Oui, Oui

Ecouter et repeter!

Although I grew up in the Chicagoland area, my parents both hail from Canada, our Great White Neighbor to the North. This explains my love of hockey, a trait that seems to have been passed down to me genetically along with a tendency to wear flannel shirts, funny hats, and a love of beer so profound that it causes a severe speech impediment, which other people call “speaking French”.

Seriously. One time a bartender in Montreal told me, “Your French is much better when you’re drunk.”

“That’s nothing,” I said. “Bring me another drink and I’ll run for Prime Minister.”

“That would be an improvement,” she replied. “This one’s on the house.”

Of course I had to learn French somewhere. Only the Welsh have a language that’s 100% alcohol-based. Don’t believe me? Here is the Welsh translation for a common Welsh saying, “Please place a trout in my special place”: “Rhowch brithyll yn fy lle arbennig.” I’m not joking, that’s an actual Welsh sentence. Welsh is less a language than it is a never ending bad Scrabble hand. But French is at least partially based on rules and common sense, so it had to be learned. I learned French after having taken it in school for 12 years.

Frankly, the word “learned” isn’t terribly descriptive of the process by which French words became lodged in my brain. The word “learn” implies a certain level of effort, of which I gave very little. I seemed to have learned French in spite of myself, possibly by osmosis. From first grade through junior high, I took French lessons along with classmates from my mom, who volunteered her services to the local school district. Whether she did this because of a dedication to learning or because she was a masochist is open to debate, because I was anything but a model student during French class. You think I run off at the mouth now? You should have seen me before I learned a little self-control:

Mom: Ok, class, what is the French word for “lobster”?

Me: (fifteen minute monologue about lobsters, seafood, Red Lobster, fake nautical-themed restaurant decorations, and how my female classmates seemed to have grown boobs over the summer)

Class: (laughter)

Mom: Greg, go to the office.

Me: You can’t send me to the office! You’re my mom!

Mom: Fine. Go home and go to your room.

The French word for lobster, by the way, is “homard”, or “langouste” if you’re talking about a spiny lobster. This represents 60% of what I can recall of the French language without the help of beer, due largely in part to the ridiculous behavior I engaged in during French class. (I also know how to say, “Will you sleep with me tonight?”, but that has less to do with French lessons, and more to do with a certain God-awful song released in the 70’s.)

And of course I know enough French to get my face slapped.

And of course I know enough French to get my face slapped.

My behavior was no better when I took French in high school. My mom could not teach French in high school because they already had a foreign language program, and also because they tended to be sticklers about technicalities like making sure the teachers were licensed and qualified.

I don’t want to imply that my mother was anything but a wonderful teacher (which she really was), but she was apparently allowed access to school-children without a background check or any type of qualifications whatsoever.

Principal: And how may I help you today, ma’am?

My Mom: I would like access to your school children even though you are not familiar with my background and I have no qualifications whatsoever.

Principal: Ok.

But in my high school, that shit didn’t fly. They already had a French teacher, Ms. Daley, and I learned her weakness on the very first day of class.

Ms. Daley: Hey, your mom teaches French in grade school and junior high, doesn’t she?

Me: Yes.

Ms. Daley: Haha, I better be nice to you or your mom will try taking my job! Haha.

Me: Yeah, she’s talked about doing that.

Ms. Daley: She… She has?!?

Me: Oh yeah, she talks about it all the time. Hey, can I leave class early so I can… I don’t know… Not be here?

Ms. Daley: Sure! Yes, whatever you want! Be sure to tell your mom I said hi!

That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. Ms. Daley was terrified that my mom was going to take her job, and I did absolutely nothing to disabuse her of that notion because this fear allowed me to get away with all kinds of behavior.

Me: Hey, Ms. Daley! Wouldn’t it be cool if a tornado came by and whipped a piece of sheet metal right through your head?

Ms. Daley: WHAT?!? GO TO THE OFFICE!

Me: Jeez, I was just sayin’. Hey, what’s French for “just sayin'”?

Ms. Daley: Uhhh… “Je dis simplement”

Me: Cool! You just taught me something useful! I can’t wait to tell my mom!

