Reading and ’Riting

It is hot enough to make your flip-flops sizzle on the sidewalk and to boil up hurricanes in the Gulf, but that ain’t no excuse. School is starting anyway.

At least the kids get to be in air conditioning, which is more than I can say for myself. I got a job as a tour guide. I walk tourists around the French Quarter, pointing out important sites, like where Andrew Jackson ate, or the Pirate Lafitte drank, or Nicolas Cage threw up, or stuff they shouldn’t step in.

 But right now, I mostly work at night, when it’s cooler. I lead ghost tours to places in the French Quarter where there has been documented paranormal activity. Thank God, documented paranormals prefer air-conditioned places for their activity. Even ghosts got some sense.

The other night I was giving a ghostly description to a dozen wanna-be-thrilled ladies in red hats, when my cell phone shrieks and me and half my audience go into nervous prostration. (The “ghostly shriek” ringtone was my son’s brilliant idea.) It is my daughter Gumdrop and it’s an emergency. She needs me to find school supplies right away.

While my ladies are patting their chests, she explains. Last week she went to her kids’ Get Ready! school meeting for parents – Lollipop and Go-Cup are going into first grade and pre-K respectably. I mean respectively.

Lollipop’s teacher, Ms. Sneerdsly, was all upset. Her computer crashed and she couldn’t post her Mandatory Supply List on the school’s website. (Xerox copies ain’t allowed; that wastes trees.) So Gumdrop volunteered to post it. She needs to get on Ms. Sneerdsly’s good side before Go-Cup hits first grade – him being what I will call “energetic.” (Some people say Tasmanian Devil, but I don’t. I’m his grandma.)

 Gumdrop’s husband, Slime, is a computer guru who works at home, so she took this list home and asked Slime to scan it in and post it. Within the hour, the list is up on the website.

All the other mamas rushed out and snapped up (1) a pencil case, 2 inches deep with no zipper, (2) a set of 12 colored pencils, pencil length 7 inches, (3) two glue sticks, not purple or blue, and on and on down the list.

Everybody but Gumdrop. She forgets. And now, the day before school starts, the stores near her house are sold out of everything on the list.

And Ms. Sneerdsly is very persnickety. Gumdrop was warned by the other mothers not to let Lollipop show up with, say, a pencil case that is wider than 2 inches, or colored pencils that are longer than 7 inches.

She is desperate. Could I maybe find some of this stuff in the French Quarter? So after the tour, I go to my computer and copy this list. It also includes (4) two pink pearl erasers, (5) two cube-shaped boxes of Kleenex, (6) two pairs of Fiskars children’s scissors, (7) one eight-ounce bottle of hand sanitizer (clear plastic), (8) four black dry erase markers (low odor), (9) three bananas, (10) three cans of Fancy Feast cat food and (11) one toilet plunger.

 I say it’s a strange list, but Gumdrop explains that some of the items are for the individual children to use, and some are ‘communal supplies’ for the teacher to distribute during the year, as needed. “That’s how they do it now,” she says, like as if in my day we scratched our letters on the cave walls with soot from the fire.

 Maybe they got a cat and a monkey for class pets? Maybe she’s going to teach a plumbing lesson? I don’t argue.

Not many school parents shop for school supplies late at night in the French Quarter, so the stores that are open don’t got 2-inch zipper-free pencil cases or anything else on this list. They do stock more interesting items, and I spend a half-hour being scandalized and shocked before I drag myself away and drive to the 24-hour Walmart. They got it all, right down to (11) one toiler plunger.

Next day, I get up early and drive myself and the supplies up to Lollipop’s in time to help her take the kids to school. Go-Cup has never been to school before, and Gumdrop is afraid she’ll have to scrape him off her leg in the pre-K room, so I walk Lollipop to her classroom.

There is a hand-printed sign on Ms. Sneerdsly’s door. “Parents: please place communal supplies into labeled bins. Bring the pencil cases, pencils, etc., to your child’s desk.” Inside there are bins labeled “Kleenex,” “Markers,” “Hand Sanitizer” – but none for bananas or cat food or toilet plungers, so everybody is just piling that stuff on Ms. Sneerdsly’s desk. Ms. Sneerdsly is looking kind of wild-eyed, so I just bring Lollipop to her desk, kiss her up some and beat it.

 Me and Gumdrop are driving home when her cell phone rings. She answers it, and listens, and then says “Eight items? Ohhhh.” We pull up in front the house and she storms into Slime’s home office.

I got to explain. Slime does the grocery shopping, and instead of putting the list in his pocket like a normal person, he, being a computer geek, always scans in his grocery list and sends it to his cell phone.

When he put Ms. Sneerdsly’s list on his scanner, he forgot to remove the grocery list. A scanner is like a Xerox: it takes a picture of what’s on the screen. The bottom of the grocery list, with items 9, 10 and 11, stuck out at the end of Ms. Sneerdsly’s list, and it looked like part of it.

So, Ms. Sneerdsly has been presented with 25 blue toilet plungers, 75 bananas and 75 cans of Fancy Feast cat food.

Maybe they can claim the website was hacked. And, if Ms. Sneerdsly believes that, I got a few documented ghost stories to tell her.

It is going to be a long year.

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