The older I get the more my senses come into play…provided I still have them. They trigger memories. Are flashes of the past a sign of getting old?
A sound or smell, a scene formed in the periphery of my vision that is not real…a tune popping up on my playlist causing my senses to work in reverse. It was Kris Kristofferson singing about, “the Sunday smell of someone fryin’ chicken…And it took me back to somethin’…That I’d lost somehow, somewhere along the way.” It was a Sunday morning as I walked, and I could smell pan fried chicken from sixty years ago. Triggers.
After my weekly four-and-a-half-mile jaunt with my best friend Hawk, we stopped by the Tree House for our weekly cup of coffee and probably…more importantly, a stop at a place “Where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came.” Cliff and Norm played by Hawk and Don except I don’t know which character is which.
There was a scent of something chemical in the air, probably a cleaning fluid. They clean every day first thing, and we are the first to arrive most Fridays. Hygiene is important and they are very hygienic. The aroma wasn’t a bad smell, the opposite, a trigger to an all too familiar smell from a time long ago, duplicating fluid. Familiar if you began your teaching career while dinosaurs still roamed the earth.
Sitting in our reserved spot, just like Norm and Cliff, our conversation turned toward a former teaching chum who is deathly ill, but I found it hard to concentrate. Flashes of forty plus years of teaching came into view in between the thoughts we shared. Strange flashes. The Twilight Zone of test making.
The clackity rhythm of an old Royal or Remington typewriter followed by the ding of a bell. I had my tempo and then the long curse when I hit the h before the t in the word the…or with…or thought…. Correction fluid, its own smell familiar. More blue ink everywhere but where it needed to be. More cursing.
Arriving early to school and sprinting to the copying room to find a half dozen teachers stacked up in a holding pattern waiting for the only copying machine needing to be filled with duplicating fluid because the secretary could not be found. She had the only key to the storage room and had been kidnapped it seemed. For some reason duplicating supplies had to be guarded as if they were gold coins. The semester reckoning, a sit down with Sybil or Flogene, “Coach Miller do you realize you used x number of reams of paper? You are killing too many trees.” Our secretaries only used my title when I had been a bad boy.
The cycling sound of the drum of the AB Dick duplicating machine as it spun to the timing of your hand crank, kah-thunk, kah-thunk, kah-thunk. A paper jam followed by blue ink, more on you than on paper. How many shirts did I ruin? Students raising the fresh, still damp mimeographed papers to their noses and inhaling deeply. Strange flashes, indeed.
There were other flashes. The tap, tap, tap sound of yellow chalk on a green board. The history teacher who wrote notes with one hand and erased them just as quickly with the other. God help you if you dropped your pencil, you might lose an entire historical era as you frantically searched. Choking on chalk dust, the new piece of chalk making the long screech. Students covering their ears and screeching their own discomfort.
I remember shoe taps on hardwood floors along with the acrid smell of red sawdust used to clean and keep the dust down. Do they build schools with hardwood anymore?
Teachers have moved on from those days. Computers and smartboards have replaced the need for copied tests, typewriters, and chalkboards. There is software that can grade five sets of tests in the time you can scan them and hit enter. Chromebooks have replaced the book bag filled with heavy textbooks. White boards and dry erase have eliminated hair raising screeches. Zoom classes and virtual learning have become parts of the teacher’s tool bag.
Please don’t assume I’m insinuating teaching is easier. I am most assuredly not. While I loved teaching, no amount of money in the world would bring me out of retirement. I taught in a simpler time…even when I retired six years ago, it was simpler than today…and I am a dinosaur…as much a dinosaur as the AB Dick Copier. I am happy to be AB Dick…less.
Don Millers ramblings can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0x9B8Ym-4Eaqr1jiiLb8bE8e8HQyqjxJ4Tus5v-Cy1TJ00oE28k3EdhGM
Featured image is of an AB Dick 8200. AB Dick filed for bankruptcy in 2005.