"You were wrong," she said accusingly as she dropped her bags in the hallway and slammed the front door behind her. "The price of the car was a variable, not a constant."
I cringed in the slaps-my-own-forehead moment. Of course, it was a variable! Renting a car on a homework sheet is never as simple as one might imagine. There's always some small print you overlooked: While we were busy computing the cost of gas, base mileage rates and the number of days' rental, we'd forgotten all about the difference in price between a coupe and a sedan.
"It's ok, though. It was tricky. Lots of us had it wrong, and I eventually figured it out by myself."
Ahhh ... The true constant: my help rarely being helpful.
Still ... I don't consider it a total failure.
Failure is for other people.
“Most people don't know that broccoli contains more protein than steak,” the teacher said with a smile.
“Really? That's amazing,” said another mother helping to dish out fruit salad at the class party that day.
I turned away to stuff a carrot into my mouth, but mostly so the gathering wouldn't see me roll my eyes.
“Not really,” I coughed, choking on a lingering spec of orange fiber. “I think I need a drink.”
“Vegetable protein is different than animal protein,” I explained in my head. “It's incomplete. It doesn't have the essential amino acids humans need for proper absorption. I know it seems like these big mammals who live on nothing but grass should be able to show us the folly of our meat-eating ways, but our digestive systems are quite different.”
She couldn't hear me, though. I managed to keep my mouth shut.
I just smiled tightly and sipped on fruit juice, hoping it would make everything go down. A nice apples and oranges mixture.
It occurred to me that what I was experiencing was the real-life equivalent of one of the many AMAZING posts that scroll past my eyes whenever I peruse Facebook. Only I was in school, where it seems teachers are busily readying our children to opt out of the next round of standardized tests.
Had I been on Facebook, I surmised, I probably would have posted a response I hope would seem civil. Maybe a Snopes link or a page that didn't have the word “BLOG” in the address. Invariably it would have set fire to my friendships.
But there was no link I could pull from the air. No Mayo Clinic website to which I could refer.
“Be calm,” I told myself as I cleared the scattered debris of the party into a waste can. “Don't make a big deal out of it,” I murmured, as I moved toward the sink with a handful of sticky utensils. “Just keep washing. Just keep washing.”
It's not as if I'm perfect.
I make more than my fair share of mistakes. We've already established that.
I spell creatively, flub my tenses, mix my metaphors, add commas and apostrophes where they don't belong. And my recommendations should come with their own warning labels and a few extra grains of salt.
Run-on-sentences and I have gone together on many walkabouts over the years. Too many, perhaps.
One would think I'd be smarter than throwing stones from my glass house.
But I can't help but keep track. ...
There was the science teacher who, for some reason, told students snakes are “mostly nocturnal.”
The math teacher who routinely says “communative” property when he means “commutative” property.
And I'm not telling you how many times I've circled the grammar mistakes in the letters that get “backpacked” home.
I'm not proud.
I know how it looks. Snob. Rubbing people's nose in it.
I try to picture my sweet, loving grandmother – to whom I was always giving an unnecessary “heart a tact” – and let the red-pen-stained paper drift down into the recycling bin.
And when the kids tell me emphatically, “teacher says,” I remind them teachers are sometimes wrong. That's why it's important to think critically, which often means questioning the answer you think you already know.
“I mean, if you need an example of making mistakes, just look at me.”