My Morning Job

I had a regular job for two years in high school. I read the morning announcements over the school public address system. Looking back I don’t think I did a very good job, but, hey, it was a gig. This was a time when the daily ritual of reading from the King James, a staple of most of my early education, had been dropped and we moved to reading an inspirational reading following the announcements before directing the school to observe a minute of silent meditation followed by a pledge of allegiance to the flag.

The announcements came first and the inspirational reading, which was typically done by a “reader of the day”, followed. The reader selected the material himself and I simply turned over the microphone at that point. However, it was soon evident that sometimes the train came off the tracks and something might go wrong. That “something” was typically a no-show of the designated reader of the day. It was obvious that I would need to have a bank of “hip pocket” options to read at that time.

I had several ready to go on no notice and probably needed to do this a dozen times. I remember one of these was intended to be humorous and I enjoyed it more than any of the others. I read several Spanish language proverbs translated into English. I loved “The day I met the girl of my dreams, I did not shave”, and “You are trying to throw the house through the window.” (Well, that was more of an idiom, but I used it anyway.) I finished with one read (con mucho gusto!) in Spanish. “Flies do not enter a closed mouth.” I still find myself muttering “En la boca cerrada no entran moscas” from time to time.

Twice, I remember having to read when no “hip pocket” seemed appropriate. On the April morning after Martin Luther King was assassinated I thought of the John Donne poem that Mrs.Koppleman had us read only a few weeks before. “Ask not for whom bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” Our school was 99% white and far from Memphis, but somehow it felt appropriate.

On my very last day of high school and my last day on this job, I was again faced with the need to perform a hip pocket eulogy. Robert Kennedy had been killed the night before in Los Angeles. I remembered that he had recently written a book where he quoted Tennyson. “Come, my friends. It is not too late to seek a newer world…”. I read from that poem and asked all to pledge allegiance. I then signed off for good.