You people are mahvelous for putting up with me.
More tolerance necessary.
Chapter 12: Devil Is As Devil Does
I had finished a relatively successful year and met some new friends in the new school in Penns Grove, but I was keeping in touch with friends from my previous school. My relationship with one friend would eventually affect me more significantly than anything I have discussed thus far. It would impact me more than the false police report that I was having a relationship with a child, but this chapter includes an unintentional cliffhanger. The full brunt of this chapter’s events will not culminate until about chapter 17 or 18. However, this event will echo not only throughout every following chapter but eventually the entire state of NJ. Let me repeat that – something I did will echo throughout and will affect school districts throughout the entire state of New Jersey. If that doesn’t make sense, please trust that it eventually will. Also, trust that you don’t have to tell me that there are trends in my behavior. I’ve noticed.
One of my duties in this new school was monitoring a study hall, a period during which students were to sit in my classroom, complete homework, read, or do any acceptable school activity. I had only four students whom I met only two or three times. They were advanced kids who would spend study hall in the library instead of my classroom. Some people spend free time wisely. Not usually me.
My best friend at the time was still Dave, the teacher from the previous school who took a group of teachers to a strip bar, which caused enough trouble for me to get fired. So, that extra time gained from the empty study hall was used for two main things: Producing the school yearbook and e-mailing Dave. The yearbook was produced almost 100% on the computer, and my e-mail was almost constantly open. Dave had free time at the same time as my scheduled but empty study hall. Our e-mail was almost constant. The topics were roughly the same that most men might share sitting in a bar, on a beach, at a barbecue, or anywhere else: women and sex.
Although we were about 30 miles apart, we were just two men having conversations. We were teachers and talked about education in general, our specific schools, students with which we were having trouble, mutual friends, and new friends. He was married, but I was single, dating rather often and with many stories that he loved to hear. Having been married a long time, Dave liked to live vicariously through my experiences.
I will get back to Dave after I bring in another character. A real person, but still a character I will call “Dr. Mass” was and still is the superintendent of this school district. Previous to his role as a school superintendent, Dr. Mass was a monsignor in the Catholic Church. While he was a monsignor, he fell in love with a married woman in his congregation. Eventually this love grew into something stronger than both marriage and the Catholic Church, and Dr. Mass did two things: He resigned from the church and convinced the love of his life to divorce her husband in order to marry him. I could not offer concrete evidence of these two actions, but the people who told me about it were among the most knowledgeable and longest present in that school district since long before the former monsignor arrived.
One thing that seems to characterize the Catholic faith is guilt. It drives followers to confession, to communion, and back again every Sunday. Guilt also drove the former monsignor to find other sinners to persecute in order to ease his own conscience about his own “sin.” It is easy to find sinners in church because they basically come to you. Well, not “you” personally. It’s more of a rhetorical thing. Anyway, the problem for Dr. Mass was that sinners no longer came to him, so he needed a way to go and find them.
Dr. Mass and I had a mutual friend named Lena, a secretary at a nearby college. I met Lena while attending a professional development class at the college. I previously admitted to being a horrible flirt. When people say “horrible flirt,” they really mean a very successful flirt. I found Lena’s e-mail address through paperwork for my class at the college, and my first contact was strictly business. After that, not so much. It did not take long to convince her to meet for dinner. Subsequently, it did not take long to, well, remember the part about 1.5 dates before things were physical? Some dates were below the 1.5 average. The following day, and for a while beyond, Lena and I continued to exchange e-mails that involved explicitly detailed discussions about what we had for “dessert” after dinner. Also, I had e-mailed my friend Dave and shared some of the same details, and most of this e-mailing had taken place during that study hall class that was actually about 90 minutes of free time when combined with my lunch period at school.
Remember Chuck, the union guy from part 11? Roughly a week after dinner with Lena, Chuck informed all staff that the superintendent, Dr. Mass, wanted everyone to know that he was reading our e-mail. I did not like that, and my response to Chuck was, “If he wants to read my e-mail, great. I’m not ashamed of anything in there, but he might be a little embarrassed if he reads anything of mine.” My reaction was based on being an “open book.” I enjoy sharing my life’s details. As you have seen through this whole series, I don’t hesitate to tell you all about myself. If you want to get to know me, you should know all of me. Friendships are facilitated by common ground. The more cards we show, the more likely it is that we have similar cards, thus it is more likely we can appreciate and regard each other positively.
