Saturday, March 12, 2011


We decided to stop for a drink after work, Susan and I.

Some guy sat down next to us.

"You girls teachers?"

Susan was showing me some papers that her ESL students had written because I was still relatively new to teaching and couldn't figure out how to grade a stack of 150 essays in less than a week without going quietly crazy. Each one seemed like it took twenty minutes, and the kids never read my comments.

I didn't know what I was doing wrong.

Yeah, I said, and asked to read her comments. I looked them over. They didn't look any different than mine. She maybe even wrote more.

How long did it take you to do this one? I asked.

She shrugged. "Five minutes? Seven?"

Our friend looked over my shoulder. "English teachers?" he said.

Yeah, I said again, and handed the stack back to her. I brooded over my beer. How do you do it?

She shrugged again. "You just get good at it."

Good at it. And clearly, I was not.

"So what do you girls like to do?" our friend asked. "Got any rulers you can smack me with?"

I sighed and turned my back toward him. If I had a nickel for every time a guy brought up rulers or pointers or desks, I might actually be making a decent salary.

I gave Susan back her papers and she stuck them in her bag. I pulled out some of my graded papers and she looked them over before handing them back. What do I need to do? I asked.

"Nothing," she said. "Just get faster."

Faster. Right.

"So how long you girls been here?" our friend asked, looking at the clock. It was after five. "School day ends at, what, 2:30?"

Automatically, I started to protest. The new teacher contract required that we had to stay at school until 4:45 twice a week for PD, and since she taught an evening class at Columbia and I was in grad school at Brooklyn College on Tuesdays, we figured our bar stop was a good way to kill time until we got on the train again.

Not really time for anything else. And anyway, we needed a drink.

"Yep," said Susan. "2:30. Actually, we left school early, and we've been drinking here since one. It's not as if we were working that hard. Might as well go drink. The kids don't notice. They don't pay attention anyway."

"And you only work nine months anyway," he sneered.

This time, I followed her lead. I didn't correct him and say ten months, eleven if you teach summer school; instead I leaned back in my barstool and faced him fully.

And we get Christmas break, I said. And Easter. We hardly work at all.

"Rosh Hashanah," said Susan. "Yom Kippur too."

I'd like to report that he was properly cowed, but instead he called us bitches and moved to the other end of the bar. I looked up at the clock and drained the rest of my beer. We had to be on the train by 5:30 if we were going to make it on time.

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