Chapter 3:

CHAPTER 2: AN INVITATION AT MCDON'S (GRADE 8)

The Ballad of the School Hallways


For the entire week since the opening of classes, we focused on the orientation and ‘familiarization’ of students in their new environment. I said ‘familiarization’ because here in our country, the class schedule was split into a morning session and an afternoon session. The levels 7 and 10 were usually assigned the morning class, and levels 8 and 9 were given the afternoon half.

And because we’re handling Grade 8 students, the transition was not that easy. For one, they only came to class early on the first day. The consecutive days were full of late-comers and absences.

“…”

Yes, they only show their dedication during the first day of school.

The second was that, there were still many late-enrollees in our school. You see, our system here adopted the ‘education for all’ policy, which stated that everyone who wished to enroll in a public school should be admitted, regardless of their dedication and willingness to study. Any school who rejected a potential student could face an administrative case in our school’s division office, even if our basis of rejecting the child had sound reason.

As a result, the former 78-member class Jade had grown into an 81-member class.

And yes, it’s giving me a headache just by thinking about it.

In other related matters, things were looking up. Class Jade, as well as the other classes—Platinum, Juniper and Opal, were opening up to me. It’s like what they described in their own words: they eagerly wait for my class time since they get to relax whenever I’m around.

Hey, before we misunderstood anything, let me just clear to you that I’m not a lazy person. Well, personally, I am lazy, but I never let that part of me impeded my work. If it came to work, I do it with zeal, and with professionalism. However, aside from doing my job well, I often mix a good amount of sympathy and good-will in my teaching style.

I believe that students will learn and remember their lessons if I add jokes and funny antics to it.

As such, I became like a clown to them. An educational clown.

Well, it’s my intention in the first place. I had to present myself as a funny, approachable person so that these kids would open to me their problems if they happened to encounter one.

“…”

The incident about my former student’s suicide is still fresh in my mind…though in this timeline, he is alive and well.

Again, I do admit it sounded suspicious, but my goal was rather different. You see, youths these days often battle with depression and anxieties, brought about by the demands of the adults and the changing world around them. It’s pretty disturbing to imagine that at their age, many of them think that suicide solved their woes. Because of that, I had to make my move and gain their trust so that they could rely on me when the time for it came.

If they trusted another teacher, it’s more than welcome to me. I didn’t want to shoulder this burden alone; and, I am a guy as well, so I might end up in some weird misunderstandings sooner or later if I’m unable to find some other co-workers of mine to help me.

Anyway, here comes some of my students…

“Hey Sir!”

“Yes, wazzup mah homie?” pardon the speech; it’s the way I spoke to my students if we’re outside the classroom. Not only am I comfortable with it, such style also brings them a lot closer to me.

“Sir!” the student who greeted me said. “We just had elected the classroom officials, and we’re the ones who won the election.”

Oh…so, you’re the…?”

“I’m the class auditor,” he proudly declared.

“What’s your name again?”

“I’m Kyle, Sir! My older sisters are your students a few years ago as well.”

Oh…well, congratulations Kyle!” then I looked at the other students with him. “So they won too?”

“Yes Sir, Boris is the class president. Stephanie won the vice-presidency, Tina ended up as the secretary…” he slowly gave me their positions in their class. To be honest, with the 81-member class, I’m having difficulties in memorizing all of their names. I only remembered Stephanie, Tina and Kyle even though he took the trouble of explaining their positions to me.

Sorry Kyle. But I do appreciate the effort.

“Anyway Sir, so we thought that if we could invite you to lunch before we come to class tomorrow?” Kyle proposed. “A little celebration for our success wouldn’t hurt.”

“Oh?!” I exclaimed, “So where do you plan to go then?”

“Well, I’m actually thinking of that McDon outside our village,” Kyle said. “So, can you come Sir? We’ll appreciate it a lot if you do!”

“So, when are we going?”

It was Stephanie who answered my question, “We’re thinking to come around 11 a.m. tomorrow, Sir.”

Hmm…I’ll think about it,” honestly, I’m reluctant to come with them. I didn’t want to have anything to do with their plans, since if it went awry, I’d automatically receive the blame because I’m the only adult there. However, I couldn’t easily say no.

Or rather, if I say no…

“So, it’s a ‘No’ Sir?” Tina predicted my answer. “Well, I guess we’ll have to reset it on some other day when Sir Seth is available.”

“No, actually I—”

“Well, I can’t come on Saturdays. You know my mom would kill me,” Stephanie protested.

“And I’ve got to visit my grandma, too.” Kyle seconded.

“Why don’t you just go without me?” I proposed.

“That won’t do, Sir Seth!” the president countered. “The reason we’re eating out is you, then you refuse us immediately.”

