Stories of Akron

Repeat English 101

This was first published in 2018 — old stories never die, they just go to the bottom of the pile…

I used to be a “professional writer” (small town newspaper) and a teacher of English (9th grade), so it’s fucking hard to admit that I had to repeat English 101.

But I did.

English-teacher-types who read this blog can probably spot all the typos, sentence fragments, verb-tense changes, over-use of parenthesis, hyphens and dashes and other crap that would fail any decent “English” class.

But fuck you. I’m way past that made up bullshit of grammar and rules. You know what I mean — let it go you anal-retentive assholes.

But enough about you.

In 1980, I was taking English 101 at the University of Akron. The teacher was Jonathon – somebody.

English 101 was OK. Jonathon would often read my crappy kid stories to the class for open criticism. But there was usually at least 3 good laughs a week (for me) — didn’t give a shit if they liked it.

old man reading

At the time, I thought he was about 80. He had a little chipmunk face and his voice was slow, slightly slurred, and artificially low. The whole effect was like listening to “Alvin” with depression.

depressed alvin

He wore 15-year old, screaming-loud, red-striped jackets with pink-checkered shirts. All un-ironed. Only people with tenure can dress like that.

After 32 years in the institution, I can say he was obviously not married.

I now recognize, he was probably early 60’s — about my age now.

It was one of the boring moments in class. Jonathon was not reading my story. He was telling one about him when he was a kid. Nobody was paying attention.

I only heard the last line: “Well,” he said. His depressed chipmunk voice perked up a bit. “I guess things have changed since I was 10 years old…”

He surveyed the 35 college freshmen in search of a response. We nervously glanced around hoping someone was awake.

I was the last one in the room his eye fell upon. I couldn’t think of anything to say. I felt compelled to say something. And this came out:

“Well… Moses died.”

Jonathon chuckled, at first.

We all laughed too hard. They laughed, so I laughed some more.

His face become very red. Chipmunk depression turned to rodent rage. But that was the end of class, and one of the final days of the semester. We all quickly left.

Two weeks later, on a Friday evening, I was at my part-time job at City (pronounced “shitty”) Hospital. Across the emergency room, five drunk college kids called out. “Hey, hey — it’s “Moses Died”.

One of them had been in the class. They pointed and wouldn’t stop laughing. They started to follow me. Two of the nurses had to walk them back to the waiting room to keep them from walking right into the X-ray rooms with me.

I tried to explain to my co-workers, but much like you right now — they couldn’t figure out what was so fucking funny.

Four weeks later, I got my grade for that English Class — “D”. I was Ok with it — D’s get diplomas. But then I transferred to Arizona State and I learned: “C’s” transfer – “D’s” pay the fees — again. Greedy mother fuckers.

So you see, it wasn’t my lack of skills. I had to retake English 101, just because Moses died.

I used to be pissed off at the cost. But 35 years later, I’m starting to feel it was worth it.