Ms. Daley: …

Me: (big smile)

Ms. Daley: Glad I could help.

Je dis simplement

Je dis simplement

That was an actual exchange the two of us had, in front of the entire class. I had this poor woman as my teacher for four whole years. One time I discovered how to make a “meowing” noise while keeping my mouth completely still. I tried it out in class one day and watched with no small amount of amusement as it drove my teacher mad.

“Is… Is that a cat?” she’d ask the class. Of course the class heard it too, and soon the whole class was looking out the window, in the hallway, and under desks for the source of the cat. “Seriously, did anyone bring a cat to class?”

Finally, sensing something was up, she looked at me and asked me if I knew where the cat was. Before I moved a single muscle to answer, I meowed again. “There it is again!” she said, and continued her frantic search for the phantom cat.

Ooh, Ms. Daley! I know where the cat is!

Ooh, Ms. Daley! I know where the cat is!

After a week of sporadic cat calls, I clued a few classmates into what I had been doing. The next week, I continued to make cat noises, but now everyone in class insisted that they did not hear a cat. This worried Ms. Daley greatly.

Ms. Daley: Seriously, didn’t anyone hear that?

Class: No.

Ms. Daley: Oh, c’mon! How could you have not heard that?

Me: (Meow!)

Ms. Daley: THERE IT IS AGAIN! DID YOU HEAR THAT?

Class: No.

Ms. Daley: I… I’m going to go get a drink of water. Everyone please read chapter three of Suivez La Piste to yourselves.

Me: (MEOW!)

Over the course of four years, my behavior got progressively worse, often including flagrant, out in the open cheating. The cheating was greatly facilitated by the semi-circle desk arrangement, which allowed us to cram five or six desks in close proximity to each other, making it almost impossible to not see other people’s tests. Still, I used the occasion to piss off my increasingly impotent teacher.

Steve: (whispering) What did you put for number 3?

Me: (normal voice) Je t’aime.

Steve: (whispering) What?

Me: (sigh) (loudly) J-E SPACE T APOSTROPHE A-I-M-E, Je T’aime! Jesus!

Ms. Daley: Greg, I hope you’re telling Steve you love him, because otherwise you’re cheating.

Me: I do love him. I want to have his babies.

Ms. Daley: Ok. As long as you’re not cheating.

Me: Well, we’re also cheating on this test.

Ms. Daley: Just… Just take the test. By yourself, ok? No cheating.

Me: Ok, but I’m not making any promises.

This would have been really subtle by my standards.

This would have been really subtle by my standards.

Seriously, I was a little shit. If I wasn’t disrupting class with endless wise-cracks or flagrantly cheating (although I got A’s easily enough since I’d been taking French for eight years), I was digging up dirt on Ms. Daley and referring to it in class.

For instance, Ms. Daley lived in the same neighborhood as my girlfriend, and one night after a party, one of my friends threw open Ms. Daley’s front door and yelled, “Julie, I’m drunk and ready for some lovin’! Get ready, baby!” And then he hauled ass. So next week, I’d drop the phrase “drunk and ready for some lovin'” into play during class to see her reaction, which was to ask to see me after class.

“Greg,” she’d start, using her grown-up serious-face, “I’m going to ask you a serious question, and I promise that if you tell the truth you won’t get in trouble. Were you at my house last Saturday night?”

“Hahaha, no. You know Doug Forchner, right?”

“Yes, he lives across the street from me.”

“Yeah, he told me that he saw some guy open your door, scream that, and then run away.”

This wasn’t exactly a lie, as Doug Forchner did see someone do that: Himself.

Maybe if her No Trespassing sign hadn't been in French, none of this wouldn't have happened.

Maybe if her No Trespassing sign hadn’t been in French, none of this would have happened.

My junior year of high school, I was told about a potentially criminal rendezvous Ms. Daley had had with a senior student of hers that she had sponsored for (get ready for this) French Camp. The student in question refused to answer any questions about what had happened, but a good friend of his was adamant that they had bumped uglies the last night of camp, a story which seemed much more likely when she all of a sudden showed up at his house when he threw a party a couple of months later. She was dressed very casually, sipped on a beer, and stayed glued to his side until he finally locked himself in a bathroom until she left.

