For the next couple of months,w e will be doing a series of blog posts from our staff members called “Who Are You?” The following is the first of nine from Joe Flaherty, our Executive Director.
When I was a kid I read a lot. Not because I thought it was cool, because it wasn’t then as it isn’t now. Of course, there weren’t as many distractions back then—TV was around, sure, but we weren’t allowed to watch more than a couple of hours a week.
Well, to be fair, I really shouldn’t say there weren’t other distractions, because there were. For instance, there were unlimited opportunities to go out, (at least in warmer weather,) and play pickup games of basketball, touch football or baseball. Or maybe you could play a little chess and checkers, although I have to admit I was never very good at chess, and after a year or two of trying, pretty much gave up on beating anybody with of an IQ much above 85 or so.
Even with all those other distractions, however, there were opportunities to get in some high quality extra reading time at unexpected moments, like during classes. There were a lot of courses I really wasn’t that interested in, probably for the same reasons as I gave up on chess—I just wasn’t that good at them, and didn’t want to put in the effort when there was something more interesting to do, like read books.
So, whenever I had to take classes I wasn’t that interested in—math and French, for instance—I would bring in whatever book I was reading at that time and camouflage it behind the appropriate textbook and resume reading. What was really convenient was that textbooks were usually pretty large—hardbound and all that—and most of the books I liked were much smaller paperbacks. Of course, there was one real danger involved with this strategy, as any good reader can attest, and it is this: once you really get into a good book you become oblivious to the world around you.
Due to that one innate problem associated with reading, I would often wind up in the Principal’s office writing, “I will not read novels in math class.” 500 times or more. What would happen would go something like this: the math teacher, Mr. Shirley, would call on me to answer a question, and, as you can imagine, I wouldn’t hear him. He, however, would translate my lack of response as adolescent insubordination. So, he would leave his desk, and the comfort of the blackboard, and walk down the aisle towards me, (my desk would always be at or near the back of the room, if I had any say in it,) repeating my name over and over again, “Mr. Flaherty? Mr. Flaherty!”
What Mr. Shirley didn’t realize was that not only was I not in the same room with him, I wasn’t even in the same century—I was in King Arthur’s court or on a buffalo hunt with my fellow Sioux warriors. Mr. Shirley, though was having none of this insolence—nor would Mr. Landers in French class. Fortunately, one of the upsides of having to write all that “I will not read novels in (fill in the blank”) writing in the office was that I got a chance to work on perfecting my handwriting. Not quite as exciting as reading, but better than math.