School’s out for the summer

When you are a kid, there is nothing better than the day you are let out of school for the summer with two whole months to do pretty much nothing. And there is nothing worse than being sentenced to go to summer school as penance for lack of judgement during the school year. The worst of the worst is spending a perfectly good summer in a math classroom, which was my fate after being led astray by my friend Louis and as a result being largely absent from Grade 11 math (whether I was in the classroom or not). However when the choice was between summer school and spending another entire school year getting my ticket punched I was at least smart enough to do the math.

Aside from forfeiting summer, there were other major inconveniences of summer school that would not be readily apparent to those of you who grew up somewhere near civilization. That’s because summer school was only offered in one high school in the region, which was Opeongo District High School, a mere 95 kilometres away. The school board was kind enough to provide a bus to get us there, however if you know anything about school buses you will know that they do not travel as the crow flies. We were the first (and last) stop. This meant we made a leisurely scenic trip on all of the back roads of the upper Ottawa Valley (no need to waste money paving them) picking up academic delinquents and diligents (some people actually chose to spend their summer getting a head start on the next school year) at random bends in the road. The bus left promptly at 7:30 am and I had to allow at least a half hour to get myself to the bus departure stop. I am sure that Dante would have to invent a new circle of hell to describe the horror of getting up at the crack of dawn when my peers were getting up at the crack of noon, and then spending 2 hours in a bus with bad suspension just to get to a math classroom.

Those of us who were repeating a course spent 4 hours in class each day, while those who were acquiring a fresh new credit spent 6 hours. The bus, of course, did not leave until the brownnosers were finished enriching their high school experience. That meant those of us who were set loose after lunch had to hang around waiting. I could have used the time for something useful like completing our homework but the trauma of spending even more time at summer school was too much to bear. Anna May (a fellow math delinquent) convinced me that rather than cool our heels waiting for the dreaded bus milk run, it would be a much better use of our time to hitchhike home and enjoy the waning afternoon at the beach.

I had never hitchhiked before but luckily Anna May was a pro. She was also an ideal bumming-a-ride asset as she looked exactly like you would think an Anna May should look like. I on the other hand looked about 10 years old, which in hindsight might have attracted a different wrong kind of attention. So hitchhike we did, usually thumbing rides with a series of truckers in about 4 different stages: getting from the school to the highway, getting to the first town, getting to the second town, getting to the third town and if we were really lucky, getting all the way downtown (such as it was) into our town, although that was a bit dicey as we didn’t want to call undue attention to our mode of transportation.

The moral of the story is that summer school is not for sissies. I got 85% which completely replaced my previous 35% on all official transcripts. And in fact, it was such a notable anomaly in my high school performance that when I applied for theatre school I was asked why I didn’t want to pursue a math career. As if.

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