Monday, January 20, 2014

Code Red

The following events are true and unaltered. 

My grade ten English teacher, Mrs. O, was a cross between Professor Umbridge and the Trunchbull. By that I mean, she was self-righteous, cruel, and enormous.* Her class was so tortuous that each seventy-five minute period felt like a life sentence, so much so that by the hour mark I was usually contemplating the humanity of capital punishment. I tell you all of this so that you understand the complete jubilation the class felt when she told us that there would be a code red drill during this period the next day. God had smiled on us: we had been given a fleeting respite from Mrs. O's tyranny and we intended to savour it. 

My artistic rendering of Mrs. O

A code red occurs when a dangerous person causes a threat to the school, like a shooter or a bank robber on the loose. (The latter actually happened the following year and we had a REAL code red). Much like the mandated procedure in case of nuclear holocaust, students and teachers are meant to take to the ground for safety: hide in a corner, turn off the lights, lock the door. At least, that is what you are meant to do. Mrs. O had an entirely different plan. 

Since our classroom was on the first floor, she pronounced it "utterly ridiculous" for us to just crowd in a corner. "The shooter," she said, "could look in through an exterior window and kill us all." At this pronouncement, we all sat up in our chairs; Mrs. O had never said anything this morbidly exciting before. Now that she had the class' full attention, she launched into her unique code red strategy: two-thirds of the desks would be pushed against the exterior wall. We would then climb under them and tip the remaining third forward to create a shield. The class was puzzled for two reasons: 1. Was Mrs. O, the world's dullest and most unpleasant woman, actually asking us to build a FORT?!? 2. Given that Mrs. O was relatively immobile due to her rotund figure, how was she going to crawl under a desk? This confusion only added to our anticipation of tomorrow's events.

The next day, the minutes of second period ticked by slowly as we all anxiously awaited the announcement of the code red. Then, just as Mrs. O was lecturing us on the dangers of earbuds (not a joke), the PA blared, "THIS IS A CODE RED! THIS IS A CODE RED!" 
"OK!" said Mrs. O as she (figuratively) leapt into action. "Does everyone understand our plan?"
"Yes!" we all chorused with excitement.
"So you remember what I said yesterday?" 
"YES!" we said again, now at the edge of our seats.
But just as we were about to begin constructing our desk fortress, Mrs. O said, "Alright, well we all know the plan, so let's keep working." And she casually picked up Lord of the Flies, seemingly oblivious to the looks of desperate disappointment on our faces. Just like that, the dream had died. No fort. No respite. Just Mrs. O's monotone narration, punctuated with insinuations of how she wished we would all get marooned on a deserted island.

I then heard footsteps in the hallway and my heart leapt. I had forgotten that the administration walked the halls during code reds. Mrs. O was about to be busted! 

The principal walked by our classroom and did a double take. I'm sure having toured an entire school of dark, seemingly empty classrooms, seeing our well-lit and populated room must have been exceptionally surprising. He opened the door and the following painfully awkward dialogue took place:
"Mrs. O, we're doing the code red drill now." 
"Yes, it's alright, they all know the plan." The principal obviously had no idea what she was talking about and became even more confused.
"Um...yes...well, in any event, we need everyone to practice the drill. 
"Oh, yes, of course!"
"Good." And he left.

We all looked at Mrs. O expectantly. She stood up slowly ("This is it!" I thought), waddled to the light switch and turned it off. Surely she was just seconds away from giving us the go ahead! But instead of directing the class to build the bulletproof sanctuary she had envisioned, she plunked herself back on her chair and continued reading. 

What. The. Fuck. 

The class was livid. We had somehow been cheated AGAIN. Not only that, but the lady who had so often pontificated on our generation's indifference to authority was now blatantly defying the principal. By reading. In the DARK. None of it made any sense.

Moments later, the principal strolled by again and entered the room impatiently. 
"Mrs. O, we are under code red conditions!"
"Yes, well, ... the lights are off."
"The students need to be practicing the drill!"
"Yes, I see."
"So they need to be out of their desks, sitting on the floor."
"Yes, of course." 
"And the door should be locked."
"I understand." 
"Alright." And he left. 

There was no getting out of it this time and Mrs. O knew it. "Ok everyone, let's -" But then she was interrupted by the PA: "The code red drill is now over. Teachers, please resume your classes." 

God dammit.  

* I hate to make comments about people's size, but in this instance it is necessary for the story. 


Rachael said...

Not to be shameless in my admiration, but this is straight out of a Gordon Korman story. So much giggling.

Dani said...