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Reading Aloud

Mr Hackitt

I hadn’t seen him for quite a while. He is not one of my closer friends, but I shall have to take notice of him as long as our children are at his school. From time to time we have to ask him for his services. I prefer my husband to do it, because something gives me the feeling that he takes gentlemen more seriously. However, this time it was unavoidable. It was my turn to face him.

I had come in a delicate mission. We objected to one of the teachers our youngest daughter had been assigned to. Mr Hackitt knew about this from a telephone call my husband had given him prior to my visit. He received me in his usual way – extremely polite and pally at the same time – no doubt wondering how I would go about tackling my problem. As I was busy bringing forward my request in the most diplomatic manner, full of concern for his difficult job, not giving any names nor being too specific in any way, my daughter innocently carrying the blame and responsibility for the change requested,
– the expression of his face matching my words –
– a smile gradually giving way to a more serious, highly competent and professional look of earnestness –
– solidarity with himself and his staff – they were all teachers after all –
he did what I had expected him to do: he tried first of all to simply reject my request. No harm in trying, I suppose. After that he pleaded my daughter’s welfare. Would it be good for her to leave her usual registration group and join a different set of pupils? Then he pleaded his time-table. Then he pleaded other parents who might make the same request. How could he possibly…Then he looked at his time-table again.
I assured him of my sympathy, having been a teacher myself. No names had been mentioned so far at all.

Suddenly he said I should leave it with him. He would discuss it with the relevant head of department. With a fresh smile he assured me he would do what he could without promising anything. Unfortunately I now remembered there was yet another teacher we would not like to be involved with and thought it safe, if slightly unpleasant, to inform him of this. I did have to say a name and it shook him a little – the impact of a name said aloud – it was like trespassing against a tacit agreement – but I passed over it quickly with a particularly nice, I hope, smile, and he accompanied me all the way to the main door, opening it for me and saying “bye-bye”. I had forgotten I had left my bicycle right next to the door and had to come back after a few steps, still thinking with a certain amusement about this – shall I say: typical – meeting. He saw me from inside, opened the door once more and said cheerfully: “Don’t forget your bicycle!” “That’s right,” was all I could think of. Until the next time!