January 31, 2016

breakfast club . . . meet the cast

There were only a few others in the classroom when Sleepy and I entered.  The older bearded man ahead of me with a loud, grating, scratchy voice signed the paperwork and shared his ID with the teacher.  When it was my turn, it took me a fraction of the time to accomplish this same task.  I chose a seat on the isle and right away winced at the overpowering odor of cigarette smoke seeping from scratchy voice.  A few more characters filtered in and scratchy voice struggled with the simple instructions the teacher gave.  I leaned over at one point and asked the pony tailed Hispanic man two seats down from me what the scratchy voice was reminding me of.  Pony Tail chuckled each time he heard the voice, so I assumed he had identified the humorous source of the voice that I was struggling to put my finger on.  Pony Tail didn't hesitate.  'Slingblade.'  That's it.  Scratchy was a mini-me of Slingblade. I hoped his voice issues were his only similarities to this creepy movie personality.  In addition to his deep, throaty sound, his lack of volume control reflected a significant hearing loss.

The instructor, Barb, motioned for everyone to avoid the last row of seats, so we were forced to sit in close proximity to one another.  Sweet.  A few minutes after we began a couple of women entered the room.  I cringed anticipating the awkward conversation when the instructor would turn them away.  Barb agreed to check the women in late due to the in-climate weather.  Mary, a black Whoopi Goldberg lookalike, chose a seat next to Slingblade.  Her pivotal role as his instructional aide should probably have been recognized by the State with a shortened license suspension.  A young, black girl with a round face also came in late, minus the necessary paperwork.  I was surprised when Barb admitted Round Face, who sat in the front row between Sleepy and a Hispanic girl, who only spoke when her hand was inconveniently draped in front of her mouth.  Any hopes of plowing thru the material and being granted an early dismissal disintegrated thanks to Hand-Over-Mouth.  Our fearless leader asked Hand-Over-Mouth to repeat herself multiple times- dragging out an otherwise perfectly enjoyable experience.

Barb instructed us to open our books to a certain page.  She read from the text and then asked corresponding questions.  She asked for a volunteer to answer the first question.  I slid down in my seat a bit.  At this point, I felt I could choose my role in this new setting.  I could pose as the goody-goody and answer each question, or stare off in space and play the distant lost soul, or nod a lot at other people's responses hoping to look attentive but removed from participating.  It quickly became obvious that none of these roles would suffice.  Barb was asking for volunteers to offer a description of what their Saturday would look like if they hadn't been required to take this 8 hour long course.  She didn't let up after the first few volunteers.  Dear God, we would all have to ante up and share with the class.  Yuck.  At my turn, I admitted that I would have been cleaning my house in preparation for hosting a big crowd for Thanksgiving next week.  Even the cast of Breakfast Club wasn't forced to divulge anything.  That happened naturally over the course of the day.  Nothing about this day felt natural. 

Over 20 minutes into class a man came darting into our room breathless and agitated.  A startled Barb shook her head slowly at him.  He shrugged helplessly and offered his long commute from the South Loop and the horrible weather as an explanation.  She wouldn't budge.  This exchange was more painful than our ice breaking sharing session.  The desperate man adjusted the shoulder strap to his briefcase before sighing heavily and marching out the door.  Barb closed the door and tried to make peace with our empathetic faces.  She pointed out that the twelve of us had all made it there on time despite the snowy weather.  Some had traveled greater distances than Mr. Late.  It came down to planning.  Mr. Late clearly had not planned well.

When Mr. Late returned to the door less than five minutes later, my life flashed before my eyes.  He had to be packing.  Would the ridiculously frigid classroom would soon serve as a crime scene after he took out his frustrations during a shooting spree?  Mr. Late offered a new detail to his story.  He had attended a class recently and arrived on time, but he had been called away from the class when he received word that his father had passed away.  Barb suggested that he call the 1-800 number and ask for their permission to enter the class.  She wasn't authorized.  Mr. Late stepped in the hall and returned a moment later.  He handed Barb his cell phone.  While she verified that she should welcome him to the class, he strode back to take a seat at one of the long tables in front of Whoopi, Slingblade's assistant.  Now that our cozy group had grown to 13, the classroom discussion continued.  Great.  I longed to learn more and more about my high ticketed counterparts.

Learn, I did.  Not only could Hand-Over-Mouth communicate solely when hiding behind her trusty hand, but she also could not formulate a sentence without using a double negative.  She waggled her chin from side to side like a bobble head while she mumbled into her hand.  Some of the gems she uttered included statements about her expensive rims, her insistence at avoiding potholes, and how police targeted her.  She felt that if she been driving a minivan the cops wouldn't have pulled her over.  I cleared my throat to get Barb's attention.  Suddenly I longed to be called on.  When Barb gave me the floor, I reminded Hand-Over-Mouth that my pile of citations were collected as I drove around in none other than a minivan.

The man next to me sported an impressive beer gut, a foreign accent, and one eye that didn't seem to track with his 'good-eye'.  His literacy level was questionable as my reading services were required each time we were expected to complete the section summary questions.  Mr. BMW, who sat on the isle in front of Slingblade, spoke with a thick Indian accent, however, I strained less to understand him than I did Hand-Over-Mouth.  Pony Tail and Mr. BMW admitted to speeding for sheer enjoyment of it.  Apparently the nap Sleepy took in his car that morning proved insufficient.  He was reminded that if he was unable to stay awake during the class, he would not receive credit.  Perhaps it would have helped him if we had cranked up a radio nearby since he received one of his tickets for blaring his music and disturbing the peace.  Mr. Late got a ticket for failing to observe a pedestrian walkway.  Whoopi, who was recently promoted at her job, fell into the habit of racing home to get some sleep after putting in long hours.  She and a few others failed to notice when speed limits lowered along residential stretches of otherwise fast paced highways.  Somehow a very overweight young lady managed to work in the fact that her mother pays too much attention to a younger sister.  Perhaps she would have benefited from a different kind of class.  One young woman, who came from a large family, explained that she had been ticketed out of state, and had been suspended for only two tickets.  Ouch.  Another woman felt she had been targeted by cops who went so far as to say she didn't belong out in the suburbs.  Our instructor spent the hours helping us identify what kind of drivers we were and what changes we needed to make in our bad driving habits. 

Barb connected with me from the start.  I quickly whipped out my needle and thread at every opportunity and made progress on taming the ruffle on my panels.  She inquired about my project, my kids, and my hectic schedule.  Our chats took place during our short breaks while the others sped off for a smoke, a phone call, a cup of coffee, or a bathroom visit.  When it was time for my confession, I felt all eyes on me as my classmates rubbernecked to see who admitted to having six kids, driving a mini van, enjoying sewing projects, and receiving more speeding tickets than anyone else in the room.  This last realization made me shudder.

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