Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Locker Room

Happy 2012 to all of you!

I have a couple of other subjects I kinda want to write about, but I did promise I'd get back to the mini series I'd started before the holidays. So, channeling my editor, I will try not to take too many asides before getting to the point of this mini series. (A point which does exist, believe it or not.)

Not that I'll share the point at this juncture, because then what would be the purpose of telling these stories? You'd already know the point.

Which you may well already anyway.

But asides aside, the journey to the point takes us to a two month span where I was between places to live. It covered, not coincidentally, the same span of time when I was unemployed.

If you go to school and work at a school, those summer months can be tricky.

So yes, I was a college student, and the way I pieced together paying for college was by being the PE teacher at a private elementary school across town. I scheduled my classes around my job, and reported to work daily (because at the time physical education was considered to be a vital component to a child's development).

This school is now a pricey private school with an upper school, a lower school, headmasters and mistresses and rich clientele galore. At the time, the rich kids in town all went there, but--aside from its setting near a golf course in an exclusive part of town--it didn't look like much. Especially the "locker room" which was located across from the sports fields at the lowest point of the property. The "locker room" was more like a large shack with a tiny office, a modest-sized room which housed the PE equipment, along with a few toilets, sinks, and showers.

Well, it may have been modest (and musty and drafty), but at the end of the school year, I was allowed to keep the keys to it as I'd volunteered to paint the office over the summer. It's not like they had anything to lose my letting me keep the keys--there was nothing of any real value inside the building. Especially not to headmasters and mistresses and people who are accustomed to vacationing in Paris.

Or to me, even.

No, the value to me was the building. After all, it had a toilet and a sink and a shower...and exercise mats to sleep on.

All I needed was a sleeping bag and a pillow and presto, I'd save myself 2 months of rent.

The theory of this was excellent. The reality, not so much. I had a bright blue car (my own doing), very distinctive in its ugliness, and although I could drive it off the pavement and around behind the building, hiding it back there was suspicious in and of itself.

And although the locker room had lights, which was nice, it also had windows so people outside could see the lights on and wonder, why are there lights on in that shack? And hey--what's that distinctively ugly car doing tucked away around the building?

Plus, during the day, there were gardeners. And...people. I didn't know who they were, or what business they had at the school. But they'd drive past in their Mercedes and I'd wonder, Why aren't you in Paris?

So I stayed away during the day (which was harder than it might seem and a lot less fun than it should have been) and lived by flashlight at night.

And I worried the whole time about getting busted.

And fired.

I should make clear here that I did have other options. Looking back I wonder, Why didn't you just go home? But I wanted to be independent and this was the manner in which I approached independence. Besides, if I had gone home, I would never have fictionalized the core of this experience and put it in...what book?

That's your question for the week!


Kylie said...

Wahoo!! First person to leave a comment. Congrats on trying to be independent, I bet that was hard. I don't know what book it was in though so i'll have to get back to you on that

lucy said...
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lucy said...
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Leslie said...

Maniac Magee!

...that was you, right?

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

Maniac McGee was not me :) (It was Jerry Spinelli.)

Wrong guesses are fine, no worries!

Leslie said...

I knew that, of course.

My real guess is Runaway, because I haven't read that one and it seems like the kind of thing...

g said...

is it a sammy keyes book?

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

It is not a Sammy Keyes book...but she is in it!

Tibbitoo said...

Is it Runaway? I never want to move out of my house till I get married. I don't want to live alone, and I don't trust roommates. You are really brave. Anyways, I hope you had an amazing New years!

PS: Were you in Anaheim CA on Thursday?

Yumna Zia said...

IN RUNAWAY!! You put it in, when Holly was hiding in the locker room and was almost found out by the police and the cheerleaders! (I forgot what town it was, but I know I'm still right!)

Yusa said...

It Runaway because of what yumna said

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

RUNAWAY it is! In that segment was one of the parts that felt so sad to me...she had access to a phone, but, she realized, nobody--not one person--she could call.

bookworm said...

I was wondering why this little glimpse into your life seemed so familiar.... and then I looked at the comments... and then brighter people than me (at least today :D) figured out that this entire exchange was in Runaway.

I'm such a bright cookie. ;)

Happy New Year! Haven't been on this blog since last year! :)

Beach said...

I remember this part of the book very vividly, even though it's been over 5 years since I read it. The same with the spiders in Snake Eyes. It just goes to show that writing what you've experienced makes a deep impression.

I finally read Night of Skulls. My birthday is the Day of the Dead, so I've always been fascinated by the various celebrations surrounding that time of year. I'd never heard of the Night of Skulls before, but the Celtic festival of Samhain (November 1) was celebrated in part by putting out food for one's ancestors, since they believed the veil between this life and the next was thinnest on that night.

The science geek in me feels compelled to point out that rigor mortis sets in after ~12 hours and wears off after 2-3 days, so it wouldn't have held a body up for months. (I won't say more for those who haven't read the book, but this info won't ruin the mystery.) You probably already know that, Wendelin, given all your research -- and since it was a secondhand account in the book, it worked better the way you wrote it. (Seriously, I'd be more disturbed if the person who mentioned it knew how rigor mortis really works; it'd seem a bit out of character.)

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

I love geeks, science or otherwise, and you're absolutely right "Beach" which is why they covered him in wax and why he was mistaken for a wax figure later in his "travels." It is one of those charming tall tales out of the Wild West...but there's enough verification to lend it at least partial credibility!

Anonymous said...

RUNAWAY. Of course its Runaway. The second the word 'locker room' came up.
Oh, and also about the story in Night of Skulls that Casey tells the gang? (Sorry, I was totally creeping on your previous comments like I always do). I told that story about the wax figure to my dad and 2 friends during this long car trip to a place 2 and a half hours away. We were bored in the car so we were discussing things like natural disasters, dead people, dead people, and Chernobyl.
I know, happy conversations. Lovely.
ANYWAY, we were discussing dead people and my dad told me some people buried their dead people VERTICAL in the ground to SAVE SPACE. I was like, "That is terrible! *I* wouldn't wanna be buried STANDING UP."
Then I remember the story Casey told about the wax figure.
So I told my dad, a 12-year-old girl, and a college student from Brown University (all in the same car at once) about the wax figure from the Wild West.
Except I wasn't smooth like Casey.
I sounded like this:
"There was a wax figure guy…some sort of…bad guy…guy..bad guy guy, and he was a terrible bad guy guy and one day he got into like a fight thingie or something like that and anyway, he died no one wanted him. I mean, no one wanted his BODY because why would anyone WANT him, ew, he's DEAD! Anyway one guy who like, worked for, like, dead people, the morgue, whatever they're called, injected him with like a million pounds of whatever that chemical they use to inject dead people is, and blah blah blah".
As you can see, I seemed to have forgotten EVERYTHING.
LOL anyway, my dad laughed at me a lot.
"Whatever that chemical they use to inject dead people with is".
Lets just say I went home and reread Night of Skulls over and over.
NOW I have the story all memorized.
Just like the whole book.
Just wanted you to know.

AbaGayleb said...

Runaway! One of my favorite books ever! (: Love the post, by the way.

Norma said...

Yup on it being Runaway. I loved reading Holly's story! It was so sad but so sweet. On a completely random note, I stayed up for almost two days straight re-reading the entire Sammy Keyes series, and it got me thinking: How did Hudson and Sammy first meet? She starts out the series already knowing him right?

AbaGayleb said...

Okay, so I remember how in Sammy Keyes and The Night Of Skulls, how Billy & Casey were singing Free Fallin', and. . .I just heard it on Pandora. I just. . .I had to say that. lol.