I heard the car door slam and immediately looked at the clock. It was a few minutes after seven and there was no reason for Tommy Bendorf to be standing inside the doorway to my classroom.
“Good morning, Mr. Smith,” the mysteriously present Tommy said.
“Good morning, Tommy. Why are you here?”
“I’m a student at this high school. In fact, I’m one of your students.”
“I don’t mean why are you here, in this high school, or on this planet, for that matter, I mean, why are you standing over there right now.”
“I thought we might talk for a few moments.”
“The school doors aren’t supposed to unlock until 7:30.”
“I was standing by the front door when one of the teachers arrived, and she let me come in with her. She said she didn’t want to see my standing outside, freezing.”
“She wasn’t supposed to do that. No students are supposed to be in the building until 7:30.”
“Doesn’t that seem kind of arbitrary. Wouldn’t it make more sense to admit students to the building whenever they arrive?”
“No, Tommy. That wouldn’t make sense. There is no supervision prior to 7:30.”
“But there is no supervision outside the building either. It’s just a colder, unsupervised area.”
“May I be frank, Tommy?”
“You can be anyone you want to be, Mr. Smith.”
I look away from Tommy for a moment and stare at the computer screen on which 10 unanswered emails all labelled, “Important!”. There are emails from the guidance office, from the English department chair, from the division leader, from each of Mr. Smith’s three colleagues in his teaching cohort, from the athletic office, the fine arts office, the attendance office, the school registrar, and the district’s safety officer. Six of the emails have attachments that will have to be read and one (from the safety officer) will contain a video attachment that, according to the subject line, “Should have been watched and tested on yesterday!!!” By main-office decree, all in-house emails must be read and responded to within 24 hours of the date on which they were sent.
I set aside the half hour from 7 to 7:30 to complete the day’s email tasks, and while that time frame is woefully inadequate, the presence of Tommy Bendorf is compounding an already bad situation.
“Perhaps if you return, Tommy, at 7:30, we will have more time to talk.”
“I have plenty of time right now. There is no one else in the building to talk to.”
Finally, turning completely away from my computer, I face the inevitable, and Tommy, and ask, “What is it you want to talk about?”