Monday Morning Musings

Posted on October 25, 2021 under Monday Morning Musings with no comments yet

“Songs in the key of life” (SW)


“Well, I got a brand new pair of roller skates,

You got a brand new key.”

Brand New Key – Melanie

The four keys to a happy and fruitful life, according to my mom are as follows:

  1. Say please and thank you.
  2. Show up on time.
  3. Finish what you start.
  4. Do what you say you are going to do.

I would like to add a fifth: Keep track of your keys.

There are no easy jobs in any school and the one in which I work is no different.

When I decided to return to the north for one more year, I wasn’t totally delusional. I had indicated to my principal last spring, that I didn’t want a full-time teaching position. The offer I received this summer was for a 50/50 position which would include administrative duties along with some classroom help. On the surface, it seemed like just about the perfect job. I could maintain contact with the students and help out in the office without the pressures of a classroom teacher. No more standing out in the playground at -30 holding the end of a skipping rope!

Upon my arrival, I started to work in the office. With no full-time secretary for well over a year, I was asked to take on this role. You school secretaries know how busy things are at the main office. It is relentless. Along with my regular duties, I was asked to organize the order books. Every spring, teachers and administration order supplies for the following school year. This includes everything from paper to office supplies, furniture, janitorial and maintenance supplies and the like. Work orders are sent in and when parcels arrive in the office, everything in the boxes needs to be checked, itemized and put in its rightful place. Then the packing slips need to be matched up to the order form to ensure that everything arrived. Ninety-nine percent of the time, orders are incomplete. The packing slips are kept in big binders. I decided that the binders needed to be better organized. It was a big job but satisfying. Anyone could come to the office and check the order books and see in an instant, the status of their order. This was the first of Len’s Labours, as I will call them.

I was then asked to reorganize every student file. I won’t bore you with the details, but this took the better part of a month and a half. Put a check mark by Len’s Labours #2.

Over the past 18 months, like every other school in Canada, we have been receiving shipments of Covid supplies. Who ever thought that a safe and secure Covid room would become the mainstay in a school? Our Covid material happened to get stored in a number of closets, so my next task was to consolidate and have everything in one spot that didn’t require a step ladder to get to. (ed. note. I often use a preposition at the end of a sentence. Tut. Tut. After exhaustive research (thanks MG!), I discovered that there is absolutely nothing wrong with this practice.)

Len’s Labour #3 ratcheted up the degree of difficulty. I wasn’t a gymnast. Len in tights? (cue Men in Tights from Robin Hood) Nor was I a figure skater so you’re probably wondering what I could possibly know about “degree of difficulty”. I was asked to tackle one of the resource rooms. When I opened the door to this closet, I realized quickly the meaning of degree of difficulty. I wrote about this task last week.

Last week, the principal gave me a task that can only be described as Herculean. The problem is that, unlike the real Hercules, I am not a demigod, nor do I have superhuman strength. However, I do possess a streak of determination (stubbornness) derived from my Irish/Scottish ancestry.

The school and the teachers’ apartments have doors. Doors have locks. Locks need keys. Now, over a period of years (decades), door locks are changed, teachers come and go and what results is a collection of keys. A very large collection, all stuffed into supersized zip lock bags. From time to time, keys go missing and finding a replacement key becomes, well, problematic. I am being kind here. I am in mixed company. On more than one occasion, I have witnessed someone on staff going through literally hundreds of keys, weeping at the seemingly impossible task. Last week, the principal, dropped all of these keys on my desk and asked me to sort them. I thought she was joking. She wasn’t smiling.

I smiled and thought to myself:” She’s trying to break me”, and just like Hercules and his 12 labours, I just added this to Len’s Labours.

Where to begin? I’ll let you mull this over for a few seconds. I decided that this needed decisive action, so I grabbed a coffee and ignored the 8,431 keys in front of me for 24 hours. Sounds a bit like procrastination, don’t you think?! No, you sickos, I didn’t count them. Trust me, there were hundreds and hundreds, some of them on key chains, some on lanyards, and many just loose.

When I was in India (“Oh god, Len, don’t go wandering off topic”), I was driving along a road when I encountered two elephants. I wondered to myself, after staring at these massive beasts, how one would go about eating an entire elephant. It’s quite easy actually – one small bite at a time.

With this in mind, I decided to break down the task into bite sized pieces. I removed the keychains and lanyards and put the whole kit and kaboodle in a heap… and silently wept. I started by sorting the keys by shape, size and model. I ended it with about 15 different piles of keys. (This might be the most boring piece that I have ever written but with school closed because of Covid, I have all this time and nothing better to do).

As all you locksmiths know, certain shape keys fit into certain keyholes. I grabbed the first pile which resembled the school’s master key. I placed them in a plastic bowl and then wandered the school looking for every doorknob that would accept this style of key. I should note at this key point in the story that, in addition to school keys, there were bags of keys for the 20 or so teachers’ apartments which also had to be checked. I must confess that this was a stern test of sobriety. Um, in many cases the number of the teacher apartments weren’t on the keys. Can you say, “trial and error”?

The dividends were almost immediate. I was getting near the end and there was still a small pile (maybe 30 keys) sitting on my desk. At the end of the day on Thursday, moments before the shutdown of the school, due to Covid, a slightly panicked teacher came to see me. She had locked her keys inside her classroom. Not only did her key ring have her classroom key but also her 4-wheeler key, house key, post office key etc. Ironically, her classroom had a unique lock. There wasn’t another like it in the school. Go figure. I grabbed the bowl with the remaining keys and went to the second floor. The very last key that I tried worked!

I was also able to get rid of a hundred or more keys that were obsolete.

I am anxiously awaiting my next labour. If it involves polar bears, I will place a call to the Greek gods.

At least I haven’t been asked to clean the stables of King Augeas. There aren’t any cows in Kangiqsujuaq!

Have a great week.

P.S. As reported on my FB page last Friday, we have a case of Covid in the village. I will be extra vigilant to be sure, but I am not too concerned. After all the vaccines I have received over the years including a plethora for India, flu shots, shingles, Covid and most recently a pneumonia shot, I reckon I’m nearly radioactive. No self-respecting Coronavirus would dare come near me!

P.P.S. I am sooooo kicking my ass for not taking a picture of the entire pile of keys but, then again, I didn’t think I would be writing a 1400 word piece about keys!




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