lowest common denominator sound system.


i don't know what the hell this guy's problem is. first time i see him, i start up a little chat. i'm like, hey, how's it going. and he goes, good. and i ask how long he's been tutoring, and he's like, this is my first day. i say, okay. i ask what he does. he tells me he coaches basketball in redmond. i say, where? and he says, redmond. so he coaches in redmond, great. i have nothing else to say to that. but either way, i wait for him to ask about me. that's the way these things work, you know. that thing called conversation? i ask a question, and then you ask one. but no, nothing. dude just sits there and doesn't say shit else.

so today, i'm sitting down at table #2, not really aware that the tables are numbered, and then i see the big dude again, the one who doesn't know what a conversation is, and i say, hey, how's it going. and this great big fool just says, i think you're in my seat. i say, oh, and then i move over. i conclude that the man is socially retarded, and he has no business being a tutor in the program. since my student doesn't have much homework to do - just a weak little science sheet - i listen in on the great big fool trying to force multiplication down his poor student's throat.

okay, he tells the kid, lcm. what's lcm? lowest common...what? kid goes, i dunno. lowest common multiple. right. and what's a multiple? kid is silent, has his head down on the table. what's a multiple? i dunno, the kid says, times? right. times. so, four times five is...what? twenty. right! twenty. so, the lcm for four and five is twenty. now, what's the lcm for fifteen and twenty?

it goes on like this for a full hour. meanwhile, my student reads a book called heat, and i read stories by t.c. boyle. i can't pay much attention to the story, though, because i am too busy listening in on the awful tutoring session going on next to me. look, the great big fool says, you need to learn this! you need to focus here. what's lcd? lowest common what? the kid doesn't say anything. lowest common denominator. come on, you know this! it's a mental assault. it's painful to listen to. this great big white fool trying his hardest to get this kid to care, to get him to learn multiplication, and all this kid probably wants to do is to get high, eat a big burrito, take a giant shit, rub one out, and go to sleep.

finally, time is almost up, and so is the great big fool's patience. the kid goes away, no goodbye, no thank you, none of that. i want to tell the great big fool not to sweat it, to say, dude, who the hell cares? this kid's either gonna get multiplication or he's not. he's gonna go to college or he's not. you raising your blood pressure won't have a good goddamn thing to do with it. i want to say, i was like you once. yes, i cared once. and then i realized one day that i can't force anyone to listen to me. they can listen if they want, but it'll probably only make things worse. because let's face it, man. i'm full of shit, and so are you. you coach basketball for christ's sake, and i'm an administrator. when have we ever, in our lives, needed to know the lcm for fifteen and twenty?

my student and i played scrabble. i put down the word bone, and he started cracking up. what's so funny, i asked. nothing, he said. i've got a bad word, but i don't want to play it. just play it, i said. who cares? no, he said, i can't. it finally hit me. oh, i said, you have an r? he laughed some more. get your mind out of the gutter, i told him. i asked him what his favorite movie was. he said he didn't know, but there was a movie he really wanted to see. what is it, i asked him. i can't say it. it's bad, he said. kick ass? yeah, he said.

my second kid came in, and we worked on a short story. finally, something i could kind of help him with. the premise for his short was about a kid who goes home to find some stranger who claims he's the kid's real father. the stranger glows, and the kid runs away, but he has to go back because he forgets his backpack. then the kid accidentally hits his real father in the face. the story sounded stupid, but i had to give my student credit. i didn't come up with any stupid stories until i got to college. and then i majored in writing crappy stories, so who am i to talk?

i liked what we did, though. we were just chilling on a black sofa, and i'd help him out any time he seemed stuck. i told him to focus on what his characters wanted. i told him to look at people in the room with us, and imagine what they did once tutoring was over. but really, i was thinking, what did the great big fool do when he got home? i imagined him a bud light man, a real sports fan, recliner and tostito chips, the whole deal. he probably liked to sit in a white shirt, boxers and socks. he'd sit in his recliner while eating chips or peanuts, and he'd have his watch on. that's what men like him did, i was sure of it.

and me, would i ever have been able to guess what a man like myself did after tutoring?

he went home, and he wrote about his day, even though it was absolutely meaningless.

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