First Day of School: Kindergarten -- I grip my mother's hand tightly as we enter the large, open classroom. The smell of paste and crayons is oppressive. My anxiety is running high. Anxiety about change. About learning. About napping in a sitting position. I belch a hot, sour acid that tastes of raspberry red, lemon yellow and orange orange. Mom delivers me to the teacher, drops my hand, turns to leave. At the door, she calls over her shoulder, "Rotsa ruck, kiddo," an inappropriate sentiment in any case but made even more so by the fact that she's just left me in the care of Mrs. Tanaka, a woman of Japanese heritage. I wonder if they make Maalox for Kids?
First Day of School: Grade 1 -- I sit at my desk with a feeling of utter liberation. This is directly attributable to my recent discovery of the book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, a compelling title that's convinced me of the superfluity of gaining any further knowledge and freed me of any obligation to seek same.
First Day of School: Grade 2 -- Clusters of talking, shouting, laughing kids dot the playground, the halls, the classrooms. Because the first day back means reuniting with one's hanging buddies after a summer out of touch. And while I am sincerely happy to see my own crew from last year, I do wish the five of us had more in common than spotty bladder control.
First Day of School: Grade 3 -- Class begins with a stern, rather strident lecture on the importance of applying oneself. Ms. Hardish insists that, through her rigorous lesson plans and our hard work, every one of us will not merely attain but surpass all conventional and mandated standards in reading, writing and math. After about 15 minutes, she stops, bursts out laughing and informs us, "Don't worry -- ha ha ha -- this is public school. I'm just goofing on you."
First Day of School: Grade 4 -- If today's trip to the cafeteria is any indication, lunch promises once again to be an entirely dismal affair: Mysterious dishes of low flavor, indifferently served, poorly presented and consumed amongst the din and bacteria of countless unmannered gluttons.
(Rumor has it that the local archbishop once visited and dined in our cafeteria but flatly refused to give thanks.) Worse, no one wants to eat with me.
First Day of School: Grade 5 -- As her first duty, Mrs. Regent, a forbidding woman whose cruel countenance could only be improved by a monocle, ticks off a long list of verbotens: gum chewing, talking in class, disrupting the class, back talk, not paying attention, throwing things and cheating. Bad news, indeed, since historically these have been my areas of concentration. She promises swift and severe punishment for the disobedient. The classroom presence of an Amnesty International observer tells me I could be in for a long year.
First Day of School: Grade 6 -- Ms. Delmonte practically bounds into the room. Smiling broadly, she introduces herself, then makes a self-deprecating joke. She tells us how much fun we're going to have this year. She goes on to tell us about her passion for teaching and that she hopes we'll all become good friends. God, I hate her.
First Day of School: Grade 7 -- I'm attending a new school, a middle school, this year and for the first time I'm required to change class every period. Wandering the labyrinthine halls, lost and confused, looking for my English class, I'm crestfallen when it occurs to me that, apparently, it's no longer enough for me to feel stupid and inadequate in class -- I now have to feel stupid and inadequate between them, too.
First Day of School: Grade 8 -- To my dismay, in homeroom a transfer student with a quick-wit and excellent comic timing swiftly usurps my long-established position as class clown, knocking me down a peg to the considerably less desirable, far more physically demanding role of class rodeo clown.
First Day of School: Grade 9 -- Meeting Ms. Bosque, the Biology teacher, for the first time, I'm awestruck. She's gorgeous. A goddess. After class, I tell her I want to have her baby; she assigns me a 20-page research paper on human reproduction. Infatuation over.
First Day of School: Grade 10 -- The thought of high school is daunting. So, to ease my apprehension, I partake of a few pre-class tokes of exceptional weed. Now I'm good. All is well until first bell, when the munchies strike and I'm given detention for devouring a double chocolate fudge brownie in class. Which, if Mr. Kelso is to be believed, was actually a chalkboard eraser.
First Day of School: Grade 11 -- This promises to be the most difficult year yet with my class schedule filled with subjects like Science That Builds on the Science You Totally Blew Off Last Year; What's the Point? Math; Spaz Assigning Boring Stories with Footnotes; and Unintelligible Foreign Gibberish III. Listening to each teacher outline the rigorous coursework that will be required, it becomes clear I'm going to have to stop listening.
First Day of School: Grade 12 -- Finally, my last first day of school. I'm overcome by a feeling of fulfillment and excitement. That is, I've nearly fulfilled the minimum requirements to get my diploma and I have an erection. Certainly, one of those should make me proud.
CONTACT BOB WOODIWISS: bwoodiwiss(at)citybeat.com. His column appears here the last issue of each month. His book, Keys to Uncomfortable Living, a collection of humorous and satirical essays, is in bookstores now.