Friday, 29 January 2010

THE DICTATORIAL DIETICIAN.


Though people lampoon the quality of school cafeteria food, my fellow inmates and I felt our complaints were entirely justified. This excerpt from Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) shows that blind children have the same opinion of institutional fare as their sighted peers.

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My schoolmates and I were similar to sighted children when it came to institutional food. For the past few years, Jericho subjected us to the worst cooking I had ever eaten. The dietician, a grumpy, older, harsh-voiced blond woman named Mrs. Anderson, was responsible for everything we ate. I was one of many boys who begged her to give us instant breakfast cereals such as Honeycomb. "You mean like what the bees keep their honey in?" Mrs. Anderson asked when I spoke to her one morning. When I explained what I meant, she said, "That's not good for you. Porridge is much healthier." Mrs. Anderson also flatly refused to give us hamburgers, hot dogs, and other enjoyable fare. Her mind was set and that was that. Practically everybody hated that disagreeable dietician.

Before Mrs. Anderson became terminally ill, we received a tongue-lashing from her. After lunch one cloudy January day, all of the blind students were kept standing in a long line next to the Dining Hall door. For reasons never disclosed to us, the driver for that day's school excursion was late. Time hung heavily and, as children will, we became restless. The volume of our voices escalated as the higher the noise level rose, the louder we needed to speak. "It sure is noisy in here," I yelled to Geoffrey, who stood next to me. He agreed and I was about to make another comment when a loud adult voice interrupted me. "You children stop that disgusting din at once!" We all turned to hear and see Mrs. Anderson. She stood there, arms akimbo, looking extremely flushed. "I have never heard such a deplorable racket in all my life!" she spluttered, making inarticulate verbal ejaculations, as her outrage rose. "You children deserve to not have dessert this evening," she threatened. Everyone stood, waiting for Mrs. Anderson to finish her tirade, silently hoping she would forget her idea of holding back our desserts. True to her word, we went without our apples after supper.

Around that time, our dictatorial dietician was off work periodically and then she stayed away for a few weeks. One rainy February morning, the news swept the school. "Mrs. Anderson died!" a boy proclaimed with obvious glee. Others spread the joyous news until the whole school rang with it. Though I never learned how old this woman was, I heard she had stomach cancer and a large part of that organ had been removed. The surgery turned out to be unsuccessful in stopping the disease.

Not every resident of Jericho was pleased with our jubilation. "That's a terrible thing to say about somebody who's died," Sherry, one of the intermediate girls, scolded. "You shouldn't say such things about the dead. It's not nice." Everybody ignored her. We were too excited over being rid of that ill-tempered dietician to worry about the opinions of a sycophant such as her. Sherry appeared to us to habitually side with the adults and continually sought to please them. To this day, I despise those individuals who say whatever their superiors wish to hear instead of the truth.

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Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. This 196-page paperback, containing 6 black and white photos, sells for $25.00 through the PayPal-equipped Inscribe writers group website. E-mail me for further information or if you don't have PayPal but still wish to place an order.