“How Much Wood Could A Woodchuck Chuck…?”

PAVAROTTI

“Who was Pavarotti?”

I thought I had them stumped. But stumping wasn’t the end game. The objective was twofold: strengthen our daily dialogue, the fun part; and stimulate their thinking skills, the learning part of our relationship. .

As for Pavarotti, the surprise answer came from a confident high schooler on a unicycle who steadied himself, as best one can on a unicycle, and delivered it with certainty. “Not only was Pavarotti a famous Italian opera singer”, he opined, “but he was a tenor”.  I was impressed.

Crossing Guard PatchI’m a crossing guard for a suburban school district in western New York State. Every school morning and afternoon, I have a minute or so to interact with groups of kids ages twelve to eighteen years, while waiting for their signal lights to change. I try to make the wait meaningful.

“What is the formula for converting Fahrenheit to Celsius?”

Recent mornings been have been cold, bitter cold, the perfect environment to challenge them with this question. And the answer came fast. “(F-32) /1.8”. These kids are good.

It’s become apparent that they almost expect something each day, a quiz, a fact, a general question. An approaching airplane provokes a simple discussion. An unusual sunrise or an odd cloud formation gets us talking and imagining. It’s all about the dialogue.

“Who was Francis Scott Key and what did he write on this day (Sept 14) in 1815?”

“What direction are we facing while waiting to cross? Forward doesn’t count!”

“January is named after the 2 headed Roman god Janus.”

“Why did Frosty the Snowman tell the kids not to cry?”

“How many centimeters in an inch, millimeters?”

For the most part, kids haven’t changed over the years. The younger boys are still immature, they run, yell and ask nonsensical questions.  And boys and girls still hold hands. But there are some noticeable changes. Pink, purple or blue hair is common with today’s girls, and even with some boys. The huge backpacks have replaced gym bags for carrying books. And, nearly everyone is connected via cell phones.

However, kids are still kids. If I can make them smile or laugh as they start their school day, then ‘mission accomplished’. And it all starts with a greeting…and, maybe a new question…

“Good morning, kids. Have a great day!”

woodchuck

“Oh, By the way, how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”

To my surprise, they had answers. We’re learning from each other.

Steve
srbottch.com
Jan 2018

Dedicated to a wonderful teacher I’ve been fortunate to know, Jennie, and her cadre of lucky students.

The Bar Chronicles: #1,  A Night At The Bar 

Guinness

A mild evening in late October found me in a bar with a friend. I don’t frequent bars and haven’t been to one in years. But this night seemed to be a good time to go. And we did, a spur of the moment decision following a public meeting on our town’s master plan for future development.  At first chance, we made a beeline to the local watering hole, a sports bar.

Inconveniently, the only tandem stools available were under two televisions blaring out hockey and football action. Throughout the bar, patrons sat with one hand wrapped around an ale and their heads tilted back and up to see the games. I was expecting to see a chiropractor’s contact information scribbled on the men’s room wall, ‘Sore necks? Call this number…!’

No TV for us. We came to relive a snippet of days gone by when ‘bar nights’ with the boys was a more common occurrence.  A cold one and some ‘BS’ was on our agenda.

“What’ll it be gentlemen?” That would be us, ‘gentlemen’, not ruffians, but a couple of senior citizens on a weeknight escape. The barmaid could see it immediately, this wasn’t our ‘first rodeo’.  “Two Guinness, 12 ounce”, I bellowed, like a bar night neophyte ordering his first drink after turning legal, promising my friend a dark beer with a frothy head, thick enough to leave a sudsy moustache on his lip.  “An import?”, he quipped.  The profundity was beginning already as we debated the virtues of imported Irish stout versus American light.

Here we were, two friends, far from ‘over the hill’ but getting there, done with our careers, wiser than a wise owl and older, neither trying to impress the other, content only to have a night-cap at a bar and talk about the four Ps of life: politics, portfolios, pills and the past.

We briefly gnashed politics around, then abruptly shifted to something slightly less daunting, the economy and our portfolios. The embellishment of our ups and downs surely eclipsed the highs and lows of the ‘big board’, itself. We toasted our own moderate successes and moved on to health issues, always a big topic among Seniors.

“Another round, boys?” What a segue. It’s been reported that a little alcohol each day can be a healthy regiment.  But another round? We’re only 6 ounces into our 12 and it’s been more than an hour. “Check, please.!”

We gulped the last of our beer without getting to the ‘past’, agreeing to do it next time, or the time after that, and headed for the exit. I slid a quarter into the gum ball machine by the door, cranked the handle and watched the purple sphere slowly spiral its way to the bottom. I looked down at it, and left.  Who the hell can bend over that far to retrieve a gum ball after filling up on beer, albeit one 12 ounce Guinness?

srbottch

Dedicated to my wise friend and namesake, a model Senior, Steve P.