I never know where my mind is headed. After seeing some posts from former colleagues on Facebook recently, I was reminded of the fun we had at the lunch table. As a high school teacher, the lunch period was truly an oasis in my day. It was one moment in the day when I could relax. For the bulk of my twenty five years, I was happy to sit at one of the tables in the faculty room.
Students are under the false impression that faculty rooms are magical places. They aren’t. A few old, donated refrigerators held a myriad of lunches, some months old. The decor in the faculty room is early institution. Aside from several round tables, complete with mismatched chairs, a bank of wooden cubbyholes that served as our individual mailboxes, a very large coffee machine, two dilapidated microwaves, and a toaster oven that had been home to more fires than a home fireplace, the most important part of the faculty room was housed in a small side room. That small room contained two copy machines. Those poor copy machines were sadly mistreated and overused.
Anyway, I digress. The round lunch table is conducive to conversation. A comfortable cadre of six lunch goers would probably be the ideal lunch table. Nope. Didn’t happen that way. Lunch wasn’t fun until we had ten plus eaters around the table. This is not good if one is into some personal space. However, it is optimal for diversity of conversation and lunches. I was always curious to see what others brought for lunch. It’s the grass is always greener concept. Anyone else’s lunch always looked better than mine…oh, except for that leftover fish that was reheated in the microwave leaving a smell that permeated the room for days and gave me the dry heaves. That individual didn’t give a fig that the odor bothered us, believe me, we were quick to complain. She basically conveyed that it was her lunch and tough sh*t, we could leave if we didn’t like it.
Some years I had the opportunity to experience the first lunch period, our school had four lunch periods. One day I was warming up some leftover pork chop mess in the microwave when I chanced to look at the clock. It was 10:22. A.M. It didn’t seem right to be eating a pork chop that early in the day but, hey, I had arisen at 5:30 and I was hungry. Never again was I bothered with the time of first lunch…until it got to be around 1 pm and I was positively ravenous. One afternoon my stomach growled during class. A student looked at me and said, “Do you have first lunch?” I smiled and nodded. “That sucks,” he said. I smiled and nodded again.
Conversations around a crowded lunch table were often fast and furious. I have an innate ability to follow many conversations at once, even at adjoining tables. It was a gift that came in handy as a teacher. But it was the gift that kept giving over and over in the faculty room. I heard a lot. A whole lot. And plenty I didn’t want to hear. Mostly the conversation was mundane…people chatting about families, their kids, their vacations, their kids, their planned trips, their kids. You get it. All well and good for those who were married and had kids. I never minded hearing the kid stories but sometimes it got old, especially since I didn’t have kids and couldn’t participate. But, for the most part, conversations were congenial. Except for one colleague who was hell bent on getting married and worked hard to attain that goal. A little more than twenty, yes 2-0, years later it happened.
Many years ago, before each classroom had a phone, the faculty room was one of the few places that had a phone. One of our colleagues taught in the room next door and she had some very challenging students. There had been a fight in her classroom the week before and she had sent a kid next door to have one of us phone the office. The following week we had heard a commotion and then heard banging on the large bank of windows that faced a courtyard. It was a kid hollering for us to call the office for another fight. When asked why she hadn’t come to the door, the student explained the fight had broken out in front of the classroom door and no one could get out.
Fire drills during one’s lunch period were a bummer, especially if unplanned. Everyone had to leave the building, even if it was lunch time. Sometimes it cut some serious time from the lunch period. For the most part it was an enjoyable time of the day. Oh, except for when one or two colleagues would whip out the dental floss and have it while still seated. I mean, gag a maggot. That also gave me the dry heaves.
As I became older and was juggling some health issues, I no longer enjoyed mashing in at the lunch table. I needed space and so sat at a mostly unpopulated table. This of course caused teasing and smart remarks. No worries, I’m pretty good at snappy comebacks. Plus as time went along, people retired and that changed the personality of the lunch table. Still and all, lots of good times were shared in close proximity, dental flossing aside.