“Well, I got work and—”

“Please?” Class Jade’s class officers pleaded to me.

And that nailed it, actually.

God, why can’t I refuse such requests from students…

-----

The next day, I took off early from home since I needed to be at school by 11 am. You see, my workplace was about an hour away from my home, and that’s when I travel by my motorcycle. If I did commute, it would take me at least an hour and a half, or two hours, before arriving, and that won’t do well for me.

I try my best to be punctual, since I’m a habitual latecomer. You know, changing bad habits…

And so, it was around a quarter of minutes before 11 that I arrived at my school. I quickly parked my motorcycle inside the school grounds and went around searching for my little companions.

“…”

Strange. They did say that we’re going to McDon’s by 11, so they should be around here by now…

“…”

But, I could only see the other students waiting outside for the afternoon session. The morning session wasn’t finished in their class just yet.

“…”

The time then slowly began to waste away. 11:15, and there’s still no one at the agreed-upon meeting place.

I decided to wait to 11:30.

Next, 11:30 came, and the meeting place was still empty of my McDon companions. There were other students, but they didn’t have an idea where Class Jade’s officers were.

Maybe they ate without me? Well, it’s fine for me. I’m more relieved if that happened.

11:45. Still, no one appeared.

Alright. I guess they did go ahead. Or their plan went for naught. Either way, it’s a win for me.

The clock then hit 12:00. By then I was at the faculty room, feeling the cool air brought by our old, rusty air-conditioner. Those guys must’ve cancelled their plans, or went off without me. Haha! Well, my money’s still intact, and I didn’t have to be bothered by unnecessary responsibilities.

“Sir!”

My world was then brought to a screeching halt when I heard a familiar voice enter the faculty. Turning around, I saw the petite, cute figure of Stephanie. She was clearly panting, and I could tell from the messy looks of her uniform and bag that she rushed all the way from somewhere to our office.

“What the hell are you doing?” I lightly hit her head. “You look stupid. Did you just run with that heavy bag behind you?”

“Y-Yes…Sir!” I offered her a chair so she could sit and take a rest. “Whew! This bag is really heavy! Why did I bring a lot of things, anyway?”

“You idiot! You’ll kill yourself from asthma!” I scolded her as I helped Stephanie remove her backpack. I also gave her a towel so she could wipe her sweat off.

“I don’t have asthma Sir!”

Che, don’t even think of trying it again. Anyway, where are the others?” I asked her. “I thought it’s 11 a.m. for our meeting time?”

“Sorry Sir, but my mama asked me to cook rice and lunch before letting me off,” Stephanie explained. “That’s why I’m late. I don’t know about the others, though.”

“I see…” I could only scratch my head. I turned to my watch. It’s two minutes past 12; considering that our official class time starts at around 12:40, I guess we still had over 30 minutes allowance to execute our plan…

Provided, they would eat fast, not idle or tell stories, and the tricycles that would transport us would come as soon as possible…

-----

It was 12:15 when we’re able to catch a ride that would take us to McDon. We’re ten people, so we had to hail at least two tricycles in order to accommodate us all, and that really wasted our time. (1)

These tricycle drivers would often go to eat lunch or take a rest when passengers really needed them, see?

And so, it was around 12:20 when the last of us arrived at McDon. I’m anxious as hell, since we’re down to just 10 minutes before the class started, and we haven’t had our lunch yet.

“…”

And these kids walk like they didn’t care about their time at all.

“Sir, do you think this place is okay?”

“Just pick whatever and wherever you like.”

“Hey, I don’t like the table here. Let’s search for another place.”

Seriously guys, I just want to eat—and fast, then get over with it.

Five minutes had passed before they could pick their ideal location. And then, the moment in getting them to order their food began. The president and the treasurer were talking about their budget, and the other officers were chiming in with their suggestions. One would agree, and the others would disagree, so they’d go back to zero.

“…”

I remained quiet. When they asked me what do I want, I told them that I’ll be picking what they’re going to pick, so they’re having a hard time choosing their food…

And, it’s already 12:28…

Oh good lord, we’re going to get late for the first class period at this rate…

Honestly, I wanted to use my time-traveling ability to return to the moment I decided to come with them. However, I doubt if I could change anything, since they were really keen on inviting me.

“Guys…we only have less than ten minutes left to eat.” I anxiously reminded them. “Can’t you make it fast?”

“Alright guys, we still got class…” the president said nonchalantly. “Let’s just pick the basic burger and be done with it.”

“No, I want chicken fillet!” Stephanie protested.

“Well, I’d like a Big Don burger.” Tina added.

And they’re back to zero…again.

-----

Just to give an update, it’s already 12:34 when they finally had a consensus of what they would order. My heart was about to give me an attack at that moment; however, it’s not like I could do something else about it.

