“Wait, where’d you come from? I just saw you leave.”
I’m a time traveler. No, it’s true. Just ask some of my students.
It was a different time (see what I did there?). *ahem* Again, it was a different time—last week, in fact—when my identity as a time traveler was exposed to a few of my middle school students. I think one of their brains broke.
So, at the middle school where I work, I assist diabetic students with carb counting and verifying their insulin dosages. It’s a pretty simple task. The kids are pretty on the ball with it all. Some of them don’t require my help, others do—it’s a parental choice thing. Regardless, I spend enough time waiting around that each of the entire grade arrives before I leave the lunch room. When I refer to the entire grade, I specifically mean the entirety of each grade. See 6th Grade has first lunch, 7th Grade has second, and 8th Grade has third.
One of the neat things about this job is that I get to spend time with my students in a non-classroom setting. They are different in the lunch room. For example, over the past three years, as I helped one student with her diabetic numbers and preparations, her two friends would sit with her and the three of them would chat. It didn’t take long before I was part of their group. By the end of the third year, I found out that one of them had looked to me as her father figure because she had none. It was difficult to see them move on to high school. I felt like I had lost three daughters that were never mine. Good kids those three.
My point is that as a teacher you get to form interesting relationships with the students. Because I teach by playful teasing and tough-love sort of scenarios, the kids that remain willing to talk with me are usually the most interesting of the lot. Take, for example, the three 7th Graders that this story involves.
For the sake of this story, I will refer to them as Chuck, Velma, and Daphne (I know what I wrote). Chuck, Velma, and Daphne sit together at the end of a lunchroom table that is located near a main entrance of the lunchroom. It is the closest table to the door and they are on the end closest to the entrance. This is important because this is the exact entryway that I use to egress the enclosure. This has resulted in me stopping by and talking with them for a minute or two each day.
I do this because Chuck, Velma, and Daphne were all in the same 6th Grade math class that I helped out in last year. Naturally, when I walked past them on the first day of school and saw them, I said, “Hello,” and asked how they were. With each passing day, and each passing of me, either they will stop me and fill me in on their academics, or I will stop and ask them. Their good kids and pleasant to chat with—until time travel day. That’s when things changed.
Do I recall how the topic came up? No. But, it did: Time travel.
One thing that I am known for is my state of dress: Always professional. Button-up shirt, cuffs rolled only twice, top button unbuttoned. Dress slacks. Nice laced, leather shoes. A classy belt with possibly a fun buckle (still professional, nothing crazy). And usually a vest, or suspenders. I have come to really appreciate the vest as it allows me to carry all sorts of work-related bits without them clinking and jingling in my trouser pockets. Also, it sets a visual tone with the children that sets the stage before I even have to say a word. Those that know me, know that I love to make learning fun, but, if necessary, I can be the strictest teacher you will ever meet.
Some of the things I carry in one of my vest pockets are small toys. Miniature minions, tiny Jawas, a Micro Machine Cobra HISS tank or Batmobile… Those sorts of things. I use them to teach. Because most of what I do is a one-on-one learning situation, I need to grab the student’s attention quickly. And, if you pull out of your pocket the Millennium Falcon as a visual example of ‘the plane descending’ from the math problem they were stuck on seconds ago, suddenly they are fully engaged in the lesson. Also, they now know how cool a teacher you are. Everybody wins.
Back to Chuck, Velma, and Daphne.
Chuck, Velma, and Daphne were at their usual seats last week when I stopped and asked how their day was going. Somehow the conversation landed on time travel and I said something like, “That’s why I always carry a time machine with me.”
Chuck was incredulous. He figured I must be joking, because, well, time travel can’t be real. Right? Wrong.
“Wait, what? Really? You carry a time machine with you?” Was Chuck’s confused and doubting query.
“Sure.” And with that, I pulled from my vest pocket a miniature Delorian car from Back to the Future III. This had the group laughing. I then followed with, “However, it is difficult to cram myself into it. I usually end up with a cramp in my right calf.” Then I turned and walked away, the trio in hysterics.
Accidental trap set. Now, I needed to figure out how to use it. Idea!
I discussed the situation of the day with my wife, as well as my new plan. Her response, “This is why the kids love you.”
The next day: I began my diabetic lunchroom activities as usual. Once completed, I put the supplies away and headed for my regular exit. As I approached that group of three I quickly noticed that Chuck was absent. Shoot, this would have broke his brain. Oh well… “Hello.” And Velma, Daphne, and I chatted for a minute or two about how they were doing, where Chuck was, then I said goodbye and walked out the door.
The path I normally take to get to my next classroom leads me out of sight of where Chuck, Velma, and Daphne sit. So, instead of turning left, I turned right. This new path allowed me to reach a set of doors that many students don’t really notice because they don’t use them regularly—if at all. These same doors, however, lead a person back into the lunchroom, near the serving area. Near where I sit and am normally seen to be walking.
In preparation for the joke, after I put my supplies away, I propped open one of these not-so-secret secret doors. This way, I could walk right into a location that would sort of hide my entrance, and still let me appear ‘out of nowhere’—so to speak. It worked like a charm. The timing couldn’t have been better. See, the first time I was headed out of the room, Daphne had her back to me. Velma had her head down, eating her soup. Upon my second appearance, they were doing the exact same things as before. I was so into my character for this joke—by this point—that if I didn’t know any better, I would have sworn that I had actually traveled back in time. Velma even looked up from her soup at the same time she had upon my first approach. Her confusion was instantly plastered across her face.
Velma looked about trying to understand what was happening. Once I reached the table, she voiced her perplexion, “I just saw you leave. Where did you come from?” Now, Daphne was looking at me with almost as much alarm.
“What do you mean?” I asked, with concern in my voice and a serious look on my face.
“You just left. I saw you. How did you get here?” Velma is smart. This, however, had her mind spinning.
“Wait. You just saw me come through here?”
“Crud. One second.” I then pulled out my phone which is smaller than a normal phone—which only adds to the ‘mystery’ that is Mr. Bagnall—and proceeded to make a call. While waiting for someone to answer, I cautioned, “This has only happened twice before. Listen, I’m going to try and fix this. If I do, I won’t come through here again. If I don’t fix it, and I do come through, stop me. Tell me to just wait. Do you understand me?” All delivered with absolute stern, seriousness.
“Sure.” “Yes, of course.” Responded the now clearly concerned Velma and Daphne.
I moved out of the room with haste. As I did, I could be heard saying, into my phone, “Yeah. We got a problem. It’s happened again…”
Just so you know… I fixed it. A third ‘me’ did not come back through the lunchroom.
In the days since, questions regarding my time travel abilities, and exploits, have become regular. Fortunately, due to time travel being complicated, I can’t ever give them a straightforward answer—and I’m really good at those. For example, on Friday, I was next Friday’s Mr. Bagnall because I needed the hours since the next Friday (this coming Friday) there would be no school. The students get confused but still somehow follow what I’m saying. It’s fun.
Just so you know, this isn’t over. No. Not by a long shot. In a few weeks, I plan on having a dimensional crisis. With the aid of a coworker, I will reenter the lunchroom, via the same secret-not-so-secret hatchway, dressed with a vest and special-looking wristwatch (I don’t wear wristwatches). I’ll let you know how it goes.