For lessons learned in school, it's better 'tardy' than never
At the top of the list of most frequently asked questions in school is the all-time favorite, "When am I going to use this in real life?"
The first instance of this question being posed dates to the Roman Empire when a youngster asked that in Latin. I would like to include the Latin phrase for that, but, unfortunately, I forgot to ask my Latin teacher Mr. Publius how to write it.
Of course, there are a few items that you learn in school that are of no use anywhere else. Educational facilities are the only places on earth where the restrooms/bathrooms are referred to as "lavatories" or "lavs."
If you went to any other building and asked someone for directions to the nearest lavatory, chances are you would wind up in a room where a bunch of scientists in lab coats were conducting experiments.
The same holds true for the term "tardy." When you get a job, your boss is not going to call you into his or her office and tell you were tardy twice in the past week. You will be told if you come in late one more time, your paycheck will not be tardy. It will not come at all.
And don't even think of telling the IRS that your tax return will be a bit tardy this year. You can bet they will not be tardy in ordering you in for a full audit.
Of course, there are countless bits of information and other useful skills we learn in school. Most have to do with subjects, but quite a few involve how to get along with a wide variety of people.
One of the first types you're likely to encounter is the tattletale. That is one cliché that holds true - nobody really does like a tattletale.
It goes without saying that the "tattlee" is not fond of the tattler. But even the adults who commend the tattletale for the information are really thinking, "This kid is nothing but a little squealer."
Right below the tattletale on the list of school personalities other kids dislike is what is called the "reminder."
Right before the bell rang with the teacher having forgotten to assign homework, this traitor would raise his hand and say, "Miss Frumpwaggle, you forgot to tell us what our homework is."
Even tattletales didn't like reminders.
Quizzes and tests quickly reveal other personality types - false pessimists and incorrect optimists.
My friend Gertrude belonged to the first group. Right before every quiz or test, she would mourn the fact that she hadn't studied and didn't know anything. After the test, she would tell everybody how badly she did. When she got the test back with a 100 percent on it, she would start talking about how badly she would do on the next one.
By contrast, Gervase would be full of confidence before and after every quiz or test. Of course, when he got his grade back it was usually in the D-plus C-minus range.
To show you how long ago I went to school, we even had a choice of six grades instead of five. In addition to A, B, C, D and F, we had the long-forgotten grade of E.
For those of you who never saw the missing grade, the E was sort of like an F-plus. Rumor has it that educators got rid of it because some kids were telling their gullible parents that E stood for excellent.
In addition to optimists and pessimists, you also encounter neat freaks and pack rats at their pint-sized desks. One guy in my class kept his desk so neat and hygienic that the principal designated it as the operating table if emergency surgery had to be performed in the school.
My friend Gussie was not nearly as fussy. You couldn't even compare his desk to a bad day at a landfill because it wasn't that orderly. It more closely resembled the old-fashioned town dump where dried-up 19-cent Bic pens, broken pencils and crumpled papers went to die.
School also gave you firsthand experience with troublemakers, instigators, clowns, victims and bullies that you were likely to encounter in adult life.
Fortunately, there were not too many troublemakers to deal with. Miss Frumpwaggle and the other elementary school ladies kept them too busy to cause problems.
In junior and senior high school, such guys would be dribbled down the hall like a basketball by the assistant principal and rarely get out of line after that.
I wasn't funny enough to qualify as a class clown and I wasn't sneaky enough to be a full-time instigator, but I did give my classmates an example of both of those types of personalities.
In other words, I would say something to make one of my friends laugh out loud and then assume an air of perfect innocence whenever Miss Frumpwaggle would stop her teaching to ask my friend, "And just what is so funny?"
I did get some practical experience at being a victim as a result of the class bully Eugene. He couldn't take my lunch money since I went home to eat lunch.
However, he figured out a solution. He would make me take him home to have my Mom cook him lunch.
That brings me to one other thing I learned in school - hide out in the lav right before lunchtime, so I would not have to bring home any guests.
(Walt Kozlowski, a freelance writer from Mount Carmel, composes "Walt's Way" for each Sunday edition.)