That Old Expired Jar of Mayonnaise (Part 1)

Spring, 2022

“Well kids, we did it,” said Mr. McConnell leaning back in his teacher’s chair looking exhausted and relieved at the same time. State testing was finally over.

“You all handled that well. It throws a little bit of a wrench into our days, I know. Believe me, if I had my way you’d show your learnin’ on the McConnell Hilltop Compound Academy- wearin’ some work gloves and pickin’ rocks, plantin’ flowers and pullin’ weeds…”

He leaned back a little more and worked up a sort of entranced smile, eyes going kind of dramatic-dreamy. He pantomimed fanning himself in the sun and holding out a glass to act out a brief make-believe story about getting a kid to refill his iced tea, motioning for a little more “C’mon Owen, top that bad boy off, don’t be stingy,” sipping and ahhhh- ing… “Eva, not there, drag those branches over there…yeah, that’s it!

A few students protesting the thought of being turned into unpaid labor brought him to act woke out of his daydream.

“Oh sorry, where was I?” he asked the class.

This was all for show, of course. Unless there were volunteers for the Hilltop Academy (and oddly enough, they always volunteered).

The ridiculousness of the reverence and preeminence bestowed upon these tests had been growing for over a decade, and the chore of proctoring with tightly scripted directions (under threat of law, loss of teaching license, invalidation of student exams…) had led to even the inclusion of a very long list of electronic devices test-takers could not have on them because it risked the security and integrity of the data.

Data, incidentally, that can, has and will be used against public education. But to be scripted to go back in the proctoring script to repeat the list of devices, as if you are giving the second and final warning to any nefarious third-grade test spies that might just need to feel the heat and severity of the hypothetical consequences for the discovery of them having any of their spy stuff on their person when the government documents and cheap pencils are distributed…

“What have we become?” wondered Mr. McConnell in the moments he went back and challenged himself to read that list with one breath. He’d gotten very good at it.

“So, boys and girls,” he paused dramatically, looking around nodding slightly/eyeballing the kids with just a pinch of drama and that be ready for this look he liked to give when he wanted students to pay attention and be ready, “…I think with all that testing stuff done, today is the day.” His expression shifted to a satisfied, anticipatory, almost pleasure and at peace with the situation look.

“I think the time has come. You know what I mean.”

Mr. McConnell leaned back in his chair and reached with his left hand behind him for the spoon that rested in a coffee cup on the top shelf of the bookshelf that was in his corner of the room. It was a cheap soup spoon with some of that fake-fancy cheap spoon scrolly stuff on the handle. He transferred it to his right hand and reached back and up with his left again, saying:

“It’s time for the Because you never know mayonnaise.”

His hand found and retrieved the small jar of Helmann’s mayonnaise that had been there since day 1 of the school year. Indeed, had been with Mr. McConnell for some number of years, because it was three years expired at least. Students had asked about it, looked it over, and wondered why he even had it. Wondered about it on the very first day of the school year, in fact.

“Why do you have that jar of mayonnaise, Mr. McConnell?” a student had asked.

“Because you never know,” Mr. McConnell responded with a shrug. Truth be told he didn’t know why he had even said it at the time other than his tendency to drop nonsense on students just to make them think, ask more questions, ask better questions maybe.

After that, all year long, when describing preparation, readiness, and response to a problem or a situation that required a “You do this because you never know when it could help” mindset, Mr. McConnel pointed to the mayonnaise as an example. “You do this because you never know…You know, like that mayonnaise (insert casual gesture to the old jar of expired mayonnaise)

They probably didn’t expect him to bring that jar down close, affectionately even. The sigh, the look of anticipation, the almost whispered “I ‘ve really needed this”… They definitely didn’t expect him to twist the cap off that jar, dip that big old soup spoon in, and take in a big old sloppy mouthful with a satisfied and near euphoric expression on his face.

Just wait for Part 2!

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Let’s be Honest, Trump Supporters

Dear Trump supporters,

So, what’s next?

Let’s be honest: I guess there could be a plan for the greatness to come raining down-but based on what I’ve seen I’m having an awful hard time imagining how and when that rain will come. And on who it will fall.

That stuff trickling down now?

I’m no Russian prostitute but it doesn’t feel like greatness or smell like rain. You must know it too-at least some of you, because Bernie Sanders is still showing up, speaking truth, drawing crowds and making sense. He has been described as the most popular politician in the country. He’s even going to some Trump-voting, Republican strongholds and winning the crowd over by simply telling them the truth. That’s something the Democrats failed to do in the primary season. Win over crowds, tell the truth, and so on.

You know Hillary Clinton was forced on you just like she was forced on all of us, right?

But I don’t blame anyone for picking Trump. I often go right when I’m told I have no choice but to go left (especially if it’s a pretend lesser-of-two-evils left). I didn’t vote for either bad choice but many states went to Trump because he was able to tap into the frustration of a large number of Americans tired of being lied to, tired of waiting, and frustrated with corporate bought Democrats who had no spine. Americans that are either in crisis-poverty, on their way to it, or are one catastrophic event away from it were desperate for someone to speak to them. Trump did that ,managed to distance himself from establishment Republicans, and it honestly has been both Democrats and Republicans that have cooperatively ushered the U.S.down a path to a hell of perpetual war and income inequality, with the only difference being how nicely they lead.

