Back when I still worked as a teacher, I often needed incentives to make it through the grueling weeks. Those of you in education know what I mean. Monday would find the kids sluggish from staying up and out all weekend, and any knowledge gained the previous week melted into oblivion the moment the kids left school grounds on Friday. I pulled patience out of my tote every Monday morning and managed to survive the first day back. Of course, Monday’s meant marathon faculty meetings. These gatherings served little purpose. Often the principal wanted to pat himself on the back. Other times, he wanted to deride and denigrate the faculty. Needless to say, by Monday evenings, I dragged home in low spirits.
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays filled with events ranging from mundane to X-Files. Seventh grade boys, notoriously squirrely, moved from chasing each other around the hallways on Tuesdays to assault and battery by Fridays. The girls fluctuated so much in hormone output that they spun out of control from one hour to the next. Within all of this, add district office walk-throughs to “prove” teachers teach, angry parents screaming because I wouldn’t let their child come to tutoring to do work he refused to do in class, Napoleonic peers demanding praise and attention, and a mandatory _________ (insert: Open House, TAKS Night, Dance duty, PTO, sporting event) that turned the regular ten hour day into a fourteen hour nightmare. Obviously, it became necessary for me to reward myself for each Friday I pulled out of the driveway and headed my car toward work instead of the beach or hill country.
One Friday morning as I dragged myself to work, my growling stomach led me to the nearest Sonic. I cannot eat much before nine in the morning, so I decided to order something to drink. Vowing to myself to try something that was healthier than a Dr. Pepper, I discovered Cranberry Slushes on the menu. Triumphantly, I ordered a Route 44. I took a cautious first sip and found the cranberry perfectly tart. Once on the road, I swallowed a huge gulp of the icy treat and practically veered off the road in excruciating pain—Brain Freeze. Needles stabbed into my sinuses. My head felt like shrapnel boomeranged within my skull. Inhaling and exhaling rapidly through my nose to pull in warmer air, I managed to regain control of the car. And then I took another huge sip, repeating the painful episode again.
It makes little sense to me, but I looked forward to treating myself to this torture at the end of horrendous weeks. I believe now that this sadomasochistic ritual paralleled the pleasure/pain elements of working at my middle school. As long as I could still feel and survive a brain freeze, I knew I’d make it through another week.
Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman