Right at the beginning I want to stress that what I’m about to discuss is not an issue over which I’ve fretted since 1978. I didn’t forget it but I haven’t tossed and turned over it either. It’s just that I recalled it a day ago as I entered a stall in a men’s room, and to recall is not necessarily to obsess.
In high school in San Antonio I took three years of architectural drafting. For the first year there was Mr. Jones – Roland T. Jones – presiding. Mr. Jones bore more than a passing resemblance to Dr. Seuss’ Grinch. He was about 60, tall but a bit stooped, and rumpled. The distance from the bottom of his nose to his upper lip was two inches if it was a millimeter. He was gruff but a good teacher and had a knack for explaining things with real-world references and examples. He wrote on my final exam that in 30 ½ years of teaching it was the first time he’d ever given a 100 on a final. I always wondered about the ½.
Mr. Jones retired, or possibly died – I forget – and Mr. Dan Mendel came in. His appearance was more average than that of his predecessor. Average height, average build, neatly-combed grey hair. If teaching drafting hadn’t worked out he could have conducted a lucrative career in bank robbery since no one would have been able to come up with any distinguishing characteristics when describing him to the police, at least regarding his appearance. If you passed Mr. Mendel on the street you’d take him for a dentist or maybe a Methodist minister.
Don’t get me wrong. I liked Mr. Mendel. In my senior year, in fact, when a local architect called him up in search of someone to help out afternoons in his office, Mr. Mendel recommended me. I was paid two dollars an hour, which was 90 cents below the minimum wage. I think they included the expense of me with typing paper and scotch tape. But I digress.
During that last year Mr. Mendel had surgery of some kind and was out for a couple of months. (I think it was hernia-related but my memory on this point is vague, and anyway it’s not relevant to the story.) His substitute during that entire period was Miss Titsworth. Now, Miss Titsworth knew her stuff and was a qualified instructor, but a 20-something blonde named Miss Titsworth in a class of teenage boys just has to be worth some lunchtime chatter. She never joked about her name or referred to its distinctiveness at all, but the rest of us handled that on our own.
Our big project that year was to design a shopping mall. I’d spent enough time in shopping malls to form opinions on what I liked about them and what I didn’t, so it wasn’t what I considered a hard assignment. Mr. Mendel launched us on the project but was gone when we finished so Miss Titsworth did the grading and that’s what the whole point of this story is.
I received a good grade, though I had more fun coming up with names of stores than I did arranging them in a floor plan, but through the clear lens of hindsight I don’t imagine that “Irving & Edna Schwarzenfelder’s Hobby Hut” would have gotten very far.
Miss Titsworth took points off for one particular thing and that’s what I’m here to talk about. In a men’s room in my shopping mall I drew doors on the stalls that opened inward. Points off for doors opening into the stalls.
It would absolutely have been my nature to go out and take snapshots in various public restrooms or go to the library and perform research on the subject but I didn’t do any of that. I trusted Miss Titsworth and rolled over, so to speak. In absolute fairness, however, those points I lost on the project very likely did not affect the trajectory of my life subsequent to high school.
Still, it was an injustice, and the synapse that fired yesterday proves nothing if not that I’m all about justice.