The Secretary and the Worm: A True Story in One Act

Get this guys: when I was driving home from church the wind was blowing really hard and making the snow swirl and dance on top of the road. It looked a little hazy and super cool, like you were about to have a dream sequence.

And if we’re really lucky, it’ll be the one where Gilligan thinks he’s a vampire.


But I’m not here to talk about Gilligan’s Island or the weather. Instead, I’m going to tell you about something that happened right before I left my old job at the school. It was a small incident and normally I’d never remember it, but this time my memory was razor sharp, and …

Okay, fine, I didn’t remember it. Fact is, I was cleaning through my closet and going through my stack of notebooks.

I have a serious notebook problem. Problem being, I keep losing them so I wind up buying new ones. So all these notebooks are half-filled or in some cases, two or three pages filled. It’s pathetic.

In any case, it was in one of these notebooks that I found this conversation I had with a teacher.

First, some background: the teacher and I, we have a history. He had a pathological need to be liked, and I didn’t like him.

I should have been more patient with the guy and I think I could have been, had he not been so damn annoying. Every morning he’d walk through the front office — most teachers don’t, you need to understand that. If their class was in the main building, they might, but even then they usually entered by a side door as it was closer to the parking lot.

This guy didn’t work in the main building; his class was in the “D” building, just outside. So coming through the front office didn’t make sense. Unless, of course, you wanted to go to the break room and see if anyone brought in donuts or muffins or homemade cookies.

After scarfing down several, he’d then make the rounds and say, “Hey good buddy,” to every secretary in the office. After they responded, he say, “Have a good one.”

If you didn’t respond — and this is the key point here — if you didn’t respond, he’s back up and repeat it. And he’d keep this up until he got your attention. Even if you were on the phone, you had to wave or acknowledge him in some manner.

You had to greet him. You had to.

secretaryHe’d also come to the front office at the beginning of lunch and during his prep period. Sometimes during passing periods too. And every time he’d check out the break room.

One time someone bought two pizzas for the front office staff. They wrote on the boxes in big bold letters, “FOR THE FRONT OFFICE.”

Not five minutes after the pizza was put in the break room, he was seen leaving with not one, not two, but three slices. When one of the attendance clerks pointed out to him what was written, he claimed he thought it said “From the front office.”

Yeah. That makes total sense.


Anyway, before you say “Oh, those poor teachers. They don’t make enough and he’s forced to be a worm,” that would be a no. This guy was the wormiest of the worms. He was a Super Worm.

He was also a bit of a dope, and that’s where this exchange comes from. I enjoyed it so much, I shared it with every co-worker I could find.

Fortunately I also wrote it down because my memory is crap.

Scene: Break room of a large suburban high school. I’m sitting at the table eating my lunch, no doubt a homemade tomato/basil soup with freshly grated Parmesan. Just then, Worm arrives to fill his water bottle. (Oh! There’s a story with the Worm and the water cooler too! Damn, I don’t have time to go into it. We’ll save it for another time.)

Enter Worm

Worm: (facing water cooler) Have a good life in Iowa.

Me: (doesn’t say anything; I thought he was talking to the water cooler)

Worm: (turns to face me) I said have a good life in Iowa.

Me: What?

Worm: Aren’t you moving to Iowa?

Me: No.

Worm: I thought you were moving to Iowa.

Me: No. Minnesota.

Worm: Oh, right right right. Minnesota.

Me: Yeah.

Worm: (thinking hard) That’s where Lincoln was from, right?

Me: No. You’re thinking of Illinois.

Worm: Right right right, Illinois… oh, I know, the Packers!

Me: No. Packers are Wisconsin.

Worm: Right right right, Wisconsin… (snaps fingers) Cheese!

Me: Wisconsin.

Worm: Right right right…. You know, I didn’t study geography.

Me: Neither did I.

Worm: Don’t worry, I’ll get it. Before you leave, I’ll get it. I’m not giving up!

Me: *pleasegiveup*

For the record, he never got it.



Author: CJ Hartwell

After spending most of her life in Phoenix, Arizona, CJ Hartwell moved to the middle of Minnesota. Is she nuts? Probably. For updates on her sanity, click on the link to follow by email.

37 thoughts on “The Secretary and the Worm: A True Story in One Act”

    1. Engineering. Back when I was in a position of no consequence, he admitted to me his secret: the kids were so smart, he didn’t have to do anything except stand there. He let them decide what they wanted to learn, and somehow they learned it.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. He really liked you, CJ- that’s why he tried to make conversation with you. And he made all those excuses to come to the break room- he wanted to look at his favorite front office executive many times a day. By the way, I might have done the same and noted down exactly what he ate each day from the food in the front office break room.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I love notebooks and scratch pads. I have lots. I never use them because my handwriting is so bad that not even I can read it. I just like the idea of a notebook filled with clever notes and wise sayings.

    and worm – you sure he isn’t an engineer, ’cause I think I worked with him once Palo Alto (which he called the Mt. View office). He’s a teacher now? As I recall we were transferring him to Texas.

    and I didn’t know Gilligan was a vampire. That explains a lot.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Holy cow, Andrew, he was! Well, he was an engineering teacher. How much he was an engineer in his own right, I don’t know. Funny thing, he used a flip phone. That struck me as really odd. (He claimed he used to work for NASA!)

      By the way, your book arrived yesterday! So beautiful!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great story, Christi. Before I forget I must tell you I feel so much better about my notebook/journal collection. I know you didn’t make it up – it sounds exactly like my bins full of them (I’m older and I’ve been minimizing for years, uh decades).

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I’m calling it: Confronting them shall earn us our Red Badge of Courage this year. Let us anticipate profound change on the journey. That’s my note of drama for Friday. You’re welcome. Is the snow melting there yet?

        Liked by 2 people

  4. And such are some of the great minds educating today’s youth. (Cringe)

    On the other hand, I could say, “once a nerd, always a nerd.” Doomed to spending his life single, where raiding the staff lounge might provide the culinary and cultural highlight of the day.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Trust me, I was creeped out by a couple of teachers but not this guy. If anything, this incident was an attempt on his part to put the Water Cooler Incident behind us. So I guess on that score I should give him credit. Very grudgingly so… 😒

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s