Major Payne

Public school teachers are real life McGyvers. We have to defuse bombs using random, unconventional tools at our immediate disposal… and sometimes those tools are shockingly inappropriate, yet effective. Thus I warn my readers that this story contains censored language that is essential to reflect the level of inappropriateness (and humor) of the situation.
I was about to have a “come to Jesus” meeting with Chachi for skipping my class the previous day.  Having failed several classes and now a senior, he comes to me to make up these classes in hope of graduating on time…. so I was pretty upset at his behavior.  We were about to begin this chat in the hallway when the best tool for “scare them straight” comes marching my way: the ROTC teacher, a retired Army colonel decked out in combat fatigues.   For story purposes, we’ll call him Major Payne, a stone-faced man whose countenance reveals years of enduring the battles of war and teaching.  A man so intense, he signs off every e mail with HOOAHH! I had heard rumors of his unorthodox methods of talking to students.  It’s an unwritten rule that ROTC instructors have certain “freedoms” when motivating students.  I call it the Guantanamo Factor.  Deep down, he cares for students… but you have to use some TNT to get to that part.  Chachi was no exception.

“How’s Chachi doing?” He asks… or commands.

“Major Payne!” (i resist doing an Army salute).  “He’s not doing too well… I was about to talk to him about skipping my class yesterday.”

“That so?” he states, loading his verbal barrage of intimidation as he gives Chachi a cold, firm stare… the kind that makes you digress to your 2 year old state.

“Mmhmm…” I responded…although he wasn’t looking for my response. He was entering his zone, but for some reason I proceeded.  “I think you may need to get Guantanamo on him.” I said, congratulating myself for the clever military remark.

He ignored my foolish civilian comment and proceeded with his mission.

“Your brother is Chancho, right?” He asked Chachi. I couldn’t help but imagine him in a General MacArthur outfit, large pipe in mouth.

“Yeah” came the weak response.

“What’s he doing now?” He said, peering into his unsuspecting soul.

“At home.”

“That’s right.  He’s pissing his life away after almost graduating.  Just like you’re about to do.”

Silence.  My eyes started to widen.

“How many years have you been in school?” He demanded.


“TWELVE!” he barked before Chachi could finish counting.  I was waiting for him to say “MAGGOT!”… but I was starting to realize my movie stereotypes won’t be fulfilled.

“You’ve been in school for TWELVE $%&#ing years, and now you’re going to $%&# it up… this close to the end” he yelled, indicating with his fingers how close he was to the expletive finish line.  At this point, my eyes were maxed out.

“…and Mr. Rivera is here to help you, and you’re skipping his class.  You’re just taking a #$&% on your own life when you do that.  Is that what you want to do?  $%&# on your life? Like your brother?!”

I glanced nervously to the left… then to the right.  I had unleashed the kraken, and there was no stopping him.

“No” came the feeble answer.  I almost answered ‘no’ as well.

“One semester.  That’s all you have left.  Get it right, or you’re gonna #$*& it all up” he snarled unapologetically.  And completely in synch with his last expletive, he spun a 180 turn, and marched down the stairs and into a distant sunset of red, white and blue, leaving me to clean up his verbal napalm attack.

“So… ” I said, trying to transition back to normal conversation.  “You’re not going to skip again, are you?”  It was all I could come up with.

“No.  Not after that.”

“Well, now you know…    and knowing is half the battle.”



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