I woke up feeling blue. Wasn't sure why. I was in a warm bed, NPR on the radio. The sun was coming out, but I heard rain was on the way. I got a cup of coffee and an orange, then checked my email. Junk, plus a note about Amanda Hocking's new book hitting number four on the NYT bestseller list. I was happy for her, but then the article said "And she's only twenty-seven." As I've mentioned before, I'm going to be forty in a couple of months, so when people say "And she/he is only twenty..." I feel a bit old. But I decided good for her, it's all good.
I decided to check my balance online, where I noticed that my balance said negative thirty-five dollars. Wait a minute! How did that happen? I had three hundred dollars in my account? I checked my statement: Netflix, Citibank, okay, made sense... Student loans, made sense... then fifty-three dollars for check ordering. No! I only paid twenty-five dollars for new checks, not fifty-three! I checked the order status. It turned out it was by default on the expedited delivery selection, not the basic. I knew I selected basic. I thought I had. Oh wait a sec... they said it was twenty-seven dollars, so I thought it was a two dollar fee to deliver. So they did charge me the twenty-seven dollars, plus since everything hit up at once, a thirty dollar NSF fee. Oh, damn. Yet Another Bleeping Very Special Lesson I learned.
When I was a kid and something happened at school, I would tell my mother. She would say "Well, that's a special lesson learned, isn't it?" It felt like my life was made of Very Special Lessons. One time I misread that it was free dress day at my Catholic school, so I wore a plaid red skirt. It wasn't free dress; we were supposed to wear our brownie uniforms. I was reminded of this all day long "Jennifer, where's your Brownie uniform?" "You're going to stand out in the picture in that skirt!" "You're going to ruin the picture!" "Why didn't you wear your uniform?" Steam was slowly coming from my ears by the end of the day. I was so mad at myself for misreading it. I was mad at my mother and grandfather for letting me go off wearing that damned red skirt. It was a long skirt and it wasn't like I dressed up in a Kermit the Frog outfit like Lady Gaga, but that's how I felt.
Because of my learning disability, I was always a tad behind social cues or misunderstanding situations. I always tried-still do-apologize for my mistakes. Usually people smile and say "Well that's how you learn." It takes everything I have to say "Oh trust me. I've learned, man. I've been learning all my life. There are so many things I wish I hadn't learned the hard way."
When I first started at Red Room I signed up for Kaiser. Imagine my surprise when I got a note from Blue Cross welcoming me to their program, specializing in Asian Elder Care, then listed several Mandarin speaking doctors in San Francisco. Abe (who's in charge of HR stuff) called, asking what was going on. Me, I wanted Kaiser, but until then I was wondering if I needed to bring a translator with me to the doctor's. Apparently they insisted I checked off I wanted Asian Elder Care. "Did you make a copy of the forms?" they asked. No, didn't do that. "You should have copies. I can't tell you when people make mistakes they think it's us, not them." Again, another Very Special Lesson learned. Don't assume that you yourself know what you're doing! You don't! (I'm happy to say Abe got it fixed after proving I did ask for Kaiser)
So I was in a funk. I was broke, clouds were covering up the sun, and I felt very very old. I sent a note to my credit union explaining I never got a notice saying how much the grand total my checks were, I should get a refund of the NSF. I pictured them chortling over it. "She wants us to give her a refund on non sufficient funds? Hee hee, hee!" I saw them holding their stomachs, looking like the prison workers in Cool Hand Luke.
After a while, I decided to get out, do something. My mother was going to Bank Of America to get her unemployment money, so I tagged along. The bank was near my old high school. Suddenly I came up with an idea: I could go see the school real quick! I wanted to check something in an old yearbook, this would be perfect!
I walked across the parking lot, thinking this is perfect. I hadn't been at the school for thirteen years. Solar panels stood high. Ah, Ygnacio Valley is getting environmentally aware! Good for them!
A man in a golf cart stopped me. "Can I help you?"
"Um, yeah," I said, suddenly feeling sixteen. "I went to school here twenty years ago. I just wanted to see how things have changed."
"Oh, you need a visitor's pass."
"It's lunchtime, ma'am. The students are out."
Whoa! Lunchtime! Yes, I might want a cheese roll or a greasy piece of pizza! Watch out, here I come!
So I walked to the office (before that, went to the library, closed) and walked in. I was looking at pictures on the walls when I heard a sharp voice say: "May I help you?"
"Oh hi, listen, I went to school here twenty years ago..."
She looked at me. "So?"
"Well, I'm here, wanted to walk around, see what's changed. I was told to get a visitor's pass."
By then I wasn't sure if I should laugh or cry. "Yeah, I know that. So I guess I need a visitor's pass!"
"I went to school here. Twenty years ago."
There was a boy at the desk looking at me. "Wow, sorry," he said.
"This is a closed campus," she said, looking at me like I was Mary Kay Letourneau.
"You'll have to wait until after lunch to walk around. We'll see if it's okay with the principal."
"I'm an alumni from this school," I said, thinking oh for the love of God lady, give me a break.
"I know that, but it is a closed campus. You can't just walk around unattended."
"You know what?" I was getting so irritated I knew if I didn't leave I'd lose it, "that's okay. Thanks so much."
I walked out without a second glance. I knew she was just doing her job, it was a different world because of Columbine, Virginia Tech, whatever, but yet again, another Bleeping Very Special Lesson. It was so high school, everything I hated about that place. You had to ask permission to go to the bathroom. You had to have a pass when outside a classroom during class hours. Your mother typed your "Please forgive Jennifer's absence" note? How did we know you didn't type it yourself?
Then I remembered a scene from Young Adult, one of my favorite movies from last year. Mavis (Charize Theron) and Matt (Patton Oswalt) go to their old high school to get drunk. They end up talking about old times; Mavis a popular girl only remembering how great it was. For Matt though, high school was awful, culminating in a horrific event where he's beaten up by jocks because they think he's gay. He wasn't, but he has to walk with a cane. She tells him he should have a better personality. He tells her she doesn't know what it's like to be an adult. During the end credits, "You Don't Have To Change At All" by Diana Ross played. Yes, this supposed to be ironic.
If it wasn't for those Bleeping Very Special Lessons, I wouldn't have changed. I wouldn't have evolved. Yet I did. God knows I made mistakes. But I've always tried to learn from them. And to become a better person because of it.
In the parking lot, I started to laugh. I checked my phone: my credit union refunded me the non sufficient funds fee. It was all good. I looked back at the school, everyone milling around. When I come back here, it will be with a freaking news crew. It will be telling how I published books, e-books and paper, and I'll show them the school. I'll call for a damned visitor's pass. Very Special Lesson learned. Thank you, Ygnacio Valley High School!
Causes Jennifer Gibbons Supports
Gilda's Club, Greenpeace, Rosie's Broadway Kids,Westwind Foster Family Agency, Amber Brown Fund, Linda Duncan Fund for Contra Costa Libraries