The Polish teachers’ lounge in my experience is a very relaxing place especially if you don’t speak Polish. I mean it becomes a relaxing place if you can get over the fact that everyone around you is speaking a language that you don’t understand and some vital information could be passed on, with you none the wiser. Vital information being that the bathroom on the ground floor is out of order and shouldn’t be used or perhaps that November 1st is a national holiday and there will be no classes that day. Purely hypothetical examples of course ;)
When you don’t understand a language you often get the feeling that people around you are arguing - that every raised voice, every gesture is a sign of rage waiting to explode. Except in the teachers’ lounge of my Polish school where you couldn’t get a rise out of anybody for any reason except maybe if the coffee had run out.
I usually never asked what the teachers were talking about. Not that I didn’t care, but usually as soon as they noticed that the conversation was being delivered to me in English, they just stopped talking. Not that the conversations were anything out of the ordinary. I guess they were just self-conscious. So everyday I sat in the teachers’ lounge preparing my lessons without anyone bothering me (teachers out there, be jealous!) with the soothing sound of the Polish language buzzing around me.
Until one particular day, I noticed that the teachers were involved in an especially heated discussion. After a few moments of observation, curiosity got the better of me, and I asked another English teacher what everyone was talking about.
“Sex,” she replied pretty matter-of-factly.
“Sex?” I asked, pretty darned surprised. I mean there’s a crucifix hanging in the lounge.
“Yes, sex,” she answered again.
What had I been missing all these days gone by when I didn’t understand what the teachers had been talking about. Had they been discussing hot taboo topics, - these ordinary looking high school teachers? Had I underestimated them or even “misunderestimated” them as George W. Bush so famously flubbed?
“Even the priest?” I inquired.
“Especially the priest!” she enthusiastically announced.
Mmmmm, the hot priest and a debate about sex. I wondered what side of the argument he was on. Pro-sex? Anti-sex? Wait a minute. What were they talking about exactly?
“About sex? The priest? Really?” I asked for the last time.
“Yes,” replied the exasperated English teacher. “It’s a very important topic for the Catholic church. You have sex in America, don’t you?” she asked.
What a personal question! It’s not like, hey, you have pierogi in America, don’t you. It was sex. A timeless universal. I replied slowly, “Well, yes, of course we have sex in America.”
The English teacher continued, “You have those Amish or something, right?”
Huh? Amish? What?
My red-faced answer, “Yes, yes, we have sects and we have Amish too, but I’m not sure they actually qualify as a sect.”
And then as so many times before, I was saved from further discussion by the ringing of the class bell.