That is my philosophy, but it does not apply universally. With adults in a bar, it is acceptable to discuss sneaking beer into the bleachers during high school football games. However, I recommend you skip that part when applying for a position with Mothers Against Drunk Driving. After having struggled through a very oppressive (maybe that’s too strong) marriage, I was finally learning who “I” really was. I was very happy with who “I” really was. Putting all of that on a billboard is a different story.
Shortly after being warned that the superintendent was reading our e-mail, I e-mailed Dave about it. I also mocked the warning and probably made statements that seemed to challenge the warning. I did not have the foresight to see the big picture. I did not have the ability to remind myself how I lost my previous job, which was by being too visible. I forgot about what Dave called being “a ghost.” I was pretty much on a soapbox instead. In addition to e-mailing Dave about the warning, I also told him about Lena, the woman I had met at the college. What I did not know was that Lena was also married to – and separated from – one of Dr. Mass’s best friends. The e-mail included taking Lena to dinner and then home for “dessert,” and Dr. Mass was reading all the details when snooping through my e-mail.
My “dessert” is not vanilla ice cream. I hope that you are following the implications, but I tend to get very creative when preparing dessert. I have watched a lot of video on preparing and enjoying dessert, and I have incorporated many variations and have attempted many new recipes with other dessert chefs who also had pantries that were well stocked with ingredients. And not only was I good at making dessert, I was also known to share the details of my recipes with others, especially Dave, and especially through e-mail. Yes, I’m sure you have been able to follow the bread crumbs right to the witch’s house in the woods. And right next to the witch’s house is a dog house. And in the dog house is a trap door. And the trap door opens a path into a vat of acid. And there’s a dragon that eats the acid and shits it out into a cauldron of molten lava. Snot-flavored lava.
An hour or so after I sent a very detailed e-mail to Dave, my password stopped working. I then sent a text message to Dave informing him that I was locked out of my e-mail. Later in the day, he replied that he was also shut out of his e-mail. Shortly after that, someone arrived at my classroom door instructing me to immediately appear at the superintendent’s office. I knew what was going to happen. I knew I was gone. I knew it was my last day working in that school NOT because I believed that what I had done was horrible or even bad. I knew because schools in New Jersey don’t need a reason to get rid of you when you have not yet reached that fourth year.
When I had been told about the boss reading our e-mail, I was focused on the fact that I not only did not care about him seeing what I wrote but I almost dared him to read what I wrote. What I had not focused on was the idea that I could be fired for that. The official reason was connected to using school resources for personal activity instead of school activity. I was given an attorney to contact if I wanted to challenge the firing, but I did not call because I knew the inevitable. I knew that I could win the battle and lose the war. I knew that even if the attorney were to save my job, I still would have been fired, which meant I would lose the opportunity to resign. Resigning was big because it allowed me to honestly say, when applying for my next job, that I had never been fired from a job.
Fortunately, I was – as before –suspended for the rest of the year with pay instead of without pay because, by resigning, there was no hearing or determination that I had done anything wrong. A few days later, I delivered my resignation letter to the superintendent and expressed a useless apology. I expected to simply shake hands and leave, like closing a book and returning it to the shelf. Instead, there were two surprises.
First, the superintendent informed me that he had sent my e-mails to the local police. Luckily, the police concluded that I was an idiot but had broken no laws. Rarely have I wanted to punch someone, but this was a strong one. He wasn’t satisfied with firing me. He wanted me arrested. For what? Is talking about sex illegal?
Second surprise: the superintendent (NOT Cheryl Smith, NOT of Cherry Hill, NJ) of Dave’s school district was currently searching all of their e-mail. Thanks to my reckless, short-sighted, ignorant bravado, Dave and four other teachers were also suspended. That investigation spread to three other schools. Additionally, several teachers – including Dave – appeared in newspapers with criminal allegations attached. As for school employees with names in the newspaper, it seems the esteem superintendent, Dr. Mass, has had his own problems with that.
Although I had been roughly (and deservedly) kicked between the legs, those other teachers were having their legs broken. My legs would eventually reach the chopping block, but not for another ten years. These and other amputations will be explained in part 13.