“Ok, before class is out, I want to remind everyone that every year I sponsor a student to attend French Camp. If you’re interested in being that student, I have some forms you’ll need to fill out.”

“Ms. Daley,” I called out. “I heard that kids get molested at this camp. Is that true?”

There was utter silence in the room as everyone looked at Ms. Daley, who was frozen in place. Finally, she realized that her silence was implicating her even more than I was, and a quick, “Haha, that’s ridiculous.” was her weak reply.

The last semester of my senior year, I gave up any pretense of behaving. I had a t-shirt made up that read, “French Blows!” that I’d slip into before class; I’d often prepare questions to ask Ms. Daley – In German; and for a class project, a classmate and I made a French Vanilla Rum Cake with so much booze in it that it got confiscated. The remainder of the booze was used to prep for our French Class Dinner, a yearly event for seniors held at a fancy French restaurant. Ms. Daley was the head of After-Care, which was the school’s program for students with substance abuse issues, and so she was not amused when she pulled alongside us in traffic on the way to dinner to see us mixing cocktails as we drove merrily down the road. (She was also not amused when I took snails off the hors-d’oeuvres platter and arranged them as if a race was under way, and very much angry with my friend when he basically threw a salad at me from across the table.)

Finally, the last week of class, I managed to get myself kicked out. This was a result of a concerted effort to see how far I could push my luck. It started when we had an argument in class about, of all things, French accents.

Ms. Daley: Todd, your accent is a little off. You’re pronouncing it with a Canadian accent, not a French accent.

Me: What’s wrong with a Canadian accent?

Ms. Daley: It’s wrong.

Me: (in English accent) Bloody ‘ell, yer accent is bloody wrong, it is! Listen to that Yankee claptrap! C’mon, luv, give it another go!

Ms. Daley: Haha, I get your point. But we’re learning French, so we want to pronounce it the way they do in France.

Me: You mean in a French accent?

Ms. Daley: Yes.

Me: Well, I’ve been to Canada, and I can tell you for a fact that they don’t speak fucking Swahili there.

Ms. Daley: Excuse me?

Me: You can’t say that a Canadian accent is wrong!

Ms. Daley: Yes, I can. I’m the teacher.

Me: Well, sieg heil, mein Führer!

Ms. Daley: What did you just say to me!?

Me: Sorry, I’ll say it en Français: (throws hands up) We surrender!

Why are the streets in France lined with trees? So the Germans can march in the shade! Hahaha, World War II humor - It never gets old!

Why are the streets in France lined with trees? So the Germans can march in the shade! Hahaha, World War II humor – It never gets old!

I told you I was a little shit. Over the course of the next week, I increased the number and quality of my interruptions until she finally snapped. The final straw came when she asked me if I would like to be sent to the office, and I answered “Oui”. She ignored this, but I persisted and asked her in French if I could go to the office. “That was ok, wasn’t it? My accent wasn’t too Canadian for your taste?” Finally, after four years, she’d had enough. The last class before the final, she kicked me out.

The only reason I had continued to take French in high school was because it covered pretty much the same ground I’d covered during the eight years of French I’d already taken. It was an easy grade, and because the final year was considered Advanced Placement, a passing grade meant that I’d get college credit for it as well.

So because I’d gotten good grades for the semester, I didn’t have to worry about the final. I got really, really, really high for it. Sitting at my desk, I could hear people around me laughing at how stoned I was, something I played to by loudly asking if anyone had any chips. The final began, and I just laughed and went up and down the Scan-tron sheet filling in answers in a predictable pattern: A, B, C, D, E, A, B, C, D, E, …

As we were leaving the final, my last as a high school student, Ms. Daley said to everyone, “Good luck in college! Remember, ne pas de drug! Ne pas de sex!”

I laughed and said, “Ne pas de chance!” and began to walk out of French class for the last time.

“Greg,” said Ms. Daley with a smile on her face. “Could I see you for one minute?”

I was so stoned that I thought she’d give me some sort of, “We’ve had some ups and downs, but I’d like you to know that I wish you well” kind of speech. Uh-uh.

“Can you take off those sunglasses when I’m talking to you?” she said.

