So a while ago, some students and another adviser and I were driving back from the Savannah Record Fair to Atlanta. I was piloting a huge silver minivan full of two radio students (the general manager DF and the music director MB), the Connector A&E editor (MM) and my radio co-adviser MD. MD and I had been discussing relationships and high standards and how it’s tough to be a smart, single lady blah blah blah. The students were all asleep and we were rolling through someplace like Twiggs county.
Apparently, our yakking woke the guys, and DF announced he needed a bathroom stop. He didn’t specify urgency, so I assumed a stop was immediately imperative. I took the next exit and drove toward what I figured would be a cute little town with ample restrooms and maybe some kind of cookie store. I could have used a cookie right then.
We passed nothing. Some rundown houses, burned-down barns and fields. Finally, I saw something that looked promising: a painted wood sign directing us down a dirt road to a raceway park. Cool. They’d have bathrooms. And maybe also nachos.
The dirt road was deceptively long. As we got farther and farther into Twiggs County and off the interstate, we started playing that one-up crazy conversation game. Abandoned racetrack. Abandoned haunted racetrack. Abandoned haunted pig racetrack haunted by dead pig ghosts of yore and yesteryear. The road was basically one lane, red dirt and gravel. We didn’t see any other cars, so I just drove down the center.
Eventually, we came to the track, which was exceptionally well-maintained and fresh-looking, but also, you know, EMPTY. We rounded the dirt road and finally came upon something that looked like a concession stand with bathrooms. DF hopped out and went in cautiously. No lights were working, so I pulled ahead a bit so he could have a little privacy even with the door open.
MD asked me why I didn’t put it in park. I explained I wanted to be able to make a quick getaway in case things got all Deliverance in here. DF got back to the van safely and we scooted off back toward the road. He told us there had been no real plumbing, but he took advantage anyway. We laughed a bit about what would have happened if he was attacked by ghost pigs or some creepy caretaker type, and then we went on.
After a few minutes, DF proclaimed I probably, at this point in my life, wouldn’t make the greatest mother.
He reminded me that I keep a desk drawer full of candy, and when students complain of headaches or stomachaches or anything, I offer them candy. It’s basically the 100% opposite of what an actual mother would do.
I’m just trying to make people happy. Here, have some Rollos. Need to pee? I’ll stop this van wherever we are, safety be damned. However, I think because of these things that make me a bad mother-figure, I’m a decent adviser. What, you have a problem that can’t be solved with candy or a pig racetrack? Well, you probably should try to figure it out for yourself. I can help you, but my immediate solutions aren’t going to be very helpful. Rollos do not solve much of anything (except, you know, wanting a Rollo).
If I gave out answers like I gave out candy, I really wouldn’t be preparing students for anything but asking for answers and getting them. That isn’t good enough for me, and it shouldn’t be good enough for anybody entrusted to teach students of any type or age or status. Problem-solving skills are the most valuable thing we can help students with, and they have to be practiced and exercised and coached all the time. I’m thrilled to be better at coaching somebody through solving their own problem than I am at solving their problem myself. (Especially when my solution is to let it fend for itself in an abandoned haunted pig racetrack or just give it candy.)