A couple of years ago I wrote about how any allegations of my maturity were unfounded. Consider this Part II of that installment. Whatever maturity I might have is vastly overrated.
Anyone who knows me well suffers no delusions about my maturity, but I can still manage to fool strangers and new acquaintances for weeks or even months before they see the real me. Then the truth emerges and my total toolness is established for the duration. Allow me to recount two episodes from the past two weeks that confirm this middle-aged white teacher’s incorrigible douchebaggery.
I have been teaching for over two decades. I’m one of those teachers who most kids like, for I develop a strong rapport with almost every student in my classes. (This is a positive spin on the fact that I’m a lazy bastard with low expectations who passes all kids in exchange for good behavior and them not telling their parents every absurd and inappropriate thing that comes out of my immature mouth all day.)
In all my years of teaching, I have never once refused to write a letter of recommendation for a student. I have waxed glowingly about the many fine intellectual qualities of kid who couldn’t spell “qualities,” let alone “fine.” I have made 18-year-old felons sound like shoo-ins for Rhodes Scholarships. I have attested to the literacy skills of seniors who could not pass the state’s pathetically easy English competency test after three years of trying. I have, with my keyboard and the assistance of three scotches, turned complete assholes into American’s best and brightest.
Then there is Byron (not his real name.) This kid has been a complete fucknut all year. He’s rude, obnoxious and about as unlikable a kid as I’ve ever known in my school. What make it worse is that he’s smart. When dumb kids act out, I understand their motivation, for it’s their insecurity and anger manifesting itself in their playing the wingnut. But Byron is a native of Brooklyn with a worldliness and a New York bravado that give him an undue amount of confidence that I’d like to slap out of him with one of his eight pairs of $200+ Air Jordans. He’s also an unabashed racist.
This kid, after being a king dickhead all year, had the Big Apple-sized balls to ask me to write him a letter. I, with balls the size of Schenectady, agreed. I procrastinated for weeks, unable to commit myself to extolling this ramrod’s many virtues, and then I was hit with a moment of immature inspiration. I figured I’d have some fun and make him look like the asshole that he is while couching that message in what on the surface sounds like a rave.
In the letter I wrote, I managed to point out his shallowness, his materialistic obsessions and his penchant for saying inappropriate things. It was the most fun I’ve ever had writing a letter. I think my favorite phrase was “… unburdened by the confining chains of tact,” as if that meant he was someone who was not afraid to speak his mind. I hope savvy readers understand the real meaning: He is a hurtful, mean-spirited prick who lacks a filter between his brain and his mouth.
A mature teacher would have risen above this ploy, or at least gotten the letter out of his system and then written a more appropriate one. I’m not that guy. Byron proudly – and apparently cluelessly – presented this letter at his senior interview last Friday.
Well into middle age, it was long ago time for me to slow down the pace of my physical pursuits. I threw away my baseball spikes in the 90s. I think I still have a baseball glove but I have no idea where it is. I haven’t thrown a football since, well, since I could still throw a football. I adhered to one of the few Bible verses I know and “put away childish things.”
Except for my bikes. I still ride both of them all the time, all year long. I’ve got two bikes worth a total of $3500. I love to clean them, work on them, look at them and ride them. Thing is, sometimes I forget that I am no longer at the age where I can go all Lance Armstrong in those urban and suburban areas where the riding and maneuvering get a little more technical, therefore requiring the reaction times of someone 20 years younger. My reaction times, however, are dulled by age and alcohol.
Two weeks ago I rode about 8 – 10 miles and circled back to a shopping center about a mile from my house. As I approached one entrance to the parking lot, I was going very fast, but no faster than I’ve ridden this little stretch for years. I’ve made this turn 100 times. I went to make this turn for the 101st time. I applied the brakes to make the turn possible. Howeverrrr …
My one brake lever needs adjusted and I keep putting it off. It has too much give in it. The brake pads could probably use replacing. (A mature person would take care of these potentially life-altering problems as soon as they develop. But I’m me. My brakes have been this way for months.) So, I began to squeeze the brakes with two fingers each while my other two fingers were gripping the handlebars. I squeezed the rear brake … and I squeezed some more … and some more … and soon I was squeezing the lever all the way into my other fingers, which are covered in rather thick ski gloves, as it was cold as balls that day. Half of my brakes were not working. The bike was barely slowing down, and it became obvious to me that I was not going to be able to make the turn and that I was going to hit the curb ahead of me and at a very high speed.
I somehow manage to turn the wheel just a bit so that I didn’t hit the curb head on, instead hitting it at maybe a 45 degree angle. At this point, because I was going so fast, I was jettisoned off the bike and into …
… God, I am one lucky bastard. There are 99 other places I could have crashed in this manner that would have resulted in serious injury, paralysis or death. This landing spot was just grass, with a deadly unforgiving tree about eight feet away. Five feet closer and I’d have been this area’s Biking Sonny Bono. To make matters even more fortuitous, the grass was sloped upwards, allowing me to do full body plant and slide up the hill a bit, which slowed me down more so than had I landed on a flat stretch of cold, hard ground. It made for the best possible landing.
I jumped up and immediately remounted, stunned and buzzed on adrenaline. I started pedaling, trying to make sure that I really did survive this awful crash with only a badly bruised and cut shin. And what did Mr. Maturity do at this point? I had on my backpack, as I took this ride for a reason. I was out of vodka and vermouth. Instead of heading home to take stock of my body and offer thanks to the karma gods for sparing me once again, I rode to the liquor store, bought my liquor (I was half covered in dead grass and mud stains while I did this) and rode home, almost crashing on another turn. Why did I almost crash this time? The weight of the liquor bottles on my back threw off my equilibrium.
So, if you are a grown ass adult who at times suffers from self-doubt and a general insecurity about what kind of person you have become, please remember that there are assholes like me out there who exist in our pathetically immature state to make the rest of you feel better.
And yes, I am the same person who last column criticized adults for enjoying animated movies. Idea for next week’s column …. Overrated: My consistency.
Ned Bitters is, in fact, overrated. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.