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Nothing quite makes you have to pee so acutely as hearing someone say the toilets are not working.

As I lounged on the couch yesterday morning, in my usual half-stupor, I barely registered the news or traffic reports, let alone the ticking timer that serves as a constant reminder that I cannot be trusted not to fall asleep completely in the minutes before I leave for work.  I heard about a burst water main near my school, so I grabbed the GPS in case I needed to reroute through the tortuous one-way city streets. 

I arrived at work, the timer having done its job, and I prepared to do my own. My supervisor came in a few minutes later and told me we had neither water nor heat in the building.  The 100 year old building I work in is heated in a manner similar to my home – hot water.  I do not know how the boiler and the pipes and the radiators work, but I do know that it’s a system that is slightly dependent on, well, water.  I had not registered that it was cold – the 3rd floor of an old building often is, first thing in the morning – but it became clear this was to be no ordinary work day.  Since it’s illegal to hold class in a building with neither heat nor water/toilets, we found other facilities – a nearby basement/bingo hall/cafeteria – and traipsed over there.  We then commenced to have a “normal school day” full of “productive, educational experiences”.  I could barely meet with any of my speech caseload, due to new schedules, a lack of materials, and the noise level — jet engine – that occurred as a result of cramming an entire middle/high school into a room usually suited to church suppers and bingo night.  Literally, there is a giant bingo board at one end of the room, and all the chairs face it.  Three giant “Smoke Eater” machines from another era are bolted to the ceiling, reminding me more of clubs and bars than a learning environment.  Some kids had class in the kitchen, and other classes convened around long tables, with sporadic internet and creative teachers to keep them busy.  It.  Almost.  Worked.  Mercifully, administration let the kids go at noon, lest we tempt mutiny by prolonging the tenuous arrangement. 

The worst part, however, was not the feelings of futility, the rage at freezing temperatures, the uncertainty of kids’ rides home, or the disappointment at having to stay the afternoon to engage in some faculty-oriented “learning activities”.  It was missing out on Adult Lunch.

Adult Lunch is a marvelous invention.  When it’s lunchtime, we shoo all the kids down to the cafeteria, and immediately proceed to take a much-needed mental break by eating together in the library.  Some days there are as few as 4 of us; other days the census at the round table swells to 8 or more as we compete for elbow room, but we never run out of space.  Round tables are magic, as is the time spent in adult company after a morning of discussing video games, new cell phones, and ”The Wizards of Waverly Place.”  The other thing we do is drool over each other’s lunches.  There is a vast continuum of cooking ability represented, from those of us who grab Lunchables or Uncrustables from the fridge/freezer or rely on Lean Cuisine, to others who always have leftovers from gourmet meals.  Homemade soups, pasta dishes, panko-coated chicken, and more.  I think I fall somewhere in the middle, but I always lust after the effort (if not the product – being vegetarian and annoying as I am) of the thoughtfully cooked meals. 

Wednesday night, Mr. Apron and I made summer rolls, using instructions and materials sent to us from an authentic Asian friend.  I was apprehensive, but we had success!  I even made the accompanying peanut sauce.  They were not bad looking for our first try, and I could not wait to bring the leftovers into work yesterday to show them off.  I mean, to eat them artfully and let others wonder and ask if I had made them myself.  Of course, I would have been modest and self-effacing, yet I would have eagerly shared the process and talked about how it was not so intimidating as my (professional) rolls might make it seem. 

And I missed all this because of a water main.  We’ll have to make summer rolls again, so that I might show and tell, and receive the good, affirming praise all children seek, whether they bring in a favorite stuffed animal, a piece of string, or a story about how grandma fell and broke her hip.

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April 2020