Breaking Mom’s Rule

Palzewism # 27 – My Mom taught me two things when I was a boy:

1 – Never turn down free food

2 – Never argue with crazy people

I broke one of those rules this week.

As part of my duties as a special education teacher at Hamilton High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I am allowed the singular pleasure of bus duty.  This means that I experience all variety of weather available in southeastern Wisconsin every morning from 8:15 until 9:00 am. That is, I used to enjoy this.

Now, I am only allowed to be out there from 8:30 – 9:00 am.  Why?

The Polar Vortex

Let’s go back to January, shall we? Due to extreme Wind chills, Milwaukee Public Schools canceled school for FIVE days in a ROW!  We also lost another day on February 12th due to snow! That was a loss of six days, which equals a loss of 36 hours or 2,160 minutes of educational time taken away from our students.

That kind of crime against education cannot go unpunished, so it was decreed that the school day would be extended TWELVE minutes per day until the end of the school year.

The problem, although the students will remain in the building longer, staff will not be compensated for the additional time.  My daily pay only compensates me for Eight Hours, which means that I arrive TWELVE minutes later in the morning and stay TWELVE minutes later in the afternoon.  Our school also has several teacher assistants and Children Health Assistants. Their Schedule has been adjusted as well, but they are only allowed to work SIX hours a day.

Since Staff now has a later start time, our building had informed the bus companies that the drop off time for students in the morning has been switched from 8:25 am to 8:30 am.

The first 3 days went as well as can be expected, but that changed on Thursday.

At 8:30 am, I adjusted my scarf, hat, gloves, and sunglasses and went outside to embrace the bitter cold.  Although this was no polar vortex, this was not a particularly pleasant day to spend any amount of time outside.  I opened the school door and scanned the parking lot.

Seven buses were lined up along the fence of the baseball diamond.  As I approached, the driver of the second bus waved to me. In order to appear friendly, I waved back and continued to the front of the line.  The waving persisted, now looking more like a beckoning motion. I held up one finger (appropriately) indicating she should wait her turn.


Now, one interesting characteristic of my cerebral palsy is when I am startled, my body spasm respond exponentially to the loudness of the sound.  It has been documented from several of my colleagues concerning the time I jettisoned myself out of an office chair when someone knocked on a doorframe behind me.

So, I spasmed.  Although I was proud of myself for keeping upright at that particular moment in time, I began to get angry.  I composed myself, changed direction and confronted the driver!

“Do you know that you have been LATE every day this week?” she snarled.

“Actually, we are not late.  According to the memo you Company received last week, we are starting five minutes later.  I’m not late, you are early!”

“Why?” she asked.

“I don’t know why you’re early, “ I said with a straight face.  I knew that wasn’t the question she was asking, but I really dislike the imprecise language.

“No, why are you starting late?”

I explained about the school day and the additional TWELVE minutes.

“Why has the time changed?”  Ok, I am receiving information that this person does not keep up on current events, so I explained about the teacher and staff schedule change.

“Why has the schedule changed?” This indicates a deficiency to analyze cause and effect, so I explained about the days off and the make up time.

“Why do you have to make up time?”  This indicates a short term memory loss, but still somewhat engaged in the conversation, so I explained about the polar vortex and our forefather’s poor planning when settling in Milwaukee.

“Ok, but I need to have these kids off my bus by 8:25!”  This indicates two things. One, I am now in an argument and second, my adversary is crazy.  

One indication if you are engaging in an argument with a crazy person is how does that person deal with consequences.  For every action, there is a consequence. Most people know this and accept this.

Let’s use the example of a fire hydrant.  

The majority will not park in front of the hydrant because they know it is a law and there is a ticket or risk of having your vehicle damaged or towed.

Some people will park in front of a hydrant because they are unaware of these consequences.  These people are called “FOOLS”

Lastly, there are the CRAZY ones.  These are the people who know that it is wrong, they know ALL the things that could happen, but they still park there, convinced that those actions would not happen to them.

Obviously, the bus driver was in the last category.  She was unconcerned about anyone else and only in the inconvenience to herself.  

Unfortunately, I did not know what kind of person I was dealing with until I was well into the conversation.  Discovering that your verbal sparring partner is CRAZY is the same as discovering a live bear in your camp! The best thing to do is to stop talking.  Don’t make any sudden moves! Be STILL and DO NOT TURN YOUR BACK! Eventually, they (people and bears) will lose interest and wander away in hopes of finding someone else.

So, I stopped talking, concentrating very intently on the names on my clipboard, making sure there check marks were as perfect as I could make them.  Another tip: after breaking eye contact, never reestablish it for ANY reason.

When she saw I wasn’t engaging anymore, this upset her. As she started to close her door, she yelled, “I’m going to call your Principal!”

Now, I should have left it at that.  I would love to tell you that my better angels prevailed, but apparently, they were gone in search of more caffeine.  In its place, SARCASM arrived. I tried to stop it. I really did. But, my mouth engaged and I shouted back as she closed the door

“Fine!  And I’M going to CALL the POPE!”  This felt wonderful and made several of the staff around me laugh, but it definitely did not diffuse the situation.  The driver accelerated much too quickly and peeled out of the parking lot, almost taking out a small minivan that was dropping off another student.  

I informed the department chairperson of the incident, knowing that the driver might misreport the whole episode and indicate that I was the CRAZY one.  The event was soon forgotten as the activities of the day began to unfold. This was forgotten so completely that it didn’t even make it into the nightly “How was your day?” summary.  The next day the bus driver showed no agitation and life returned to normal.

My Mom was (and is still) correct.  It really does advantage to no one to argue with a crazy person or a fool, because it is near impossible to change their perceptions.  Mark Twain is famously is quoted as saying, “ Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.”

God actually has the same advice as my Mom.  Proverbs are full of examples of “foolish” behavior versus true wisdom.  Even Jesus followed this advice in the Gospel of Mark Chapter 10:

17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

The young man actually believed that he had kept all the commandments and never sinned.  He had somehow convinced himself that his behavior was not sinful and was in accordance with God’s standards.  Of course, Jesus knew that no person can keep the law perfectly. In fact, that was the reason for his earthly mission in the first place.  A person doing “his best” is never going to measure up in God’s eyes! So, Jesus kept quiet and simply “Loved Him”

We cannot keep the commandments perfectly all the time.  That is the whole reason for the cross! None of us have the ability to live a perfect life!  I can’t even live a perfect Day!

Because of this, God instituted a sacrificial system that allowed the children of Israel to transfer their sin onto a “scapegoat”, a literal goat that was released into the wilderness, carrying the sins of the people far away from them.  Animals were also sacrificed, demonstrating the idea of the cost of sin being purchased by blood. When these “rituals” were established, God’s own son became our sacrifice and scapegoat. The sins of the world were placed upon him and his blood removed them from God’s presence forever.

Jesus knew his mission and he was not interested in arguing people into his position.  Instead of trying to prove the consequences of sin were real, he chose to simply undo those consequences.

He didn’t argue with CRAZY people, he chooses to love them instead!

Prayer:  Dear Jesus, help us to be aware of the consequences of our thoughts, words, and deeds.  Help us to imitate you by meeting people where they are and showing them your salvation! In Jesus Name! Amen!

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