Friday, April 24, 2015

Diamond In The Roughage

On my recent commute to the school where I teach, I hit the directional to make a left-hand turn and noticed in my periphery that my engagement ring looked odd.

It was because the diamond was missing.

You know, I gasp even now, just writing this. But when it actually happened, I was barely flummoxed. In fact, I instantly started troubleshooting: 

 ... Let’s see. I DID slide my left arm into a nylon fishnet arm-sleeve and my ring claws caught the netting. Ergo, the stone will be on the floor... it's wood.  I'll use a flashlight.
And with a plan to recover my diamond firmly fixed, I pulled into the parking lot and marched into school.

But once I shared my plight with co-workers, their eyes went wild with terror. Some welled with tears.  One colleague commended me on my stalwart demeanor and I realized, 'I know! Right?

Fortunately the bell rang for period one so I didn’t have time to panic.

Later that morning, our department had a lunch-time  meeting -- sans food -- but slated to last only ten minutes. It took about an hour, like LensCrafters, and the bell eventually rang for us to teach afternoon classes. I was famished.

When I got to my classroom, a handful of students were loitering at the door and I blew past them to get to my salad. As more students filed in, I shoveled a plastic forkful of salad and chicken into my mouth. Yum.

Another forkful and –

WOW that felt like a plastic particle from my fork or shrapnel from a recent kitchen cleaning. Not swallowing THAT.  

I spat arugula and chicken into the trash.

And because I teach high school, no one noticed I’d spat chewed food into the trash in front of them --  because … I teach high school. These were seniors -- busy chatting and organizing their lives, trying to text without me seeing, mentally erasing me from the room.

I took one last bite not bothering to use a fork, then jumped into our work together. When that class ended, I jumped back into my salad.

As I stabbed at another chicken and greenery bite, I was struck by the sense memory of having bitten into something hard an hour ago. In fact, one molar in need of costly dental work screamed, “That was probably a DIAMOND you moron.”

I raced to the trash to dive for my worfed out food.

In front of my next class ambling in.

Due to being younger freshmen, they took instant notice of their teacher hunched over the trash, rooting about like a homeless ferret -- and became paralyzed, but said nothing. So I continued rooting until I retrieved what might have been the remnants of an autopsy.  One child gasped.

I explained in my most respectable teacher voice, that this was chewed chicken, which I had personally chewed an hour ago, and I NEEDED it.

The kids screamed silently. 

I placed the clot onto a tissue and poked about.



In the midst



This is where I had to recreate the storyline so my students were caught up and I could keep my job. 

Pretending I was the star investigator in my own CSI episode, I explained to the children that, in the early morning, I’d slid my ringed hand through a nylon sleeve and caught a prong on my ring, which I’d felt.

Without realizing this loosened the stone, I jostled my hand about in my morning routine, and the final dislodging happened when I thrust my hand into a Family-Sized Salad Trough, then thrust mini-handfuls into my Travel Dish.

“I think you saw the rest.”

They were awestruck.

I noted what a blessing it was to chew my diamond. “I might have 'thrust' it into the bathroom trash, deep inside my linen closet or the laundry hamper beneath. It might have ended up in our dishwasher, the garbage disposal or an industrial sized carton of cat food.”

The fact that I didn't swallow the diamond when I ate ravenously, they believed to be divine. That the diamond didn't sink to the bottom of my travel dish? That my second forkful contained the diamond then rode on the molar needing a root canal?! 

One freshman, the kind that’s good at math, suggested my diamond had a better chance of ending up in lunar orbit than my mouth.

And, like that -- the miracle of the occasion erased forever the image of an adult they personally knew engaged in public, ebola-trash-diving -- so that, before their very eyes, she could bring forth … a diamond.

It became a lesson in destiny, plotline, metaphor and sense imagery. And thanks to dramatic irony, I later learned the cost of replacing that uninsured stone was the same as my root canal estimate.

It was the best lesson I’d taught all year.

Mostly it was a lesson that dumb luck and grace are often indistinguishable.  So we have to be ready for the signs. Like the one that read, “Our office provides financing for dental work starting at $7000.”

Run, I told them  – don’t walk – from these signs. You never know when a dying molar might have the fate of an engagement diamond resting, quite literally, upon it.