Loser's Guide to Life
Thinking about my school days, I am further reminded of the entrance exam for grade one, and of my difficulty there.
Our grade one teacher was, as I saw on that first morning, terribly tense, with an unhealthy pallor, as if she suffered from some intense chronic pain. I think her job was that pain. Until then, I had only ever seen people who were okay in their jobs: bus drivers, shopkeepers, people around the Air Force base. Those people had at least arrived at some kind of entente with their work, but this woman hated being there, hated these stupid, stupid children, even hated the invigorating subarctic wasteland where we lived. You could feel her seething from the back of the room. In fact, my memory of her face is blurry, I think, because her seething caused some sort of visual interference.
The first thing we had to do was go up to her desk in turns and identify the colours of some crayons. I now realise this is a benighted way of looking for retarded children. I sensed she wanted simple answers and, with a great effort, I confined myself to that.
The next bit was a little more challenging: we were given sheets of paper with boxes and arrows and things on them, and, at her command, we were to colour in different boxes or draw lines between things. But you had to pay attention, because if you missed a step, you were lost.
After the first few minutes I had no idea what she was talking about. What "next" box? Which way? And I noticed that everyone else was doing fine. How did they know what she meant? And the further along, the worse it got. I eventually had to tell her that I couldn't follow all this and she became furious, as if I had peed my pants or something.
We learned to read that year. That's really quite easy. It's a very simple code and most people should get it in a few hours. However, we continued with Dick and Jane in class. "'I see something funny', said Dick. 'Look, look.'" I started to think that our teacher admired Dick and Jane and couldn't see why we wern't more like them. But how could we be? We didn't live in a suburb but on a radar base. And when I pointed out something amusing about Dick, saying he was a fathead and a bore, my teacher was livid.
I think she ended up in an asylum. And I learned that a successful life consists in taking tests and trying not to annoy people.