Humble Pie

The inside of my nose still smells vaguely like soured milk, and I haven’t taken a whipped cream pie to the face in six hours. The reason the smell  of “body temperature”-warm whipped cream lingers inside my nose is because the sugary goop is apparently nearly impossible to get out of your sinuses, even when you try snorting water, blowing your nose, and plunging a paper towel-wrapped finger deeply towards your brain. The reason whipped cream made it into my nose is because when a teenager shoves a pie in your face, they tend to glide the pie’s base upward toward your forehead after the initial impact. The reason I was pied in the face was because instead of declining the offer to volunteer at an event at the high school where I teach, I said, “Let me get back to you,” which is as good as agreeing when people are desperate for volunteers.

I’m not upset that I volunteered to participate in the “Pie a Teacher” booth at a fundraiser for homeless local teenagers, or I wouldn’t be, if I had volunteered, though I technically didn’t volunteer, but I should have volunteered anyway, so I’m not upset about not volunteering while involuntarily volunteering.

I walked with the two other teachers who [legitimately] volunteered [because they aren’t jerks like me] to the football field, where the fundraiser was being held. It would cost a patron two dollars to get to smash a pie into one of our faces, so we expected to each get quite a few pies at that price.  We all speculated about which teacher would get the most pies. To paraphrase our dialogue:

“I’ll get the most,” said the mustachioed history teacher, “I give a ton of homework. They hate me. And they love you guys.”
“I don’t know if that’s an advantage,” I, the barely bearded English teacher, offered.
“Yeah,” said the mightily bearded science teacher, “kids know us, and will want to pie us. Plus, my beard.”
“It’s a good target,” said the history teacher.
“It’ll take forever to wash out,” said the viking.

Our conjectures continued as did the growth of our fears. I’ll admit, some cynical thoughts stirred as we greedily wanted to protect our pants and various facial hairdos from pie onslaught. Maybe they’ll run out of pies early. Maybe no one will show up (which is an especially selfish thing to think). Why don’t they just give the pies to the homeless and not waste them? To answer that last question: the pies were not so much “pies” as they were “whipped cream sprayed on a paper plate.” Though, homeless teens could be into that, ya never know.

My history-teaching friend was the first to get pied, and was the most frequently pied. And the first student to slam a pie into his face really slammed a pie into his face. Upon impact, excess cream detached itself from the plate and careened through the air before landing several feet away from my poor friend’s now-sticky self. If I get hit in the face like that, my nose will break! was my first thought. And this is a fear of mine, you see, my nose is well-endowed–a breakable target with lots of protruding surface area.

I pour my energy and time into teaching kids about the importance of reading and writing, and try to make it fun for them even though they’re, for some reason, resistant to my efforts to get them through high school, and this is how I am to be repaid? With an hour and a half of whipped cream-based humiliation? Cynical thoughts; white people problems.

Of course, getting pied wasn’t actually that bad. The first pie was gently rubbed across my face, and because Springfield, Missouri decided it was going to be seventy degrees on November 1st all of a sudden, the cool whipped topping felt kind of nice. We were given old Key Club shirts to wipe away the cream, which began melting as soon as the paper plates were removed from our faces. Cue that terrible smell in my nostrils, even though the insides of my nostrils were also the sources of the stench.

For whatever reason, I expected the whole experience to be so miserable, that what ended up happening was kind of fun. Even when I was taken to the “plastic surgery” booth and was given fake breasts and a fake fetus-filled stomach, which were made of inflated balloons, and I was sure this was breaking some sort of rule about appropriate conduct, the experience wasn’t that awful.

I’m so proud of my school’s students for putting on such a fun event for such a worthwhile cause. And really I’m glad I played ball; that I participated in the silly events. Being a young teacher who is young-looking, and being a comedian outside of school, I am often concerned that my students wont take me seriously as someone with semi-mastery over lit and writing. And I didn’t realize this until after the fact today, but engaging in the humiliating fundraiser acts was probably humanizing and respectable, and not nearly as embarrassing as taking myself too seriously would have been.

I taught the pro-thinking classic, Inherit The Wind, just a few weeks ago to my sophomores, and I can’t help but recall one of Henry Drummond’s great lines: “…when you lose your power to laugh, you lose your power to think straight.” And if I take myself too seriously, no one else will.


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