In 1979, I yearned for grown-up conversation and was not getting it from my four-year-old and almost two-year-old. On a whim one morning, I called DeKalb College and asked if they needed any part-time teachers. The person I spoke with was Ron Swofford and he asked if I could be there for an interview in two hours. Since we had just moved to a new home, I did not know many people and had no baby-sitter. I found a friend to keep Sara, the older child, but on short notice I couldn't find anyone to watch Robert.
I went to Dunwoody, A Building and met with Ron. The baby sat on my lap the entire time while Ron asked me questions about my teaching philosophy and my background. I was thrilled to get hired and so proud of myself, but what I didn't realize was that Ron was desperate to find an instructor to cover two evening classes that were starting the next night.
The baby is now a teacher himself, and I have been teaching either part time or full time at the college since 1979.
I was teaching part time at Dunwoody when I went into labor with my third child, Jim. It was a Thursday morning and in my neighborhood, that meant that everyone was out playing ALTA tennis. Luckily, Sheryl Shanholtzer, now Professor of Biology at Dunwoody, was a neighbor of mine and hadn't yet left for tennis. She came flying over to my house, loaded me up and we headed out on 285 from Tucker to the Birthing Center, which was next door to Northside Hospital.
Of course, we got caught in traffic and of course my contractions got worse. I said, "Sheryl, thank goodness you have a Ph.D. in biology; I don't think we are going to make it to the Birthing Center." Sheryl was gripping the steering wheel with white knuckles, "Sally, suck it up! I majored in invertebrates!"
Sheryl got us there through the traffic. She ran in to announce our arrival and there was no one there. She came running back to the car with a look of pure terror on her face, and it was like a scene from "I Love Lucy." Apparently, there was a midwife convention in town and all the midwives had gone, leaving the building open and unattended. I sent Sheryl running across the parking lot to the doctors' building to find my doctor. When he arrived, I was pretty much doubled over and waddling into the birthing center, but all he was interested in was figuring out where everyone was.
Sheryl helped me find a room and a bed, while the nutty doctor pushed buttons on the phone looking for midwives. Sheryl finally convinced him to turn his attention to me. He announced, "Don't worry, it will be hours before the baby comes." Sheryl left to go play her ALTA match and I had a ten-pound boy about an hour later.
I was supposed to give a final exam that day. Someone gave it for me and sent me the exams by Sheryl. I spent the day after I had the baby grading papers and averaging grades.
One day at Decatur Campus I was feeding quarters into a vending machine about 6:00 in the evening when Marvin Cole stepped out of the elevator. I remember this clearly because it was the one time in my entire life I thought of a clever retort
Marvin said, "Well, Sally, still here? I see we are getting our money's worth from you today." I said, "You got your money's worth by 10:00 this morning. Since then, I have been working for free!"
One lazy afternoon, I was explaining the complexities of a Works Cited page to a class at Decatur Campus. Suddenly we all heard what sounded like a gun shot in the parking lot. All the students ducked under their desks while I looked out the window to see what was going on. As the students resumed their seats, a young man in the back row said, "Clearly, Mrs. Wheeler, you were not raised in the hood."
One of my most "memorable" students was a female impersonator/cross dresser. Some days he came to class as a he and sometimes as a she. At the end of the semester, he disappeared for about two weeks and did not turn in his term paper. He did take the final and did well on it. The zero on the term paper caused him to fail the class. About six weeks into the next semester he showed up in my office (as a he) along with his three bouncer cousins from New York. He wanted his grade changed, claiming he had been sick. The cousins moved closer, their muscles huge. I announced that I had to go to the bathroom and I ducked under all the muscles, scurried to the department office and called security. Immediately, Jimmy Ratliff showed up and intimidated the intimidators. He escorted them to the parking lot and I went back to correcting comma splices.
Soon after Dr. Pai became Provost of Decatur Campus, he decided to take a group of us to Phoenix and San Diego to see how other community colleges used technology. We crammed a great deal of travel into a long weekend and we got to know each other quite well. In fact, I spent hours in the middle of the back seat of a compact car with Ken Moss on my left and Bari Haskins on my right. Every time we got in the car, they had to grope under my backside to find and fasten their seat belts.
Late one afternoon in Phoenix we pooled our cash and bought a couple of bottles of wine and took it back to our motel. We had one bottle left and being a penny pincher I packed it in my luggage when we left for San Diego. On the way from the airport to the hotel, I told the gang I had the wine and to come by my room when they got settled and we would have Happy Hour.
We checked in and went our separate ways. When I entered my room, I found the bed unmade and no clean towels in the bathroom. I called the front desk and the manager himself came upstairs with the sheets and towels. He was a handsome man wearing nice clothes and was very apologetic about the housekeeping mishap. He offered me an extra night free, but I said I couldn't stay. I suggested he take a few dollars off our bill. After all, it was just a mix up and he had been very kind and quick to fix the problem.
He hung up the towels and went to work making the bed. He and I were putting the pillows on the bed and covering them with the spread when Ken Moss and John Cothran walked in, ready for their wine. They looked at me and the stranger making up the bed, and their jaws dropped. The hotel manager walked around the bed, shook my hand and said, "Thank you so much. You were very forgiving."
He left. Ken and John just stood there. Finally Ken asked who the man was. I hated to tell them, because I knew whatever I said would not be half as good a story as the ones they were conjuring up in their heads.