Back when I was in elementary school, the entire study body became energized when rumors of a teachers’ strike was looming.
We, of course, didn’t know or care to know the details of the possible strike (either something about low pay or asbestos particles), but were more focused on what it meant for us.
No school, of course…maybe for the rest of the year, maybe home schooled through middle school, high school and possibly college, if we were real lucky.
Eventually, we did hit the jackpot as the teachers hit the picket line, and my brother and I were ready to bask in a boy’s paradise of playing video games, eating chips, drinking pop, destroy something — anything — and catching up on critical essays on the socio-economic impact of Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”.
Anyway, all of that “guy stuff” at home started taking a toll on our poor mother, so she suggested that we take a drive in the family minivan, but that time without the threat of driving it into a lake.
On that fateful day, she actually suggested driving past our elementary school to see the teachers’ strike.
Yes, it was pretty odd, maybe borderline sick, but being a rural housewife in the 1980s meant little to no entertainment before my mom’s soap operas came on, so seeing teachers picketing at that time and place was like watching a YouTube video on your phone in this day and age.
I admit that I, too, was curious to see a strike in progress with faculty that taught me many things in my early child development that I quickly forgot, and also because I never saw an actual employee strike up to that point.
The only thing I could reference was what I saw in movies and TV shows of people holding signs, calling other people “scabs,” throwing Molotov cocktails at others and a turf war erupting between humans and aliens; I watched a lot of sci-fi as a kid, so the lines got blurred.
Anyway, I’ll never forget our minivan coming up on the school, and my mother suddenly telling my brother and I to duck our heads out of sight so the teachers couldn’t see us.
I didn’t understand why, though, because I wasn’t bad enough, behaved enough, smart enough, dumb enough, pleasant enough, damaged enough, loud enough or quiet enough for any of my teachers to really notice me; in fact, I believe I could have rolled down the window, screamed “thank you, thank you, thank you from Mark Hofmann,” mooned them, and they would have forgotten all about me five minutes later.
However, I did manage to peek out the window as my mom drove past and swerving into oncoming traffic as she was trying to look at the teachers while keeping her head up at a 45-degree angle so the faculty couldn’t identify the driver or if the driver was trying to look at them.
What I saw was actually very underwhelming: the teachers were standing around with signs, but they weren’t even holding them up for the most part; they weren’t angry or screaming, but chitchatting and even chuckling; sure, they were throwing Molotov cocktails, but that was at animals in the nearby woods either for sustenance or for fun — I wasn’t positive as my mom was swerving the minivan quite a bit.
The point is, the picket was so boring, I might as well been back in the classroom.
Now, I was reminded of that story after reading a news story out of France where 40 ballet dancers performed “Swan Lake” on the steps of a Paris opera house over doing away with pensions for them as well as public-sector workers.
Now, I don’t know how effective the art of dance is when it comes to swaying government policy, but it goes to show people tend to fall back on their talents...even when their vocation is unfavorable of those talents.
That being said, I’d love to see how other professions would picket.
For example, a circus freak show demanding fair wages by the conjoined twins acting out contract negotiations between the union and the circus; a sign-making company...well, that may not be so exciting, but at least you’ll see the pride in those employees’ work and finally — the one to which I’m most looking forward — exotic dancers walking out of the club with their poles and cheerleader outfits and the rest of that I’ll leave to my imagination.
Anyway, no matter what your do for a living, the day you do fight for what you think you’re owed, don’t be afraid to do it while putting your talents on display.
Just be afraid of gawkers in swerving minivans.
According to Hofmann is written by staff reporter Mark Hofmann of Rostraver Township. He co-hosts the “Locally Yours” radio show on WMBS 590 AM every Friday. His book, “Stupid Brain,” is available on Amazon.com.