Derek is lurking in the (staff) toilets again, studying his nose in the mirror.
‘You alright, Derek?’ I call from the urinal.
‘You’ve got to keep them under control… nostril hairs, I mean. Or they will notice, you know. They notice everything.’
They – that is, the little people in the school - are the ubiquitous inspectors and critics of every aspect of our appearance and mannerisms.
Our children - imagine the talking mirror from Snow White inflicted with tourette’s*.
‘Socks, big nose!’
‘Fairest of them all? You must be having a laugh! Ugly old teacher!’
'Socks, smelly old Socks!'
Well, you get the idea.
In the high-octane world of teaching it is only too easy for harried professionals to turn up at work without the most carefully chosen clothing.
I step away from the urinal, double-checking my flies are firmly done up.
‘You’re absolutely right, Derek.’
As I wash my hands and make for the exit, I find myself suddenly trapped in a flashback-loop.
The words 'They notice everything' echo around my fevered mind as I recall last Monday's horror, when I went as far as lesson 2 before realising I was wearing one normal shoe, and one slipper.
'They notice everything, you know.'
I see in my mind's eye the day a colleague came to school with a hairbrush sitting in her hair. She had apparently been distracted while brushing her hair, and had left the hairbrush stuck in mid-brushing position. She then drove to school and taught three classes before it became a hot conversation piece for staffroom fashionistas.
'Everything! Notice everything!' The room spins around me, a young man appearing before my sight. Who's this? Oh, it's you, Keith. You did your teacher training here. And you didn’t need no education - you came to your induction day wearing a t-shirt of Pink Floyd: The Wall. Well done, that man.
Then my flashback flashes into the future - a flashforward!
There's a teacher striding through the school gates in his dressing-gown, Arthur Dent-style. It's me. Have you seen what's in the carpark? Socks drove to school in his wheelbarrow today! What an old fool!
I come back to reality with Derek's hands on my shoulders, steadying me against the wall.
'Keep it under control, Socks,' he reminds me. We stride confidently out of the bogs and onto the catwalk.
*I know this isn't a strictly accurate portrayal of tourette's syndrome - maybe coprolalia. Hmm.