bill's Briefs. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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