We the People, meanwhile, trudge along wondering why things continue to get worse.

Our news media, in the meantime, has abandoned journalism in exchange for a selective and biased narrative that protects the parasitic two-party, pro Wall Street, pro-war system.

That’s that’s why we get fake news. In a recent letter to the editor I described it this way:

“Fake news” includes news that won’t tell you that today’s Democrats are simply Republican-lite, and the Republicans are like…well, let’s just say the choice is between someone punching you in the face and telling you it will “make us great again”, and someone else who will smile and put on a boxing glove before they punch you in the face-then say you should be grateful for the glove.

So now? We’re getting the fist. A recent insight on Team Trump’s plan to either eliminate or sponge money out of programs for the many to bankroll the dreams of the few came from White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. He shared the proposal to take food away from poor school children (this after the meals on wheels scare, which was only partially true). Mulvaney says that research just doesn’t show that feeding children is effective. Kids just ain’t responding to the support they’ve gotten with greatness, I guess.

“They’re supposed to be educational programs, right? That’s what they’re supposed to do, they’re supposed to help kids who can’t — who don’t get fed at home, get fed so that they do better at school. Guess what? There’s no demonstrable evidence they’re actually doing that.” (Mulvaney at a press conference, Thursday, March 16th, 2017)

I haven’t figured out what results he’s expecting. I don’t know what research he’s looking at, or if it’s data sourced through the same think tanks that hit Trump’s twitter feed in the “wee hours” of the morning (that’s when an old guy might have to get up out of bed to go wee, by the way). But from the perspective of a guy that has real human children and has been teaching in actual public schools for nearly a couple decades I can tell you feeding hungry kids at school, if you know they won’t get fed at home, is the right thing to do. To reassure those concerned, though, Mulvaney said that the plan to stop feeding kids is about “being compassionate” .

If I figure out the compassion angle I’ll share, but I am just not getting the compassion vibe from much of anything coming out of this administration.

I know, touchy-feely caring stuff is left and liberal, but if your concerned with how money might gush in one direction, consider how it already gushes. Up and away from the people who work the hardest and need it most. I see it every day in the children coming to school, my family, and people I’ve known nearly my whole life.

One example is my friend June, a woman I have known since we were both practically children. I think I was 14 and she was 13 when we met, but that was so many years ago I can’t remember exactly. It was a summer bible camp, way out in the country with one of those churches, in one of those places and on one of those roads from my past I’ve described before. We stay in touch online, and we get to watch each other’s daughters grow, clown around, achieve…She works hard and does right by her kids and as a teacher I can say this makes all the difference, in the end. Children raised right are children who come to school ready to learn and equipped to achieve.

June wrote this:

Someone recently said I expect everything handed to me. Obviously, they don’t know my life. I start every day by warming a heating pad while my coffee brews. Trying to decide where to put it first. Because, by the end of the day, I will barely be able to walk. I clean houses all day every day. If I ever sit down at night? I promptly pass out.

She has worked her whole life. Even harder now that she has children, which means that not only is she working harder in this economy that tends to reward most those who work the least-she also sacrifices to make sure she continues to do right by her children.

I haven’t had healthcare in more than three years. I simply cannot afford it. Not if I want to keep the lights on and feed my kids…

I have literally had one day off in four weeks. And I will have a grand total of one day off in the next four weeks. Once a month… I finally get to sit down and rest. 

Yes… I believe in universal healthcare. No human being should suffer because they don’t have money to pay. I sit hear thinking what the hell is wrong with anyone who believes differently. I don’t want billions spent on a stupid wall… just so we can “protect” our bigotry and greed.

Livvy recently had a project at school. They asked what she would do with $100. She didn’t answer with clothes, a phone, new gadgets. She said she would start a charity to help people in need because she doesn’t want anyone to live a bad life.

THAT is what I work myself to death for. To raise decent human beings. Who care more about others than they care about a dollar.

I don’t have a damn thing handed to me. And I don’t expect anything either. I work my ass off. I pay my bills. And I’m raising two awesome, kickass girls. I hope they go out into this world with kindness and compassion. I hope they never see someone suffering and think “too damn bad”.

Millions will lose healthcare. Apparently, it’s no longer effective to feed the elderly either. And we don’t give a crap about the environment we all need to survive.

America is categorically NOT looking great again. It’s going to hell. If you think differently and are my friend? Obviously, I love you for many other reasons. But that is not one of them.

In closing, Trumpsters (I know, it rhymes with “dumpsters” but that’s not my fault), I’m just looking for an honest guess from you at what comes next. I’m trying to connect how golf trips, militarism, thin-skinned tweeting, suggestions that the first amendment might be altered to save the president’s feelings, loading all sides of government and his inner circle with billionaires and family… I’m wondering how it connects with his repeated promises to “drain the swamp” and give government back to the people. You know, make us great.

Is this all what you hoped for, or is it what you deserve? It’s definitely not what I was hoping for or what hardworking parents like my friend deserve.

Sincerely,

A guy who will work to get your guy and others like him out of office.