Friday, November 18, 2011

The dish fairies failed me.

In the film Voices from the New American Schoolhouse, about the Fairhaven School near Baltimore, a student remembers being written up on her first day of attending, for having failed to wash her lunch dishes. "Did you think the dish fairy was going to do it?" she recalls being asked, with a laugh.

Last Monday I arrived for my half-day of volunteering, and Gabriel asked me, "Did you see Robert wrote you up?" What? Written up? For what? I was at a loss. "Dunno," Gabriel shrugged. "I think you didn't wash your dish or something." I thought he was kidding. I conjured up a mental image of the water going over the plate and silverware. Did I trust my memory? In the Judicial Committee's box, I found the paperwork. Sure enough, in black and white: "Bryan didn't wash his pan." Ohhhh, the pan! Um, yeah. Now I remembered, the pan I'd cooked up my tempeh in. I almost never use the stove top. Of course I'd forgotten.

I was, oddly, sort of excited to be written up; it had taken me about three years. Robert acknowledged that he'd been partly motivated by the desire to be the first person to write me up; but, he added, it had been a gross, smelly, oily pan and he'd had to wash it. I was embarrassed at having left a mess for someone else to deal with, and it felt different being written up formally than it would have if someone had said, "Hey, you know you left your dirty pan on the stove last week." Of course, most complaints and corrections happen, at Clearwater as everywhere, in that sort of informal way, but a J.C. case doesn't have to be especially dire; as I've been reminded before, strictly speaking you can write up someone for pretty much anything; J.C. will decide if they consider the complaint valid. This is important: unlike being sent to the principal's office at public school, an experience which is almost always in and of itself traumatic, being written up≠being "in trouble".

The J.C. was good-natured and gentle about it, but took their responsibility totally seriously, and there was not a hint that the matter was any different from a case involving anyone else at the school. I left with a promise to clean up after myself. Despite my chagrin, I felt in way that I'd passed a milestone. You know you are part of the community when people can tell you you messed up the same way they tell everyone else.

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