The Public Eye

printed 12/03/2021

The state’s superintendent of schools said it: “...where they are at.” Not to be critical, but did someone make him a preposition he couldn’t refuse?

Worse, he said this at a state school board meeting during a discussion of covid-19 mask mandates. All I can say is that my long deceased fourth-grade teacher is on spin cycle.

Most people probably don’t remember the rule, but you’re not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition, because ... well ... that’s what my fourth grade teacher said and she was ... memorable.

Why she continues to occupy space in my memory’s backup folder is a story that drew some adult chuckling and even guffaws around the dinner tables in my hometown. It also taught me a lesson about humor.

The story was that Mrs. Fourth Grade Teacher was, in real life as opposed to the classroom, a pretty funny individual, and that one day she decided to play a joke on her husband when he came home from work.

The way my mother told my father on that particular evening, Mrs. Fourth Grade Teacher stripped down to nothing, put on a big floppy straw beach hat, and posed that way on the staircase as he came to the door.

When he opened it and walked into the room, she feigned a look of disappointment and said, “Oh, it’s you.”

I didn’t get it. But my father did, because he erupted in such great laughter that he slammed his hand down on the table for emphasis. In the course of doing that, his hand caught the end of his fork, which just happened to be carrying a full payload of peas.

Up, up they went like slow-motion buckshot, tiny green orbs of the Jolly Green Giant’s finest launched into space until they paused at their apogees and returned to the table like green hail.

It was a pop-up pea-storm and the funniest thing I had ever seen, and far more amusing to me than a naked fourth-grade teacher.

Incidentally, my father, who routinely lied to me for his own amusement, once told me peas came from green rabbits, but I didn’t get that at the time either.

Anyway, at that stage in life, you want to believe that many of the adults you encounter were born fully clothed, kind of like a pre-fab house, and entered the world wearing a wool suit or some other seasonally appropriate attire.

You want to think that because it’s less disturbing than the alternative.

“Pssst. Mrs. Fourth Grade Teacher was naked!”

“Ewwwwwwwwww.”

I couldn’t look my teacher in the eye in class the next day, as she explained that we shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition.

“So, Master Dobson, why shouldn’t you ask, ‘Where are you at?’”

“Because you might be naked?”

That was a serious question, but it did teach me a thing or two about timing, which in that instance wasn’t good.

I also learned there are various levels of humor for various types of audiences, and being able to identify with the subject is the most important thing.

For instance, I could not then and do not now think naked fourth grade teachers are a laugh riot. Amusing? Yes, but as compared to flying peas? Now, that’ll make you wet your pants. But just the one time, I swear it.

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