Well, there is something I can do…time-travel. But, should I risk it?

“…”

What about if I stopped the time? Will my students be affected as well?

“…”

I guess I’ll hold off for now. I don’t want to suffer any unneeded consequences just because I failed as an adult. So there, I just sat quietly in my chair while waiting for the kids to finish their orders.

And right across the table, while playing a game on her phone, sat Stephanie.

“Aren’t you going to come with your friends over there?” I asked her.

Hmm? Me? No, Sir, I prefer to stay here.”

“I see…”

A few moments of silence then followed. Apparently, she’s losing the game she’s playing, so Stephanie finally put down her phone.

“Right…by the way, Sir, thanks for coming with us.”

Nah, it’s okay.” Though really, I’m not okay. I could feel the cold sweat forming on my forehead, as well as my hands.

“Sir?”

“Yes?”

“You know, you really got us there back on the first day of class…we thought you’re furious.”

Heh, I thought you didn’t believe me back then?”

“Of course I am!” Stephanie defended herself. “But…Sir, though Carl may have told stories about you, it’s still different when you’re standing in front of us and shouting mad.”

Oh, for that…I’m sorry.”

“No, it’s fine Sir,” she chuckled. “I’m still glad that my cousin’s words still turned out to be true. Back in summer, I can’t wait to become your student; I always love to see your drawings!”

“Thanks,” I don’t know how to respond to Stephanie’s words, other than give her my gratitude.

“Carl has always been telling me that you’re one of his best teachers,” she explained. “And now I could see why.”

“T-thanks, again!” Well, being praised like that—even by a student—brings joy to my heart. For a moment, my fears and apprehension disappeared, and I’m thinking to myself of how happy I am that my students were trusting me.

“Hey guys! Here comes our food! Let’s eat!” the president then put down the food on our table and we ate. As I felt the urge to hurry, I chomped down on my food as fast as I could.

“Look, Sir Seth is like a monster when it comes to food!” the peace officer commented.

“Well, one look at my body could explain to you why!” I shot back.

“Here Sir!” Kyle gave me his fries. “This is as thanks for your presence here with us.”

Nah, I have my own fries. Don’t worry about it too much,” I politely refused. “Anyway, you guys wanted ice cream? Don’t be shy now and tell me!”

“Sir, Boris wants you rather!”

Oh…so you lean that way, Boris?”

“Sir, just so you know, I’m the most beautiful gay in our school.”

“Yeah, I’ll support that, I guess.”

We laughed heartily at that moment. Their smiles, our pictures taken for memories, and the fast-food we enjoyed so much, forgetting that we still have a class to attend to…

-----

12:55, and a pair of tricycles appeared at the gates of our school. The students, dragging their cumbersome bags, hurried inside the premises. As I am with them, the guard—who was supposed to not allow them to enter because they were late—let them pass, unhindered.

“Kyle Adonisio!” I heard their adviser, Miss Carla, shout. “You’re late for class! Where are the others?”

“We’re sorry for being late Mam Carla…” Kyle apologized. His face was downtrodden, and he tried his best to take the blame for his fellow latecomers.

“That won’t do!” Miss Carla refused his apologies. “You guys are officers! You should set an example to your classmates! I’ll write a letter for you to give to your parents; I’ll meet them here because of your offense!”

“But Mam—

“No excuses!”

Everyone in the group was stunned at what happened. Among them, I could tell that the most disturbed one was Stephanie. If I remember right, her mother was quite strict on her. Well, I guess they had it coming; I didn’t lack in reminding them about the time…

“…”

Man…I’m still responsible though…

Uh, Miss Carla?”

“Yes, Sir Seth?”

“I’m sorry for taking them without prior notice.” I explained in a sheepish, gentle voice; my strategy to keep my co-worker calm. “I was with them; I asked for their help on looking for one of our students’ addresses.”

“So that’s how it is, Sir?”

“Yes, my apologies.”

Oh alright, I guess?” Miss Carla eventually relented. She then turned to her late students and said, “You may now enter your room.”

“Yes, Mam!”

And with that, the incident came to a close. I think Kyle and his fellow officers had a big smile of gratitude written on their faces that day…

“…”

…I just hope this upset stomach will subside soon. It’s not nice to have it after stopping time for just five minutes.

Author's Note:  (1) Tricycles are one of the main motorized transport vehicles in the Philippines, commonly plying the roads and routes a regular jeepney or van cannot go through (such as narrow streets).  It is also one of the main source of livelihood for many of the people here.

Basically, it's called a tricycle because it has three wheels.  What sets it apart from other 'three-wheeled' transports that can be found around the world is that, it is actually an 'impromptu' design.  A triangular carriage with one wheel on its side is welded into a motorcycle, and any type of motorcycle can do, as long as its tank can store lots of gasoline.

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