Thursday, March 15, 2012

Character Building

I think every staff has some like Elva.  Elva is a teaching assistant at my building who I believe could die at any given second, but probably will wind up living forever.  To my knowledge, all of her internal organs have been removed.  She hasn't rolled a sick day to the next year ever.  Something is always wrong.  She needs knee surgery (I'm fairly certain she has a doctors note that says she can't stand or sit during the day).  Her mom died.  Her son died.  She's got a cough.  She got divorced.  She got re-married and her step son stole her dead mom's jewelry.  The odd, and yet somewhat awesome thing about Elva is that everyone laughs at her regularly occurring calamities because it's always her who is having them.  Her woes are good building climate!   If she were in the teacher's lounge explaining that her dog had to be put to sleep because he had cancer, you'd find four people just outside the door, beat red in the face, with tears running down their face.  There's only so much sympathy that a given person can milk out of a staff before they stop paying attention.

A few years back I brought in several large bags of apples and a couple jars of peanut butter (jars never feels right when describing peanut butter containers to me... but I digress).  Elva, of course, nearly cut her finger off with the apple slicer tool.  She spent several hour (not working...) in the nurses office bleeding before finally leaving to go get a stitch.  That was the last time I brought in apples.

Twice she's nearly choked to death (nearly...) on a red/white peppermints.  There is always lots of frightened hacking that occurs before she projects the candy across the hall in front of disgusted students (and staff).  It is a safe bet that if the temperature is over 80 degrees outside and she is asked to do anything outside she'll wind up in the nurses office with a cold wash clothes on her.  Most of all, she's ALWAYS sick.  Every day she actually makes it to work (three minutes late daily) she acts as if she's Rocky heading out for the 15th round with Drago.  Her face is filled with pain and anguish, she limps, and she stinks like a fine mixture of Dollar Store perfume and Marlboro Lights.

Elva isn't very good at her job, but she's kind of like the Richard character on Lost- she's been around basically forever without aging.  No one even knows who the hell hired her.  But Elva is really good at one thing- cleaning the lounge.  She, without asking, cleans the lounge for the entire school... on the mornings there is food in there after the teachers begin their day.  Elva can be seen wiping tables down while inhaling coffee cake and jamming chocolate covered anythings into her pockets.  You're probably imaging an obese woman but the cigarettes and shame must be helping keep the pounds off.

I'm being a little sarcastic, and certainly a touch cruel, but it doesn't play out that way at school.  Like everyone else on staff, we support Elva- perhaps just with a little grin or eye roll whenever she comes in looking for aspirin or out of breath because she overhead a student say 'damn.'  I love having her at my school.  I don't love that she's not great at her job, but I love that she's a character.  The great characters around a building are one of the best things about sharing a work space with a large number of people.

I would love to hear about some other school's unique treasures...  :)

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