February 06, 2006

A Bit About Me From Long Long Ago...

Some of you may have noticed I have a commenter, P’cola Titan. I’ve known him since August of 1979, or thereabouts, having rode the school bus together as well as shared the same homeroom for four years, throughout high school. I consider him a dear friend.

There are a few stories that he alludes to as well as I have a funny story about him, but his comment on THIS post brings about this story that I love to tell, and P’cola Titan evidently knows and enjoys teasing me about.

It was July of 1979, The Great Omnipotent One had just gotten stationed to Pensacola. He was off doing some sort of training for a week or two, as is frequent in the Navy. So the bulk of the work in getting home and kids situated was thrust upon Mom, as happens in the Navy family. Hence, when going to the commissary, the paper grocery bags always read, “Navy Wife… Toughest Job in the Navy.” No joke. It is.

She took me to the local high school where I was to start in August as a freshman. The high school had an excellent reputation and it was because of the schools that my folks selected their home. We signed up for my classes, honors courses were not offered at the time and every freshman took Algebra. Geometry was for sophomores.

And so my curriculum consisted of Advanced English, Algebra, Advanced World Geography, Band, French and whatever else, with the selection of Advanced Earth Science as well. When the guidance counselor looked at our selection she said something along the lines of, “Well, this is a pretty tough load for her. I think you should have her take AVERAGE science.”

Now my last school was a very high end government school located in Taiwan. Everything was top notch, with my science being taught in a full lab where I had already dissected earth worms and frogs. I was exposed to 5 different languages and spent a year learning Mandarin Chinese. But I remembered science being difficult because I actually had to study, whereas everything else came easy, so when the counselor said this to me I thought, ‘Wow, maybe they have a REALLY tough science program here. Maybe she’s right.”

When in reality, this guidance counselor was probably thinking, “Girl. She needs average.” I’m not kidding. Also, given the fact I looked all of 9 years old at age 13 (I have a late birthday), this was most definitely what she was thinking, “Little girl. Needs average.”

So TGOO gets home and looks at my schedule and we speak about it and he says, “Look, if you get in that science class and feel even the SLIGHTEST inkling you don’t belong there, I will personally go down there and pull you out.”

If there is anything I have ever lacked it was NEVER the support of my Mom and Dad. I may have gone through life doubting myself, but my folks have NEVER doubted me.

First day of school, I walked over to the portable in which Earth Science was to be taught. The door knob was missing and the door was being held shut by a flannel shirt tied to an open window. No A/C. It was August… in the panhandle. Hotter than three hells comes to mind.

I walked in and it was a class full of the lowest common denominator. Never in my life had I been around kids like this. I was horrified.

I took my seat and looked to the front of the class, where there sat the teacher, ‘a coach’ who happened to have to teach Science when not coaching football… keeping in mind that Football is KING in the panhandle. His feet were propped on the desk and I would not be surprised if he had a wad of chew in his cheek.

I’d never had a teacher like this either.

He went around the room and took attendance, never changing his seating position. He got half way through the room and he said, “Jimmy James”. My first thought was, ‘Good God. I am taking Science with a boy whose parents were so intellectually challenged that they couldn’t even pick a first name different than the last…” I was absolutely appalled. And to look at him… he looked like he was strung out on something. Yuck.

Finally he said, “I want everyone to stand up, introduce themselves and tell us what Middle School you went to.”

Fair enough.

It came to my turn, I stood and I said, “My name is Bou, and I went to Taipei American School in Taipei, Taiwan.”

The coach made a comment and explained to the class that Taipei was off the coast of China. At that point… no joke… Jimmy James, the boy with the creative parents and the great need for a haircut and a bath says to me in the slowest southern drawl I’ve ever heard, “Are yoooouuuu Chiiiineese?”

Folks, you’ve not seen a picture of me, but there is NOTHING that looks Asian about me, from my mousy brown hair to my white skin to my steel gray eyes… NOTHING.

At that point I knew. I went home and that night said to TGOO, “Get me out. I don’t belong there.” And the next day, I was moved.

And that is when I met my friends I still keep in touch with… men and women who have gone on to become some great minds in our society. That is when I got the friends I have who continued to take the sciences with me. Parents can encourage, but friends are important in high school and this great group of people that I fell in with solidified all the things my folks were telling me.

I was joking at my class reunion that I may very well have had Jimmy James to thank beyond my parents, for who I am and what I do today. If not for his stupid remark and woefully uncreative parents, I may very well have decided to stay in that class… and Lord only knows what would have become of me next...

Posted by Boudicca at February 6, 2006 11:07 PM | TrackBack

So don't leave us in suspense, what happened to Jimmy James? Where is he today?

Posted by: Ogre at February 7, 2006 07:20 AM

Wow... I thought classes and students like that where only urban legends.

Posted by: Contagion at February 7, 2006 08:53 AM

I remember when I went from Catholic school to public school in the 4th grade. I thought I'd been sent to prison. We had lots of Jimmy James's.

You've got a good memory. I think I've suppressed most of memories of school.

Posted by: Jerry at February 7, 2006 09:37 AM

I never knew you were Chinese... that's just cool.


Posted by: That 1 Guy at February 7, 2006 02:25 PM

Iloved this story. That must have been quite a shock for you.

Posted by: Moogie at February 7, 2006 03:10 PM

Ah, don't be too hard on Jim Jim. He was just using redneck logic. You went to school in China and he probably had never seen a Chinese person and he just figured that you were Chinese. Then again he was probably just a dumdass redneck--might have been my cousin.

Posted by: GUYK at February 7, 2006 07:22 PM

And what makes you believe Jimmy James's given name wasn't "Jimmy" -- named after his father's favorite tool? (okay, second-favorite "tool")

Posted by: Bob at February 8, 2006 11:23 AM

Ogre - Since Bou is out of the office, I will address the question as to Jim Jim's where abouts. In our quaint little panhandle community, he is the county's investigator in charge of missing persons, and yes that includes missing children.

Really makes me feel that my children are safe, with all that brainpower watching the door.

Posted by: P'cola Titan at February 8, 2006 07:09 PM