“Uhhh… No.”

“I understand. I mean, really. I understand why you’re wearing sunglasses indoors, Greg. I am in charge of the After-Care program, you know. And I do not approve of what you’re doing.”

I don’t know why I didn’t expect this lecture. I guess I was really high. “Ok. Is that it?”

“One last thing,” she said as she held up my Scan-tron test, with its neat, diagonally-patterned answers giving away my lack of effort. “Did you know that if I can prove that you didn’t put forth an effort on the final that I can fail you for the whole semester? Have fun taking French in college, Greg. You may leave now.”

Fuck.

Artist's rendition of my reaction.

Artist’s rendition of my reaction.

Of course, college was still on the other side of what promised to be a summer filled with girls, beer, and drugs, so this bad news didn’t keep me down for long. The next day, I showed up at school along with the rest of the school, to clean out my locker. As I was doing this, Jill, a good friend and classmate of mine approached me.

“Hey, I’m going to see what I got on my French final. You want to go with me?”

“Are you fucking kidding me? I already know how I did, and I don’t want to give Daley another opportunity to gloat.”

“Oh, c’mon. It’ll give you one last chance to drive her crazy.”

So I shrugged and went along for the ride. We walked into Ms. Daley’s class to find her sitting at her desk, packing up for the summer.

“Oh, hi, Jill! Are you here for your grades?” She read off Jill’s grades and then turned her attention to me. I had expected her to gloat, maybe, or perhaps show some anger. God knows, I’d earned it. Instead, she calmly said, “Greg, you got an A for the first quarter, a B for the second quarter…” and then she shook her head and laughed. “I don’t know how the hell you managed to do it, but you somehow got a C on the final.”

Jill burst out into laughter as I said, “That’s fucking HILARIOUS!”

“Au revoir, Greg,” said Ms. Daley.

“Auf wiedersehen, Julie,” I answered. We both gave each other a smile, and I walked out of French class for good.

But Ms. Daley and I were not done yet. Thirty minutes later, a friend and I sat at a stop light in my car. I held a joint below window level, and after a quick scan for cops, lifted it to my lips and took a huge, lung-busting hit. It was then that I noticed Ms. Daley in the car next to me, looking right at me. I coughed out an impossibly large cloud of smoke, stomped on the gas, and hung a quick right turn.

“What the fuck?” asked my friend.

“That was Ms. Daley! My fucking French teacher!”

“She’s not your French teacher any more.”

“Hahaha, that’s right!” I said. “C’est ça,” I added, in what was probably a Canadian accent.

18 Responses to “Oui, Oui”

  1. Vesta Vayne says:

    Man, I didn’t learn how to get away with smartassery like that until after high school.

    Love the new look!

    • Greg says:

      Although there were a couple of other classes where my behavior was less than stellar, nothing came even close to French class, which shows you how bad the consequences can be if a teacher fails to control even one student in a class.

  2. Your stories make me wish I had been less of a goodie two shoes in school. We would not have been friends in high school; in fact, you would have terrified me. My husband on the other hand (whom I didn’t meet until LONG after high school),would have been handing you the blunt. If we ever make it to Arizona (I think that’s where you said you live) I think the two of you need to compare notes.

    • Greg says:

      I was one of those people who felt at home hanging around all of the different cliques. The jocks, the stoners, the gearheads, the brainiacs, etc. It helped that unlike a lot of other schools, the different cliques didn’t necessarily hate each other. It was pretty tolerant for a high school.

      There was one girl who I would describe as a “goodie two shoes”, and I didn’t terrify her: I pissed her off royally. She wound up dating a good friend of mine who told me that her hostility towards me was due to the fact that I skated through school easily getting good grades, whereas she had to work really hard at it.

      I thought that it was bullshit that she would hold that against me, but I can understand why she was frustrated. I can’t tell you how many times she’d ask me before a test how long I’d studied, and I’d tell her “I didn’t”, and then I’d wind up getting a better grade than she did.

  3. Vonny says:

    I agree that you were a little shit. But if that teacher put up with all that crap for four years, she was plain stupid. If she did bonk a student at camp…whoa.

