The Rubber Show

At some point during the third grade, a new hobby emerged among the girls. They started collecting rubbers. They bought them in all shapes, sizes and patterns and then started exchanging them. All of them did it.

We really didn’t understand it. So the Lindens started a protest movement. They bought the finest, largest and most exciting rubbers and then used rulers to saw them into tiny rubble. This greatly angered the girls, as they saw it as wasting good rubbers.

Soon a massive rubber black market erupted. Girls were trying to exchange their more boring rubbers into the beautiful ones of the boys in order to try to save them. The boys then cut the beautiful rubbers up for scrap in the front of the very eyes of the girls. Another fine option was to trade a big, beautiful rubber for several tiny ones or blackmail one of the girls’ favourite rubbers in exchange for saving the big ones. And in the end again cut up everything that had been received as a trade.

I think the whole thing ended, when the girls complained to Zach about us destroying beautiful rubbers. And in the end the Lindens got detention for having their school desks so full of rubber rubble, that all of the homework they returned was all messed up in it.

The Senseless Subject

Of course there was one more teacher change for us in the beginning of the third grade. We got yet another new Finnish teacher. Miranda Ruddy was gone, and instead we were taught by Kyra Kerr, a tiny, blonde woman with short hair and a wide smile.

The third grade is the stage, when the basics of the language have been learned, and it’s time for something more advanced. As everybody knows, Finnish is a damn difficult language, as demonstrated by this. And this is exactly what we started studying. All the possible ending forms.

Everybody knows how to speak Finnish in Finland, but the point on the lessons was not to form words. It was to start learning what all these different forms were named. And we had to know them by heart.

I found this senseless. I didn’t believe that I ever would need to know what a form was called, if I knew how to use it. In my opinion, we should have written essays, stories and dictations to make us learn a wider vocabulary and better use the language.

I had several arguments about this with Kyra, and always lost. Needless to say, my interest in studying Finnish dropped quite a lot with the start of the third school year.

The Tiny Whistleblowers

The third grade is something that usually leaves a lasting trauma on Finnish schoolchildren. At least it was like this with us, who went to primary school in the late 1990’s. The reason? Oh, well…

The reason is, that everybody must buy a fipple flute, take it to school and learn its basics on music lessons. The flute itself is rather inexpensive, only less than 20 euros back then, but the desperate attempts to learn to play it were the real reason for the trauma.

When Steffi Tell told us to buy the flutes, everybody was excited. But the excitement soon faded, when the classroom was filled with a dreadful noise that sounded like animals gone wild. It was simply awful, both as an experience and for our poor ears.

We went on with those damn flutes for weeks. I don’t think anybody ever learned to play anything sensible with them, and when the experience was over, we probably would have burned them, if somebody had gotten matches from somewhere.

But nobody found the matches. And so the flutes were buried in our cupboards, and the memories of that awful noise and the desperate inability to play the world’s most stupid instrument were stuck in our minds.

The Source Of The Smell Eradicated

One day during the break I noticed, that a truck bed had appeared on the school yard. Personally, I thought that it was good news. The school was a bit run down, so any renovations were considered positive. And I think everybody agreed.

The bed was parked next to the wing with the gym halls, and pretty soon yellow bricks, brownish yellow ceramic tiles and chunks of concrete started appearing on it. Soon, also pieces of toilet seats and sinks were thrown on it.

Great, I thought. They are finally renovating the awful, smelly toilets, that I visited two years before and had since then never set foot in a toilet at school. And while looking at the construction men carryin the loads of trash from the basement, I thought that maybe I’ll give the toilets a new chance someday.

A few weeks later the bed was gone, and all activity at the toilets had stopped. I again felt the need to pee, so I walked down the dark stairs. But the door was locked to my surprise. Apparently everybody had hated the toilets so much, that they were simply demolished and locked.

As there was no new and clean toilet available, I didn’t go in one until I was downtown later that afternoon. The long days and the refusal to go to the toilets soon gave me something that my mother called a high society bladder. The ability to hold on almost forever.

The Screaming Stranger

It wasn’t just our life that had changed with the start of the third class. We had a new classroom and a few new teachers and subjects, but so did our parallel class, 3C. They, also, had been moved a few floors up, and had their classroom next to ours. Actually their classroom was the one with the mysterious door.

But the biggest change of all had been, that their class teacher had changed. Nadia Feldon, a nice and beautiful lady in her 30’s with pitch black, curly hair and dark brown eyes, who had taught us English the year before, was having a baby. She had therefore gone on maternal leave, and needed a substitute.

The substitute was also a young lady, maybe a few years older than Nadia. She was the most colourless person I had ever seen. Her hair was light brown, her eyes were grey and she compensated the lack of colour by wearing deeply coloured clothes, mainly of some green.

3C was a much wilder class than we were. At least the boys were. And I didn’t like them at all. It may be, that they also wanted to test their substitute in the beginning. But it happened several times; we were studying quietly, when a very angry lady’s voice started screaming somewhere.

It was Louise screaming at the boys. And the fact that her voice actually could be heard in our classroom was amazing, as the building was from the 30’s and the walls very, very thick. That’s why we became very afraid of her.

Once this screaming was accompanied with a loud snap and something falling on the floor. One of the wildchilds, Tony Novak, told us later, that Louise had hit the teacher’s desk with a pointer in her rage, and the pointer had snapped in two. That’s when we became very afraid of her.

Dance In Line

The mothers of Andrew and I once met at a class parents meeting, and started discussing our hobbies. Andrew was swimming, but I didn’t have a specific hobby, and that’s why Andrew’s mother suggested, that they should apply for a dance class teaching waltz, tango and other traditional Finnish dances and take us with them as their dance partners. My mother was unmarried and Andrew’s father was dead, so that’s why her mother thought that we should accompany them.

My mother thought that we would be senslessly bullied, if somebody ever got to know that we were attending a dance course with our mothers, and kindly told Andrew’s mother it wasn’t a good idea. She had, however, always thought of dance as a good hobby, and so our parents applied me and Andrew to the line dance group of the community college.

And soon two nine year old boys found themselves as the oddballs of a group consisting of ladies aged 20-60. They never spoke to us, maybe because we actually performed much better than them, and the teacher, a nice lady in her thirties, always reminded everybody about how good we were.

The course was held once a week. Every other week Andrew’s mother drove us home with their Corolla, every other night it was my mother. I loathed our car so much, that I considered the evenings it was Andrew’s mother’s turn to be a luxury.

A Clutch Failure

It was again one of those days when I had decided to visit Adolph after school. Probably to play Colin McRae Rally. Adolph’s father was waiting for us at the school gates, picked us up and again proceeded to drive us the two or three blocks to their place.

We were just taking the final turn about two hundred meters from their front door, when their old Nissan Bluebird made a dreadful, crunchy sound. Adolph’s father exclaimed something, and then the car rolled on the sidewalk. We then walked the rest of the trip, and Adolph’s father was swearin at the poor car.

My visit went uneventfully, until my mother came to pick me up later in the evening. That was when Adolph’s father started telling her a story, where the clutch had broken and due to his skills and courage he managed to steer us safely to a halt on the sidewalk.

My mother immediately questioned me on what had happened when we got to our car, and asked, what really was the story. I just told her, that we heard a noise and then the car stopped. She said, that it was something that she thought had happened, too, and that Adolph’s father’s story was simply very strange.

The autobiography of an ordinary man whose life is very much out of the ordinary