Shirley Jackson has a famous story called “The Summer People” about a couple who decide to stay in their summer home past the end of summer and find the town folks’ attitude toward them has changed in very sinister ways. That’s kind of how I felt today when I went to the school where I work.
I mostly stopped in to pick up a folder I needed so that I show up to work on time next week. I also used it as an excuse to get 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) of walking in on a reasonably cool day. (This turned out to be a trap, but more on that later.)
When I got to the school I noticed that most of the lights were out and no students were roaming around. Since I was dressed business sub-casual this was probably for the best. I saw one teacher from a different department who was dressed up in a tie. He gave me a funny look. Then I saw a teacher from my department whose reaction was more like this:
Suddenly feeling a bit unnerved, and desperately trying not to fall asleep, I checked my mailbox and was surprised to find a stack of changes to my high school class rolls.
In the office I said hello to two colleagues who reacted with little more than grunts and I had to put on glasses to make sure I wasn’t home talking to our oldest. (I wasn’t.)
I asked one of the colleagues if the changes meant that I had students going overseas and we then had a conversation that was straight out of a Samuel Beckett play where each of us was having a different conversation. He told me we don’t change high school classes, which was not what I’d asked because I already knew that which led to me asking about specific students which led to him reading the Japanese next to their names and telling me what it meant which I already knew which lead to me thanking him and going about my business.
When I left, I said a goodbye and didn’t even get a grunt.
In his defense, it was warm in the office as the cool weather has almost certainly led the school to set the air conditioner to “maintain humidity”. Although it was cool outside, it was muggy which made moving around and working less pleasant.
I’ll go back next week when it’s probably safe to do so. Until then, I’ll try to get some sleep.
Note: you can get the “The Summer People” and other stories here.