I was remembering some jokes that were hilarious to me when I was little, so I decided to see if they still hold up.
"Hey Lamocha, ask me if I'm a fire truck."
Big smile. I love people's wide smiles when they anticipate a joke.
It's so innocent, so full of hope that something hysterical is about to be said or pantomimed.
"Is you a fire truck?"
"No." Ever so slightly, I giggle.
She frowns deeply.
I love people's deep frowns when they have been told a joke that is puzzling in it's idiocy.
We both stand there, not really getting it, maybe, but at least I get to laugh.
"That ain't a joke, that's just dumb." She waves me off like a mosquito.
"Hey Jeffrey, ask me if I'm a fire truck."
"Are you a fire truck?"
"No," I laugh.
He stares at me blankly.
After a moment, his eyes fall.
"Me neither," he says.
"Hey Martin, ask me if I'm a fire truck."
"Cookie, cookie. Woof."
I want to say 'No' but I am too mad at him for making my joke break.
I try not to get mad at the students.
But I do get frustrated with them.
Sometimes they follow me too closely.
I'll get trapped down a narrow aisle and realize I can't get back out unless I give individual directions to each student in the column; guiding them on how best to back their bodies up, so as to set me free.
Or I will stop short and a line of students will all barrel into my back, like when a little kid pushes a shopping cart into your heels; except the shopping cart consists of smooshy people wearing the extremes of deodorant (too much or none) and the pain is more generalized.
No it's never annoying, why do you ask?
One time I noticed how closely I was being followed, so I decided to test their devotion.
I walked around and around a large black table on display at a Target store.
They all circled the table with me.
No one broke rank.
No one questioned.
This is how tyrants are able to subjugate nations, I thought.
This is how Galactus swallows worlds.
We could have circled that table forever.
Pants would have been wetted or filled; stomachs left empty.
But no one would have halted the sort of forward but mostly round march.
When I noticed Target people staring, I decided to break the spell.
There are two Targets in town; one features fit young mothers in black stretch pants sipping lattes while propelling their Gap adorned children around the store.
The other stars homeless people, and smells like feet and the cashing of fraudulently collected disability checks.
If we had been in the latter, I would have ridden that train till the end of the line.
But no such luck; and the experiment had to be called off on account of unwanted attention.
These kids have enough strikes against them in the eyes of the public for me to do anything to make it worse.
And the leader of a line of people walking endlessly in a circle comes off looking a lot weirder than those that trail behind him.
Though people in the public tend to overlook me anyways, and zero right in on the troupe with me.
Often, it's little sighs about how wonderful it is to see disabled kids out in their community.
Except for those occasional people who are less than impressed by the population, like the old lady at the YMCA who always screeches out, "IS HE SLOW? IS THAT YOUNG MAN SIMPLE? CAUSE THAT'S THE WRONG WAY TO DO IT." She is referring to Jeffrey's inability to move his legs and arms at the same time during water aerobics.
I can't blame him; I have the coordination of a fruit-rollup left out in the sun.
So shut up, old lady.
Which also happens to be what is tattooed on the back of my neck.
Though I, even in all my enlightened glory, still balk sometimes at the appearance or behavior of some of our kids.
Early on in my career as a substitute T.A., I had to wheel "Zacky" down to the occupational therapy room.
Zacky was severely multiply impaired, confined to a wheelchair, uncommunicative, and the features of his face were kind of smooshed looking, like someone was playing around in Photoshop before booting him out of the womb.
The therapists were tickling him with feathers and shoving his hands into little bowls of sand and dry beans.
They oohed and ahhed over him, saying endlessly how cute and adorable this 26 year-old man was.
I just knew they were expecting me to jump right in and google shmoop baby wubs wubs at him, too.
They wanted me to play "Let's Destroy Dignity", one of the favorite games of therapists long overdue for retirement.
And I couldn't.
They were all saying it, and Zacky just rolled his head around in slow circles, his large eyes riveted to a point on the ceiling.
The pressure was building.
They were waiting for me, smiles widened into menace, but my mouth was frozen.
My fingers lamely played around on Zacky's shoulder.
After awhile, I managed a weak "Zacky.....", which trailed off into a "....zacky.....".
It was all I could do.
I'll end this with a joke I made up in my youth, back when I could tell right from wrong, the hilarious from the lame.
What did the fox say to the invisible man?
I can't see you.