I was a physical education teacher that particular day at a local high school. Every day I face an exciting new challenge as a substitute teacher. I arrived prepared to face another average day in the life of a friendly neighborhood substitute.
The calendar said it was the beginning of spring, but the weather had been typically middle of the winter. For the first time in weeks the sun was out and it looked like it might just be a warm day.The regular teacher had left me instructions to take classes outside to run around the track. I decided that I would walk around the track because it was still too chilly to just sit in the stands. So I began the day by calling the roll and then sent the students on their way to the track. I had to keep an eagle eye on the bleachers because some students like to sneak off when there is a substitute, and the bleachers were their only exit.
After four periods of "track walking," I grew rather tired and bored. I started my walk for fifth period when a sophomore black boy walked up beside me and said, "Hey, teacher, you look like you need me to walk with you. So I will!"
"Yeah, that would be great!" I was surprised at his friendliness and welcomed his company. Subs are usually considered one of the "untouchables" by most students. Nobody knows a substitute, so she is basically tested, tormented or ignored.
I didn't know what we would talk about for the entire period though. I made an attempt here and there at the fine art of conversation, but he was too busy making comments to the numerous runners passing us on the track. Mostly, his comments were:
"Hey, Jared, can't you run any faster than that?"
"Yo Don, I don't see you running!" would be a typical reply. Then there would be a little fake fight and the runner would be on his way. Don would "hee haw" and holler for awhile and then redirect his attention to me. I would try again to make another stab at conversation.
"Say, Don, did you know my middle name is Dawn?"
"Yo kidding! Oh man, ain't that something! We got something in common. Man, I can't believe it! Why this is like a story or somethin'!"
"My father's name is Don also," I added.
"Oh, now you've got to be jiving me! This is too much. Man, I've got to sit down and think this one out!" said Don weary with excitement.
I didn't know whether I ought to continue laughing or punch him out. He was carrying this excitement junk too far. I decided to laugh. The alternative was another boring walk around the track by myself, and he was interesting, to say the least. He continued "jiving" me and yelling and joking with the passing runners.
I had to go back to my rollbook periodically to check in students who had come in late. I was surprised that he stayed with me, I thought he would be bored by now.
I asked him if he liked this high school. He said it was OK but he liked his high school in Las Vegas better.
"Are you from Las Vegas?" I asked.
"Sure am. I moved here about six months ago," he answered.
"Well, you're not going to believe this but I grew up in Vegas!"
"Oh, man! You got to be kidding! We have so much in common we just got to be related! I can't believe it! I know we were meant to meet here on this here track today! And now you're gonna tell me you like to play with lizards!" Don blustered.
"I used to like to play with lizards," I added with reservations.
"See? What did I tell you! I knew you'd like lizards. Do I miss lizards? It's sooo hard trying to find a lizard around here in the snow!"
"Yes," I added shaking my head in sorrow. "That has been one of the great disappointments of my adult life here in Utah."
He soothingly consoled me as he said, "Now don't take it so hard, they have more bees here."
"That's true, that's true," I added, shaking my head slowly.
"You know what I miss too?" he asked.
"I miss those hot tans I used to get laying in that big ol' Las Vegas sun," he said as he rubbed his black skin. I couldn't stand it any longer, I burst out laughing so hard I couldn't even walk.
"No kidding," he said straight-faced, "look how pale and sickly I look." He couldn't hold it, his rich chocolate cheeks spread into a big grin.
We went on about Vegas for awhile as we circled the track a couple more times. It was about time to go in as we came up to another P.E. teacher.
"Hey, Miss Smith," he warbled with excitement to the other teacher. "You ain't gonna beeelieve this! The sub here and I have sooo much in common. We're both from Las Vegas and we're both named Don and we both love lizards. We're so alike we must be brother and sister!" The other teacher smiled politely as Don and I continued up the stairs on the bleachers.
"But Don," I added without thinking and holding up my arm, "My arm is fish-belly white with age spots and look at your arm. How can we be brother and sister?"
He looked at me with momentary confusion. I immediately wished I hadn't said it. I felt like a white supremacist.
It only took him back for a second or two, and then he grinned a big grin and said, "That's cause you haven't been in that good ol' Las Vegas sun for a long time. Man, just look at how burnt I am!"
"I guess you're right, Don, we really must be brother and sister."