When I was in high school one of my very best friends was the head of the maintenance department. I am pretty sure that nowhere in his employment contract was there a clause stating that he would be asked to function as an impromptu wheelchair mechanic as needed but in spite of that he did so cheerfully. The repairs were never major, just replacing nuts and bolts when they fell out in the middle of the day and minor adjustments because he always had a full set of Allen wrenches handy, and if all else failed there was always the standby of duct tape to get me through the school day.
I had to catch the bus at 6:45 in the morning, breakfast was not nearly as important as sleep. I did my best to have change for the soda machine so I could stay awake during math class. If I didn’t have any Ray could usually find some. For one of my birthdays he and the ladies who worked in the cafeteria bought me a watch (so I didn’t have to keep asking for the time) and put it around a can of Dr. Pepper. I still have the watch.
When I was in school I thought graduation would never come, now it feels like I blinked and there it was. I won’t say that I was sorry to leave because I wasn’t but the intervening years have lent me some perspective and I realize that, as awful as I thought high school was, it could have been much worse. The ceremony was held on the football field and because of my chair I didn’t have to walk all the way down there from the cafeteria I just went straight there. While I was waiting for everyone to get there a man in a suit walked up. I had to look twice to recognize Ray, who I was used to seeing in jeans or overalls. Saturday was his day off but he had come to see graduate and say goodbye. That was definitely not in the employment contract.