|Lost in the crowd|
It is hard to be anonymous in a small town. While it is nice to know our neighbors and feel a sense of community, there are definitely times that I wish I could go unnoticed.
For eight years I served as the vice principal at our local high school. I left that job six years ago when I was promoted to a position at the central office. Now that I am retired from the school district, I occasionally substitute back at the high school. The students who knew me as assistant principal are long gone, but around town I am still occasionally recognized. There was a time that I couldn’t go through the drive through at McDonald’s without being recognized. I was known by name at most fast food establishments, not because I was a frequent customer, but because many of the workers attended the high school. It always made me nervous, wondering if I had sentenced some fast food worker to detention and if they were exacting revenge by spitting in my food.
I had gastric bypass surgery the last year I was at the high school. Over the course of the school year I lost about 100 pounds. Recently my husband and I were eating dinner in a local Mexican restaurant. The waitress asked me “Didn’t you used to work at the high school?” I told her that I did and asked her when she had graduated. She shared a little about what she had been doing since leaving high school and then said “I thought it was you, but didn’t you used to be fat?”
Being a public figure in a small town presents some challenges. I used to be a little uneasy taking my pop and beer bottles back to the local Safeway where it might be one of my students counting the mountain of beer bottles accumulated since my last visit. I could hear the talk in the hall at school. “Yeah, Mrs. T brought her beer bottles back on Saturday. She had $12.00 in beer bottle deposits!” I’ve known fellow teachers who made all their alcohol purchases out of town. There are certain drug store purchases that you wouldn't want to make locally if you live in a small town. Imagine parent teacher conferences and facing the parent who was the checker at Rite-Aid when you bought those fancy colored condoms…or even worse, the little blue pills!
A former band teacher at the high school had the best story about his run in with students outside of school. He had scheduled sick leave to have that test that we all hate…the colonoscopy. He checked into the local hospital early in the morning and was prepped, gowned up and wheeled into the exam room. Imagine his surprise when a group of students were led through the room. They were excited to see him and all chimed in “Hi, Mr. P.” He had chosen Career Day to schedule his test and hordes of his students were touring the facility.
Retirement has given me some anonymity and it’s safe to drive through McDonald’s. Now that I’m not employed I don’t have to be a role model and I can return all the beer bottles at once. I could even have a beer at lunch…too bad I don’t drink!