Monday, May 21, 2001

Pencils in the Ceiling

While I was walking Teddy yesterday, I noticed a perfectly good yellow pencil lying in the grass and felt compelled to pick it up. Not that I needed any more pencils -- I've got plenty. And not that I was being good about picking up litter -- I wasn't going to throw it away, I was going to keep it.

I thought back to the last day of classes in junior high school. I remember there was a tremendous number of pencils that people had stuck in the ceiling. I don't know what the name for that type of porous tile is, but it holds pencils pretty well. I was just shocked -- I eventually realized that people were getting rid of their pencils because they had no intention of writing all summer. That seemed very sad to me, but at the same time it was a good opportunity to score some free pencils.

That, in turn, reminded me of something that happened to me in middle school. At the end of the year, everybody was cleaning out their lockers. One of the things we had an opportunity to do was to sell our used books back to the school to recoup some of the money our parents had spent on them at the beginning of the year. I noticed a lot of people throwing out their books instead. An enterprising youth, I rescued them and attempted to sell them back to the school. My capitalist urges were met with some irritation, and I was told that the money would go to the parents of the students who had originally owned the books.

That was fine, but at the time I didn't really understand why. Looking back on it, I still feel a little disillusioned by the waste these kids were willing to engage in and the explicit condonation of that by the school. I was upsetting things, and it was easier to get annoyed at me than to try to teach these kids not to be so spoiled.

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