Code Peanut Butter

Working in a middle school is a mysterious blend of dread, excitement, confusion, isolation and celebration underneath excessive amounts of Axe Body Spray. I have nothing particular against this deodorant product, but I will tell you that the combination of the various scents does not mix well with the floral tutti-fruity aroma the middle school girls wear. I’m not trying to be gender specific here, just stating that there’s a whole lotta behavioral and olfactory saturation going on in my classroom.

Added to this is the logistical challenge that my female students experience when they start their periods and are out of supplies. I was grading papers before school one day when one of my 8th graders rushed up and gasped, “I need a pad! Right now!” I directed her to the supply drawer in my file cabinet and sent her on her way. During lunch break, she came to me for another. She said, “I feel like we should come up with some kind of code so that we can tell you what we need without attracting attention.” While I thought it was pretty subtle already that all she had to do was go into the file cabinet, I was curious. “What kind of code?” I asked.

She didn’t even hesitate. “We could tell you we are having a Code P emergency.”

I tried to keep a neutral expression. I failed. “If you call a code P emergency and then head to the bathroom, you’re already communicating you’ve had an accident of some type.”

She caught on. “Oh! Right!” She turned to her friend, and they had a serious discussion about code words, secret messages and hand signals. While I continued eating my lunch, I imagined both of them as spies. They interrupted me from my reverie with, “Got it! We’ll come and ask you for peanut butter.” I’d been dunking my apple slices into peanut butter, so evidently the visual cue was enough for them.

“Why peanut butter?” I managed to choke out.

“Because you eat it often enough that no one will wonder about it. Plus a code is pretty cool,” my 8th grader advised.

“Ummm, okay?” I answered, somewhat flummoxed.

Both ladies thanked me and then left. A couple days later, another student said, “Miss! I need some peanut butter!” and rushed to the drawer. This was a person I hadn’t spoken with about secret codes or locations of feminine products. I was amused and impressed with how well the Gossip Network worked.

Of course this plan of theirs had a flaw. During lunch today, one of my male students said, “Miss, I hear you have extra peanut butter. Can I have some, please?”

I didn’t exactly spit out my coffee, but it was close.

We’ve now reverted to the original plan where students get their emergency supplies out of the file cabinet drawer and I get to eat my lunch in peace. I can assure you, though, I won’t have peanut butter again for a while.


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