Pride Month — So there!

I worked as an adjunct faculty member at Fresno City College teaching mostly remedial English classes when I was in grad school. I had been the editor and advertising manager of the student newspaper when I went to school there years before, and I’d worked a couple of years in the college’s public information office. I’d also worked on student papers at Fresno State and for the past couple of years I’d been running a graphic design/desktop publishing company out of a little office in the Tower District. So when the advisor scheduled a sabbatical and the college asked me to be the paper’s advisor for a semester, I said, sure, why not.

I met with the advisor just before he left for Europe, and he told me he and the students had already selected the editor and the other staff members, so everything would be good to go the first day of class. Cool, I said.

First day of class I strolled upstairs into the newspaper office above the bookstore, gradebook and roster in a little brown binder under my arm. I introduced myself and suggested we have a talk and get to know each other. What are we all doing here?

The editor thought I should know he was a transvestite. I think he expected his confession to shock me, but it didn’t. My interest —  advising the newspaper, not a person’s clothing preferences.

As we toiled on the first issue of the paper, the editor resisted most of my direction, repeatedly asserting his First Amendment rights as student journalist to be completely free from any  interference from the advisor. Familiar territory. I’d had similar discussions with my advisor when I was a student editor.

Fair enough, I said, but you need to realize this is a college class. I am the teacher, you’re the student, and we’re both here at the pleasure of Fresno City College and the State Center Community College District. I’m not telling you what to do, I’m trying to teach you the right way to do it.

So, I’m sitting at my desk looking at the layout for the first edition, the page containing the masthead — an area that identifies a publication, names the editors and contains contact information. I personally had written the copy for this part of the paper that concluded with a declaration that the opinions expressed in this paper are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the advisor, the college or the district. To my surprise, the editor had added, “So there.”

I looked up from my desk — “Hey, I gotta problem here,” I blurted out to no one in particular.

The editor asked me what’s up. I said you can’t add so there like that. It makes a mockery of the serious and important statement it follows.

He told me that’s exactly how he felt about the unwanted and unnecessary disclaimer I had written, and he said he had every right to express his opinion about it in his student paper.

As we tried to talk this out, I started feeling a little steamed. We’re arguing in front of the entire class now. Both the editor and I smoked, so I suggested we go downstairs and chat about this privately. He agreed, but no matter what I said, I couldn’t bring him around. I was getting madder by the second. Still, I thought it vitally important he be the one to decide to remove the so there, not me. It was a student paper, after all, and they had First Amendment rights. So there could not and would not stand, but I wanted him to be the one to remove it, not me.

As fate would have it, I got some unexpected assistance. Maybe I should call it inspiration. Every evening as the concrete patio in front of the bookstore cooled, a wandering herd of big, black cockroaches climbed out of the sewer drain.

The editor saw them coming up and changed the subject.

“Oh, I hate the sound it makes when someone steps on one of them,” he said.

“You hate that sound?”

“Yeah.”

“When someone steps on one of these bugs? You hate that sound.”

“Yeah.”

“OK,” I said. “Let me put it to you this way” I tiptoed out through the bugs and picked one out for sacrifice. “Imagine for a moment that this bug is that disclaimer in the masthead, yeah?”

I raised my foot high as I could and yelled out, “So there!” as I squashed that sucker flat.

“Ewww.”

“Do you understand? That’s what your so there means.”

I stood by another bug, stretched my arms out at my side, palms turned a little upward looking for a little understanding. Nothing.

“Imagine this bug is the disclaimer,” I said again. “So there!” I stomped.

“Ewww, ewww!”

Then I cracked and went crazy. I can tell you it was unabashed bugicide as I launched into a rapid dual-footed dance of crackly, squishy so there’s that I continued until the editor begged me to stop.

So there did not appear in the masthead, and I didn’t take it out.