As Gene, the night shift worker at the Comfort Inn, checks me in, I ask about discounts.
“AAA?” he asks.
“Well, you certainly don’t qualify for a senior’s discount,” he chuckles.
“Right,” I reply. “But I am a teacher.” I lie…a little. I mean even though I am not a teacher in the traditional sense anymore, I am still a teacher. Besides, I figure for all my years of service, a piddley $8 discount was nothing.
“Well, great. Then we’ll apply the government worker discount for you.”
“Thanks.” I smile nervously, afraid I’ll be struck down for lying. I am hoping he doesn’t ask for ID or a paycheck stub to prove myself. However, just in case of these moments I still have my staff badge from two years ago when my hair was much shorter. I figured I would say that due to budget cuts we haven’t gotten new cards in a while.
“What do you teach?”
My pat answer is always…or was always, “Everything! To first graders.”
“Oh,” he says. “I remember my first grade teacher, Ms. Sullivan.” He lets out a small sigh through a small smile.
I nod and pack up my laptop from the lobby area where I had been working.
“Oh yes, kids usually remember their first grade teachers, it seems.” I zip my bag and push in the chair.
“Look! Look!” He exclaims with exuberance. It startles me as I glance around the lobby. It is now 11 pm and I am bleary eyed from 12 hours of driving and covering 520 miles from Tampa, Florida to Atlanta, Georgia.
He begins narrating my every move in Dick-and-Jane style commentary.
“See Sara. See Sara walk. She is going. She is going up. Up. Up. UP!”
I turn back toward him not knowing if I should laugh or clutch my belongings and make a mad dash to the elevator. I do a hybrid, giving him a wave and a nod and reach quickly for the button.
“Ms. Sullivan taught us to read using Dick and Jane books,” he calls after me proudly.
I smile and nod again. “Yes. Those are good books for early readers.”
“Sara is going to bed. Go Sara, go. Good night, Sara.”
“Good night, Gene. ”
The elevator door closes and I go up. Up, up to bed.