Orange You Glad You Don't Teach?
Looking back, I probably could have gotten a scholarship to several good schools, but the ones I'd really wanted didn't give many free rides. No major college wanted an 85 m.p.h. fastball from a guy without a nasty curve, but I figured I could attend a local junior college and trade baseball for a couple years of undergrad study. That worked great for one season, but a torn rotator cuff ended all that. I was just a student in a sling. I still had my scholarship, though, and a nice young lady who took notes for me until I healed up.
I always wanted to write, but wasn't sure I wanted to be a writer. Either way, one of the reasons to take the junior college route is to get some early required courses out of the way. That is how I found my way into English Literature 101 studying A Clockwork Orange. Well, perhaps everyone else was studying, but this would be about my fourth or fifth read. It started when my parents put it in the "locked" case around about junior high. My parents were kind of twisted like that. It was like my dad, who when I really needed to know something, would only speak French... or Russian.
Sitting in this class was flat out boring. I was doing my best not to fall asleep, because it's a poor reason to be booted out of a lecture. I'd discovered better ways in high school. However, that high school was also all-academic, and we'd covered the book twice, with insight from professors with Ph.Ds. The best way for me to stay awake was just listen and critique his discourse in my head. It was all him, all the time, and there are people who are better off not teaching. Once again though, looking back, I should have taken a nap. Up until then, it was just minor exclusions, or small translation errors, but when he stated the author had created his own language out of whole cloth, it happened. My mouth opened before my brain could stop it.
"What?!" I sputtered.
"Comment, Mr. Vaughn?"
"Well," I was kind of stuck at this point. "Burgess didn't just make all of that up."
"You must be very high today, yes?" It was a valid question at the time, but it still pissed me off.
"Does it matter?" I responded, "Either way you're still wrong!"
"Oh... and how is that, sir? Precisely what am I wrong about?"
"That language is English with mostly bastardized Russian mixed in. Add in a little Cockney, baby talk, old bible stuff, and there you have it! A dash of German perhaps?" I may have smirked. "They even gave it a name."
"Fiction is named all the time!" He retorted, "I assure you, the words not in English are simply the invention of the writer, regardless of what you may have heard."
"Then name one." I knew this was a gambit, as Burgess had actually dreamt up a couple. But at that point I was more or less invested, and there wasn't any option that would end well.
"Horrorshow, Mr. Vaughn." I will never forget that smug look of a cat that thinks it has a mouse. "Horrorshow."
"Xorošo," I replied with a reasonable accent thanks to my old man, "It means 'good' in Russian."
The mouse escaped. Or snapped the trap on the nose the cat stuck in it. Then I grabbed my backpack and exiting by the closest means possible. I recall muttering rude comments on the way out, but I knew what was going to come of this incident. I'd be out of a schollie by spring semester. Even after trudging down to the English Department and making profuse apologies, it didn't look like they were impressed in the least. However, no one said a word as I finished fall finals. Spring semester started in the middle of winter as most do, but ballplayers tend to find the facilities as soon as they open. Even not able to play, technically I was still on the team, and was surprised to see a note sticking out of my locker.
"You been traded!" Our hitting coached laughed.
"What the hell?" I was reading the note, but said with a grin, "You don't trade your star player!"
Then we both laughed, we shook hands, and I left that sock smelling locker room for the last time. Then, with a sigh, I trudged back to the English Department. By some machination, my athletic scholarship was now academic, and instead of baseball, teaching would be my new sport. Apparently, some faculty had taken a new position, and no one was available. Or, they needed a fill in for a class and would get me free. Either way, I was now a TA, and as ironic as it would have been, I did not cover A Clockwork Orange. I did earn even a greater respect for teachers, though. Once I got over the initial panic, I enjoyed it, but could see how much you want to educate people to really do it. I know I've been blessed to have had many.