The push pin on the floor should have given me a clue. In the past, it has almost always led to the same conclusion, but when I pushed my bike to the doors of school on that last full day of school, I should have expected a flat tire.
It is an established fact that teachers are not allowed to have favorites, even though they do. In the very same way we would never expect children to have favorite teachers, even though they do. Which is how moments like last Friday occur. This was by no means the first flat tire I have had in my borderline illustrious career as a teacher. I all but beg for such torment by leaving my bike in a corner of my classroom. Unattended. Most of the time it is a piece of furniture that does not concern people too short to climb aboard. Except when the perfect storm of pointy object, inflated tire, and issue with authority combine.
I remember the first time it happened. It was my second year teaching, and when I discovered the wheel resting on a flattened inner tube, I flew directly into detective mode: Who had access? Who had motivation? Who wanted to hurt me? So I questioned a bunch of students, and narrowed down the time during which the maleficence took place. It was a fifth grader who ratted on his friend. He cracked under the intense four minute interrogation. The culprit was troubled kid who just happened to be the son of one of the guys with whom I had worked at the book warehouse. I could not understand how such a terrible injustice could have been meted out to me, everyone's favorite teacher.
Which is how I came to understand that I am not everyone's favorite teacher. I also discovered, over time, that even favorite teachers and students do things to one another that defy easy explanation. The nature of this dynamic can best be understood by understanding that both parties in this interaction are human beings, capable of doing horrible, rotten, inconsiderate things to one another. Sometimes purely by accident.
Sticking a pin into a bike tire isn't something I would necessarily categorize as accidental, but by contrast I know that mispronouncing someone's name can be a terrible affront even though the intent was only to try and engender familiarity. And I know that occupying a certain level of authority makes me a pretty broad target for anyone's mild antipathy, especially that of a child who is struggling to form their neural pathways. Twenty years later, I have decided not to take such things personally. I know how to change a tire. I'm a grown up.