I was substitute teaching when I heard what I thought was a comment so stupid it was the height of wit. The setting was not an ordinary classroom, but rather one of those overcrowded schools where they had to make use of every nook and cranny. This particular high school History class was taught in the auto shop space. A hot, strangely lit room with no air conditioning and a couple broken down cars.
I was handing out the day’s assignment when I heard a Hispanic kid in a black jacket (even though it was summer) whose accent was influenced by either Beavis or Butthead say to his friend, “I wish I had a time machine, so I could go back in time and beat up whoever invented Algebra.”
I found the comment funny enough that I repeated it to other teachers during the day’s lunch and probably in a couple other conversations when asked how my day was.
This was several years ago, and it’s not like the quote was constantly running in my mind, but it was memorable enough that I was shocked and awed when watching episodes of the television show, Friday Night Lights, to hear a character say almost the exact same line. It stopped me in my tracks. I looked on the dvd case for the year the show was broadcast. 2007. It was the summer of 2007 when I was subbing that class.
The teenager definitely didn’t preface his algebra comment with a, “I heard a funny line on a television show last night”. Rather he dropped the sentence naturally in conversation as though he formed it in hs mind the second that he spoke it. I don’t know what kills me more, the fact that people can be disingenuous even in the most trivial of moments or that a throw away line from a television show can have such massive repercussions. A moment that I thought was derived from teenage spontaneity actually stemmed from the middle aged confinement of a writer’s room.
If I had a time machine I’d go back in time and write a letter to that kid’s teacher that he was guilty of plagiarism.