The fourth kid I hated had two weeks left when I met him. Two weeks left of school. Not two weeks left to live.
He supposedly had a mechanic’s apprenticeship in the works. Until then, the law of the land stated this 16 year-old needed to be in school until some form of employment that offered training was available. The difficulty for him was that he couldn’t organise his way out of a cardboard box, so it was taking a while to arrange his exit to the garage.
He was cocky and arrogant. He didn’t cut his hair. His pants hung around his knees. He probably smelled. He was hiding his incompetence behind his bravado.
The other children in the class saw him as a hero and a nuisance and would often join in the general defiance and disruption. But on the days he was absent they would say things to me like, “Aren’t you glad he’s not here?” or “Don’t you wish he would just leave?”. This of course gave little solace as the fear brewed waiting for the delinquent’s return the following day.
He enjoyed a bit of nose-to-nose intimidation with staff members. It was always hard to decide whether to respond with an aggressive Eskimo kiss (sic Inuit kiss); or a UFC head butt. Choosing neither I would quietly ask him to return to his seat. He did not like the passive approach and would reply with the usual, “Make me,” or turn to the class and say, “Look at this guy. He can’t even control the class”. The shouting approach was equally futile as he would claim, “You can’t speak to me like that,” or “Calm your farm” (a phrase that to this day curdles my blood – due to its illogical nature. I understand the calm bit, but what was the farm referring to? Was the class the farm? If so that didn’t make sense, because it was already calm except for this certain individual; Was my mood the farm? That didn’t make sense either because how could one emotion of anger be a metaphor for a collection of dairy and wool producing livestock; or was the farm referring to an actual farm? A farm I had subconsciously purchased the deeds for and now blocked from my mind and financial records).
The metaphorical farm was finally calmed when this child managed to get his apprenticeship approved. Or perhaps he became a truant. I didn’t care to know.
Often in these circumstances teaching staff may feel a sense of having failed the child in that final transition stage from child to man child.
I felt relief.
I don’t doubt life was hard for this vestigial over-indulged teenage foetus, but if we met again I doubt I’d pay for him to service my car.