Though I allude to it rarely, I have stated elsewhere on this site that I am, by profession, a teacher. I don’t like to mention it often because this blog is meant to be a kind of escapism from the daily grind and though things happen at work, from time to time, that amuse me, or irritate me, or make me want to bang my head against the wall in frustration, they are things that are better left in work, shared with colleagues, or, when the need arises, at home with Mrs Proclaims, who kindly allows me to vent on occasion.
But I prefer to blog about other stuff, such as the etiquette of waving when on a boat, or whether it is genuinely possible to answer the question “Do you like soup?. And if you’re a regular visitor I’m going to assume you like that kind of stuff and I’m going to keep on writing it.
But today this happened and I thought it might make for a suitable post.
It was break time and I’d just finished teaching two lessons in a row and I quite needed to relieve myself. In the block where my classroom is based there is a staff toilet but the emphasis is very much on the singular. Now one is all I generally need but it can be a little inconvenient if someone else also needs to use that same toilet. This happened today. I descended the two flights of stairs from my classroom to the corridor where the facility is located only to see a colleague get there before me.
I could have waited, but there is a larger provision in the adjacent building so I decided that I would venture over there. I reached the exit and noticed that it was raining. I had neglected to bring my coat, as when I’d begun my journey I hadn’t anticipated the requirement of an overcoat. I don’t want to brag but waterproof attire is rarely necessary when I visit the lavatory. I genuinely hope it never will be.
The rain was quite heavy but I reasoned that I could make it across the courtyard without too much trouble and so, intrepidly, I stepped out.
A few moments later I crossed the threshold of the appropriate building and marched purposefully up the stairs. Upon reaching the top I heard a ringing sound. At first thinking it was the bell to signal the end of break I paid it little heed. But then I noticed it was a little on the loud side. And quite insistent in its tone.
Slowly it dawned on me that it was the fire alarm.
And the fire alarm means that you have to evacuate the building, whether or not you have relieved yourself.
Reluctantly I began to do just that. Evacuate the building I mean. Not relieve myself.
Being a professional, I did feel it was my duty to ensure that all of the kids had left the building.
Or look like I was making sure the kids were leaving the building.
I was pretty certain at the time that the incident was caused by someone burning toast rather than an actual fire. If there had been visible flames then maybe I would have been more selfish in my exit strategy.
But I did my bit and chivvied along the disgruntled teenagers who were annoyed about losing the remainder of their break.
The trouble is that they never really take the fire alarm seriously so they did take some cajoling to exit into what had, in the last few minutes, turned from mildly inclement weather into a torrential downpour.
And so it was that one boy decided that he did have time to visit the latrines, and being the only male member of staff around, it was my duty to follow him into the loos and persuade him to leave. So while beset by my own full bladder I pleaded with the youth to depart the building. He agreed in a pleasant enough tone from behind the door of the cubicle where he was audibly defying me.
A few moments later we had indeed exited, he much happier, me still very much in discomfort.
It was then that I realised that I had to go and stand on the tennis courts in the pouring rain in order to register my form class without any kind of protection from the elements.
My coat was very much inaccessible at this point. Had my classroom been in the building I was exiting I might well have chanced my arm, but it seemed highly inappropriate to march in the opposite direction of the assembly point.
So I ventured to my post in shirt sleeves only.
And I got absolutely drenched.
Stoically I persevered and registered my charges. All were accounted for. And then came the waiting. Because once the evacuation procedures kick in, they have to be adhered to and we weren’t permitted to seek shelter until every box had been ticked.
Students and staff commented on (and laughed at) my predicament but no conclusion was in sight.
In the end I cut such a pathetic figure that one of my tutees took pity on me, and as she was blessed with both an overcoat and an umbrella, permitted me to borrow the latter for the remainder of our interlude.
By then I was already soaked to the bone so it was a futile gesture, but a gesture that warmed my heart nonetheless.