August 27, 2020:

One of the most confusing experiences was near the end of sixth grade.

We'd learned to read the weather instruments. The teacher, Mister I-Endorse-the-John-Birch-Society, had been a meteorologist in World War Two; the subject was therefore near to him. We recorded outdoor temperature, humidity, barometric pressure. Someone gave a daily weather report as part of our mock news broadcasts.

One day it was drizzly in that slow SoCal way. When I checked the humidity gauge the reading was 100%. I can understand how the gauge would produce that number: drops of rainwater have dripped into its mechanism which has become soaked. Logically, though, it seems to me, the reading makes no sense. If the humidity were truly 100% we'd be under water. We probably need to adjust our record to, say, 99%, to account for the way the instrument works. I decided to ask the teacher, thinking he would know.

To my great shock he blew up at me. Furious, voice raised, almost shaking. Scary. And he refused to explain. "100 percent," he sneered. End of discussion.

If I were to defend him for this, I'd say he'd become acclimated to me being full of shit. After all, I brazenly lied to him, habitually, without compunction. I skipped school two or three times a week and sometimes got into trouble on the playground. And I was not having his John Birch winks and nods. I was as anti-Communist as the next red-blooded American patriot, but if this guy favored something there was inarguably something wrong with it. You could say we were not on good terms. So that — this is my defense of him — it was a more or less conditioned response for him to immediately gainsay any statement or argument of mine which seemed even the least bit off the beaten path.

In truth I was completely serious, and I had a point. I'd discovered what philosophers of science call an "edge case". An anomaly which calls into question a theory or instrument or experiment. It wasn't earth-shattering or science-breaking and it had a straightforward explanation. It may even be meteorological practice to ignore that logical nicety and by convention label rain "100% humidity". I still don't know. If so there was nothing preventing him saying so. We kids would all have learned something. Instead he responded with hostility, and emotional violence, as he had done in other circumstances with myself and other kids, for instance the girl who taught us the word "highball".

This would never have happened in La Mesa. No teacher at Rolando would ever speak to a kid this way. With derision and contempt. Never in my experience anyway. In San Diego all three of my grammar school teachers did. This is not coincidence. Granted they were reprehensible people, but beyond that, they were embedded in a system which not just tolerated but generated these behaviors. They were its products, indeed two of them were its elite products, the best the system could create. That their system produced outcomes like them and like this demonstrates more than individual mediocrity. The system itself was structurally broken.