"Hey man, you owe me a beer!"
After school, I'm in the school parking lot and I hear this form of hello from an ex-student. "Hey," I respond. "How's it going? What are you doing here?"
"I was in the neighborhood, so I thought I'd stop by and see my sister," he responds. "But do you remember? You still owe me a beer."
"I remember, I remember. Just tell me when you want to go grab one," I tell him. "In fact, I swear, I was just thinking about you today, so it's weird that you're here."
And I tell him that earlier in the school day, a student asked a question very similar to one he asked several years back: "Mr. P., when I turn 21, can I party with you?"
My response today, just like I told this guy several years ago, was something like this: "Trust me, when you turn 21, the last thing you'll want to do is party with me. I mean, I'm not much of a partier. Plus, you'll have much better things to do than drink with a high school teacher."
"Well, I still want to grab a beer with you," the kid in the parking lot says. But he's not a kid anymore. He's 23. Married, to his high school sweetheart. With a two-year-old daughter. With a house in the suburbs.
I look at him, thinking, man oh man, I taught this guy six or seven years ago. It's kind of cool that he still remembers me. And that I remember him, even though there are plenty of students I taught last year that I've already forgotten. "You're getting old," I say.
He laughs. His sister, who is a junior, comes over, laughs, and tells her older brother, "And you're getting a nice, big belly."
"Yeah," I say, "so maybe that beer isn't such a good idea."
If teaching were like running for president, maybe a reporter would ask the students: Which of your teachers would you most want to have a beer with? I'd probably win that popularity contest (although maybe the auto shop teacher would beat me out), but then, after having that beer and judging me objectively, the voters would eventually realize there's more to life than having a beer with a loser of a candidate.