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Marjorie Cortez: Visions of bribery in parent-teacher line

First, a couple of confessions:

I watch "The Apprentice" regularly.

I am a closet control freak.

Neither of these things has anything to do with junior high parent-teacher conferences, but standing in long lines in a sweltering school gymnasium causes the mind to wander. As I waited for three minutes of face time with each of my child's teachers (so the signs said), it occurred to me that there's got to be a better way to negotiate this ordeal.

It's not that I think I'm entitled to special privileges. I admit, one of the benefits of being a journalist is flashing a press credential and moving to the head of the line. That might work at the Capitol or at the scene of a traffic accident when I'm on deadline but not at parent-teacher conferences. Nope. It's socialism in its purest form. No one gets any more than anyone else, although I did observe many parents who did not comply with the "three-minute rule." If my icy stares were daggers, the floor of the gymnasium would have been bloodied.

I mean, you're not there to bond with teachers. Rather, you're there for a quick check to see if your kid's doing his or her school work, following school rules and otherwise behaving as a human being during school hours. That's it.

Besides, I have a theory that a lot of the parents who most need to attend parent-teacher conferences don't go. If parents don't make the time to go to these conferences, chances are they're not expressing a lot of interest at home either. Painting with a broad brush is always dangerous, I know. Many people work or they're single parents and it's not convenient to wile away three hours in the school gymnasium when there's no guarantee you'll see all of the teachers you need to see anyway.

But as I overheard most of the conversations — without really trying — most of them were gushing comments from teachers about how great "Johnny" or "Suzy" was doing and how well they were getting along in junior high, blah, blah, blah. All the while I'm screaming inside my head, "Tick tock. Enough of the love fest. Talk academics. Talk missing assignments. STAY ON TASK!!!!!

But back to "The Apprentice." As I stood in these interminable lines, I started daydreaming about ways I could move things along a little bit.

Seasoned parents came to the conferences in a pack. Mom waited in one line while dad cooled his heels in another. The kids were dispatched to other lines. Pure genius.

Me, I foolishly braved this exercise on my own. Actually, I didn't have a choice. My junior high student was home sick with strep throat. My husband was at work. I had squeezed in the conferences in the middle of a hectic workday. I needed to be back at the office at 7 p.m. to meet a newspaper deadline, just about the time the announcement would come across the overhead speakers, "Attention teachers: Parent-teacher conferences will end in 10 minutes."

So I started fantasizing about how a true capitalist would approach this situation.

If it's true that money makes the world go round, I'd start with some cold hard cash. I'd offer the parents in front of me "incentives" to permit me to move up the line. If they were unwilling, I'd rush to the tables and bribe the teachers to see me first. The inherent problem with this approach is that from the time you start kindergarten, you are conditioned to stand in line. Teachers are dutiful public servants (I know, my dad is a retired schoolteacher) who aren't motivated by money the way the rest of us are. I figure, it couldn't hurt to try.

I can only imagine the uproar. The true capitalists in the line — those closer to the teachers' desks — would want more cash than those standing at the rear. I fret I'd run out of cash before I'd venture very far.

Then I considered the merits of hiring four temporary workers — 40-something men who could pass for the fathers of a junior high-age kid. They could stagger their starts and, if the timing was just right, I could join them just as they reached the head of the line, breathlessly explaining I was late because I was undergoing an unpleasant medical procedure.

If that didn't work, I could resort to using a bio-weapon: I'd bring my sick kid with me and tell everyone around me, "Just so you know, this child has strep throat, and in the interest of you not contracting the aforementioned strep throat, you'd better give us a wide berth and help us get out of here as soon as possible!"

That last one might actually work. Best of all, it's within my budget. As I've learned from "The Apprentice," time is money.


Marjorie Cortez is a Deseret Morning News editorial writer. E-mail her at marjorie@desnews.com.