Then, modernity struck. White boards and dry erase markers came onto the scene. No more white dust. Hooray! This is when I became a teacher—conducting ESL (English as a Second Language) classes in Bandung, Indonesia.
I worked for an English school that saved money by buying refill wells of ink rather than buying new markers every time one went dry. In fact, I think they were called “dry erase markers” because they went dry faster than anyone could grab an eraser. Anyway, these refill kits were equipped with plastic pipettes—to draw the ink from the bottle, and squirt it into the marker tube. So, we opened the back ends of the dry erase markers and squirted ink on our hands and clothes, along with the table and everywhere else. Oops, what I really meant to say was: We squirted most of the ink into the marker tube with only a drop or two down the outside. Then, we washed our hands and the table, proud that we had saved the company some of their hard-earned cash. And, we fretted about our clothes.
Disliking the process so much, I learned to make my pens last five or more teaching days before having to refill them. Well, okay…they lasted that long if I followed one essential rule: The moment I finished writing, I had to put the cap back on to keep the writing tip moist. Forgetting this simple rule guaranteed a dry pen in less than ten minutes—irredeemable unless I added fresh ink. That, of course, meant more spillage, more hand washing, more mess. But, I was willing to face that occupational hazard in the name of teaching English.
Once in a while I found myself in a church, in a seminar, or in a class where someone else was using a white board. Being an expert at preserving dry erase markers, I knew the importance of putting the cap back on immediately after use. But, presenters sometimes became animated—like Madame Burton. Preachers are famous for waving their arms as they speak. Even teachers can get excited and forget themselves. As I sat before them in a chair, a pew, or at a desk during one of those events, my eye invariably was drawn to one thing: the uncapped dry erase marker. PUT THE SILLY CAP BACK ON is what ran through my brain. IF YOU DON’T PUT IT ON, WE WON’T BE ABLE TO READ THE NEXT THING YOU WRITE! Then we’ll have to go through a litany of trying every other dry erase marker, only to find them just as dry as the one you just wrecked!
This past year, my son has been complaining about not being able to see what’s written on the board. Believe me, he’s not excited about getting eyeglasses. But he has an appointment scheduled next week at the eye doctor.
“Well, actually, I can see just fine if there’s ink in the marker,” he pleaded this morning.
Well, actually, I’ve done substitute teaching before—at his school—and found that every dry eraser marker in the classroom was indeed dry. Maybe his claim wasn’t so far off after all.
So, even though we’re now living in the States again, I still have this vexation. I forget all about what the presenter, the preacher, or the teacher is saying, and zero in on that uncapped marker. Nobody seems to get it right. Why? It’s so easy! I am completely bothered, even flustered by it. Holding myself back from raising my hand and making the obvious suggestion is an exercise of incredible willpower. My legs shake, my muscles tense, and I bite my tongue. Maybe it would be easier if I ran up to the speakers and did it for them. Why can’t they understand my anguish? I’ve tried reminding teachers to put the cap back on, and they will do it for me once. But, the next time they use the marker, they forget again, and the whole cycle of angst is restarted. It’s so exasperating! Sometimes I wonder if I’m OCD about dry eraser markers. I’m sure that’s not the case, but I’m also convinced that I’d be a much happier, well-adjusted individual if the world could just remember to PUT THE CAP BACK ON!