As a teacher, there is no opportune time to blow your nose. I know this because I thought I had cracked it last Friday. My middle-aged French engineers were engaged: the weekly test, you see. You could have heard a pin drop so a sniffle was out of the question. Nothing but the soft scratch of their pencils: a concerto with passages of relative conviction and uncertainty. The tickle of moisture that was descending my nasal passages caused me to twitch. With reverence for the exam conditions in place, I fumbled gingerly in my bag for a tempo tissue. I dabbed gently.
Somewhere dancing in the air about me, I sensed the chemical energy of eyes boring into me from the side. I was caught. Francois, first finished and ready to doodle flashed me a sympathetic grin. Or at least, that’s what I thought it was at the time. With the benefit of mature reflection, I realise he was bemused. He had been watching my entire escapade and he had thwarted the very possibility of success by mere observation. I would have been furious had he not been my second favourite student. I was now in the precarious position of having to dispose of my snotty tissue in a classroom without a paper basket and in the knowledge that Francois was enjoying full comprehension of the wordless language of awkward etiquette. Up my sleeve? Total no-goer. Too risky. Could fall out at any time; particularly when writing on the board. Nothing for it, but to drop it back in the bag, slowly does it, just stretching my left arm, downward. Drop. Done. Gone. Can’t help myself. Take a quick look over at Francois who averts his gaze, quickly. Test over, little bit of bustle as scripts are handed up and responses compared. I sniff long and hard into the background murmurs and exhale, deeply. Bliss.