    • Greg says:

      If you’re a teacher, you cannot show weakness like that. If you do, everything that happens as a result is your fault. The reality of the situation is that exercising control IS a crucial part of your job, and if you don’t do it, you’re to blame.

      The story about French Camp: Ms. Daley had openly admired the student in question in class, multiple years in a row. We’d hear her talk about him in our class, for crying out loud. It was obvious that, at the very least, she admired him in a way that was bordering on unhealthy.

      Someone from another school in our district was at the same camp, and apparently that person told someone else about what she’d seen, which is how the whole thing came to most everyone’s attention, because the student in question said nothing about it.

      What happened was that Ms. Daley invited the student to her room one night, after all the French Camp festivities were over. They were not quiet, and someone saw him leaving her room later that evening.

      If it wasn’t for her odd appearance at his party some months later, it might have seemed like just your run-of-the-mill rumor, of which there were plenty. But when a teacher shows up at a student’s party where underage drinking is going on, hangs out, and openly lusts after the other person in the rumor… Well, what else can you think about the situation? That’s when the rumor really started to spread.

      • Vonny says:

        The student in question must have been unusually mature for a high school boy if he did not brag.

        That part of the story makes me want to…spit. I don’t know where that reaction comes from, but spit it is.

  4. Groovekitten says:

    It must be a thing about French teachers. My high school French teacher was rumored to have had flings with several of my classmates. The rumors were so prevalent there had to be some ring of truth to them. And her mannerisms around the boys in question pretty much sealed the deal where I was concerned. And she was married, which when butted up against statutory rape doesn’t much matter.

    • Greg says:

      For the life of me, I can’t understand teachers fucking their students. They’re high school kids: They’re all 100% crazy! How is that going to work out? It’s not. And then when it gets discovered, everything goes to hell, all because you couldn’t obey one simple rule: Don’t fuck students.

      Baffling.

  5. LA Juice says:

    I have to say, I’m more than a little disappointed that Mrs. Daley did not speak only french in you french class.

    En Francaise, s’il vous plait…

    and also, in my french class, our teacher was from martinique, and we had a french canadian girl in class, and neither one of them ever used the same inflection or words as the book/cassette. I learned not to cheat off Lisane very early on…native french speakers get pretty territorial and Madame Tru-vax always corrected Lisane’s accent.

    Lisane got her back by getting Madame to promise to allow us to watch movies on Fridays, if they were “in french”, and then bringing in the classics, like: “The Pirate Movie” starring Willy Aaimes (or christopher atikins, I forget which.)

    En franciase, s’il vous plait.

  6. Kenny Bloggins says:

    I just lol-ed several several times. When’s that book coming out?!

  7. PinotNinja says:

    Hilarious! I had a similar experience with my Latin teacher. We started in on her freshman year — calling her only by her first name, ordering take-out food delivered into class every day (instructing the delivery guy where her classroom window was and to knock quietly on the window to signal the food hand-off, which, obviously, would be through the window while she was teaching), hiding radio alarm clocks in the room to go off during class playing the hardcore rap station, and blatantly cheating on every test by calling out the answers from the teacher’s edition of the textbook that we had stolen from her desk.

    Cherrie could never get control over the Latin class again. Our junior year we got to go on a field trip (the entire reason for taking Latin in the 1990s), which was spring break in Italy. Italy with Cherrie! We knew it was going to be a free-for-all, but then Cherrie, so paralyzed by our attack, forgot her passport and did not realize it until she arrived at JFK Airport. JFK is 3 hours away from where we lived. So, she could not board the plane.

    She had to sit by and watch while, despite her pleas to stop, we all boarded the plane to Rome. 15 high school students, none of whom had every been out of the country before, traveling to Europe alone. Despite flying to Rome the next day, Cherrie never found us (we ditched the appointed hotel and tour guide for a sketchy hostel).

    She did not see us again until we all arrived back in Latin class the next week.

    She wept hysterically for the entire class. But, she never told on us and we never told on her.

    I’m pretty sure she’s still in therapy for that.

    • Greg says:

      That is fucking epic. I knew a guy who ditched his class, bought a EuroRail pass and spent the entire class trip getting high in Amsterdam, but a whole class ditching? Awesome.

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