Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Mary's boys

I am frequently, no constantly, amazed at Mary's affect on high school age teenage boys and her continuing that affect as those boys become college students, growing into their young manhood. She has demonstrated an uncanny control in many different situations during her many years of teaching high school English to them, getting them to accept that Satire, Short stories, Science Fiction, American lit, and even English Literature are worth studying and knowing. Many of her former male students realize that they are better off because Mrs. C had the patience and ability to get them interested.
How do I know this? I know these things because they have told her so, with me standing, or often sitting as a witness beside her, after they have spotted her and run up to her to give her a big hug, while asking her at the same time, "Mrs C, do you remember me?" Her young men are never reluctant to approach her to express their joy at running into her at the mall, or at a restaurant where they are waiting tables, or at any public place where it is not unlawful to give your former favorite English teacher a big hug. Oddly enough, she once encountered one of those admirers in the back of an ambulance. The young man was a paramedic who was part of the response team that answered my call for help. When he recognized Mrs. C, I, the suffering patient lying on the ambulance's gurney, became an after thought. Such is her influence over them.
I bring all this up because we recently vacationed in Florida where she had occasion to exercise her abilities once again. I shouldn't be surprised at her handling of the "situation" that arose, since we have encountered the same thing on previous vacations at the same place. For the past three years we have rented a "cottage" that is next door to what we, and everyone else who has been in the vicinity, call "the party house." It is a large house with a small pool and a spa that will sleep, I expect uncomfortably, up to fifteen people who invariably turn out to be college kids on Spring Break.
Now we all know that when you get a gang of male college students on Spring Break wedged into an inadequate space for them to exist comfortably, mix in a quarter barrel or two or three, add in a few bikini clad coeds found on the beach who are, shall we say, pliable and willing to brave that churning cauldron of testosterone, then crank up the volume on the earth shaking music machine (they were playing classic rock,my favorite genre, so I can cut them some slack on the volume) and if you don't notice all hell breaking loose, then you are obviously dead.
In years past when our neighbor's in the party house were more than a little raucous into the wee hours, we just turned over in bed, put the pillow over our ears, and slept late the next morning. This year the fraternity brothers who took over the house that had made its reputation as THE PLACE TO PARTY, thought they were being clever by launching a preemptive strike at us before their turn to party got started. The afternoon they arrived, two of their more charming members, Robert and Stuart, came knocking on our door intending to reassure us that they were not a pack of rowdy hooligans who were unaware of the finer social mores that we, as members of their grandparents generation, were likely to practice. They actually had a pretty good idea--ingratiate yourself to the neighbor's, get them on your side from the get go so that they wouldn't immediately call the cops when the party was at its apex, teetering on the razor edge of sanity and total chaos. They came forward with the promise that they would not be noisy past midnight so we wouldn't be deprived of our much needed sleep. Mary, however, thought 11:00 PM was a better idea. She gave them her best "this is my world and you are welcome here as long as you obey my rules" look, which served her so well in the classroom all those years.

They never knew what hit them. Smiling all the while, Mary assured them that their mothers would be proud of them if they did as she expected. They were also informed that she would contact them each with a text right at 11:00 to remind them of their self-imposed curfew. To that end, she elicited each of their phone numbers, which they gave up willingly without another thought. By that point all that Robert and Stuart wanted to do was get away while they still had their balls in the right place.
While Mary, their new best friend, was laying down the law, I couldn't help noticing the sweat on their brows and the moistening of their armpits as they stood silently, in rapt attention. Nodding dutifully, agreeing to adhere religiously to the tenets presented to them by this most admirable of teachers, they were convinced that every thing they were hearing from this supreme being had been their idea. When Mary finally dismissed them with her motherly smile and a soft touch on each arm, they didn't realize how they had been manipulated, or how they had come to be in the presence of this motherly, nay, grandmotherly goddess of the Psyche. She had used her myriad magical psychological gambits to convince Robert and Stuart that this was all their idea: the 11:00PM curfew, the lowering of the music volume, the awareness of their language (Mary had indicated to them that the vulgar cussing so common in their conversation was unacceptical even though she could out cuss a horde of Huns if need be), that their clever opening move had succeeded beyond anything they had imagined, and that they had put one over on the nice, but simple, elderly couple next door. Mary had allowed them to leave with their dignity intact, their sense of manhood unscathed, and a feeling of accomplishment that will boost their confidence the next time they enter into negotiations with somebody.
From that moment on we had a great relationship. Every time they saw one of us, they were quick with a smiling greeting and a willingness to talk with the "elderly couple next door," whom they showered with "sirs" and "maams." They got a life lesson in communication with someone of another generation that in the past they might have been reluctant to approach. You can bet that if our paths ever cross again in some far away place and when we least expect it, Robert or Stuart will run up to Mary, embrace her with a monster hug, and say, "remember me?"
And best of all, the party noise never crossed the line into objectionable territory. We all got plenty of sleep, and Mary had provided those two young men a lesson in getting along with others, even the elderly couple next door. And I got material for another Mary C story. 

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