Tuesday, December 18, 2018


Over the weekend I was walking along my neighborhood sidewalks. As I turned a corner, a man fell in behind me, keeping pace with me. I didn't think much of it at first, but then I took note of the sound, thup-thup-thup. I looked to see he was wearing flip-flops, or thongs for my Aussie readers. It was a cool, wet day, not flip-flop weather, but whatever, it was none of my business, that is, except for the thup-thup-thup, which was getting under my skin after just a block.

I crossed the street to escape the sound, but the man crossed behind me. I sped up, putting space between myself and the aggravating sound. I felt a growing peace as the thup-thup-thup receded behind me, only to have the sound catch up when I was forced to wait at the next crosswalk. I was looking forward to a moment's reprieve as he waited with me, but as luck would have it, the light turned to "walk" before he'd come to a complete stop. Thup-thup-thup.

I told myself to calm down, to just ignore it, to try to focus on other things. After all, this was nothing, an every day sound even, not worthy of notice, let alone a matter over which to grind my teeth. A part of me wanted to scream, to lash out; it even crossed my mind to take it out on this poor guy who was probably enjoying the thup-thup-thup of his flip-flops, a reminder of a recent holiday in the sun. But try as I might, it was in my head, taking up residence there like a pebble in a shoe. Finally, I feigned interest in a shop window, standing there until I could no longer hear the sound of those damned flip-flops. Then I waited a little longer, just to make sure, before tacking along a divergent path by way of totally eliminating all possibility of catching up with him should he be attracted by a shop window or stopped by a pedestrian signal.

As I continued along my way, calmly now, I chided myself. What a silly thing, I thought, to be aggravated. This is a city; a place full of sounds. Why did I allow this one to bother me? I began to think of the children I teach, about how some of them become overwhelmed by just this sort of "silly" thing. I thought about the girl who covers his ears when we play recorded music. I recalled the boy who cried whenever we sang the birthday song. I sympathized with the kids who lash out at their classmates, verbally and physically, when spaces get crowded or rowdy or noisy. I understood those children who shout, "Stop!" at another child when there doesn't appear to be anything that needs to stop. I remembered those times when a child's face wore an expression of pain over what seemed like nothing to me.

I'm an adult person, not typically prone to these sorts of aggravations, yet a mere thup-thup-thup threw me completely off my game for a time, causing what others would consider inappropriately strong emotions, so strong in fact that I had taken measures to remove myself. Imagine being a child, less mature and experienced. Imagine being unable to pinpoint the cause of these strong, prickly feelings, not having the option to remove yourself, or the experience to do so, nor the self-control to not lash out. Imagine feeling that way much or most of the time when out in our cacophonous world. There is nothing "silly" or "mere" or "inappropriate" about these feelings, even if they seem that way to those of us who are not feeling them.

I've just published a book! If you are interested in ordering Teacher Tom's First Book, click here. Thank you!

I put a lot of time and effort into this blog. If you'd like to support me please consider a small contribution to the cause. Thank you!
Bookmark and Share

No comments: