I have never had a Social Deductions customer that I’ve known, or even knew of. So this makes this case a first.
Around ten minutes after Social Deductions begins, the door opens. “Hello?” I ask, but then Evan’s eyes widen in recognition.
“Mike! Hey, what’s up?”
As they engage in conversation, I make some observations, even though it’s not necessary: 6’0. Junior. Has around three band aids on his knees alone, and one on his shin. Some sort of sporty activity; I’d say soccer, but they wear shin guards in soccer. Maybe skateboarding? He’s smiling, but it’s more of a smirk; a smart mouth type. LIght brown hair.
“Hey, Sage. This is Mike Cord, he’s-”
I cut Evan off. “I know who this is. I have lit with him. I’ve just never talked to him before.”
He rolls his eyes. “Don’t talk about me like I’m not here. It’s like I’m a fly on the wall or something.”
“Sorry. So, what’s the problem?” I ask.
He now crosses his arms. “Wow…you really don’t beat around the bush, eh?”
I shake my head. “Nope. Waste of time. So, what’s the problem?”
He sits down and scratches his head a moment. “I’m usually popular with teachers.”
I barely control the small snort that’s building up. What I’ve seen in lit, he’s a complete smart mouth, always saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, yet everyone thinks he’s hilarious. Instead, I nod. “Okay. So…?”
“I’m having trouble with my algebra 2 teacher.”
Ah. It’s always the math teachers, isn’t it? “Mm. How’ve you been having trouble?”
He turns a little red. “I tried telling a few jokes on the first day. Trying to break the ice, y’know? But each time I joked, she glowered at me with a death glare. Damn, she’s scary!” He cringes a little.
“Maybe she doesn’t like people telling jokes in class?” I offer.
“No, sometimes other kids tease a bit, and she doesn’t give them a death glare! It’s like she saves those for me!”
“Have you talked to her?” Evan asks.
Mike nods. “Yeah, but she nearly bit my head off! I just asked her why she always glared at me, and she told me that she didn’t glare! But she does!” He sighs. “I just want to know what I’m doing wrong, so I can improve.”
I tap my pencil a moment. “Who’s this teacher? I’d like to ask her some questions.”
Mike stutters. “You’ll t-talk to her for me?”
I shake my head. “No way! I’m gonna ask her a few questions, and then you’ll talk to her,” I say.
He still looks nervous. “Her name’s Ms. Thompson.”
I get up. “Okay, I’ll talk to her tomorrow. Meet me again after school.”
The second I see Ms. Thompson, I see that she’s a walking stereotype of The Stern Teacher. Gray hair pulled in a tight knot, a pinched face, thin nose, formal clothing, and even reading glasses. I knock on the door. “Come in!” she barks. Once I walk in, her face becomes suspicious. “I don’t know you. Do you have the wrong room?”
I nearly lose my resolve at her sharp tone, but I manage to say, “I’m from Social Deductions, and one of my customers is in your Algebra 2 class.”
“What’s Social Deductions?”
“Don’t you have schoolwork to do?”
“Y-yes, but I’ve done it all…” I hope she can’t see through my lie.
Her face softens a fraction of an inch. “All right then. What’s your question?”
I glance over my notes. “Mike Cord is my customer, and he’s wondering why you don’t like him,” I say.
She groans and takes off her glasses so she can rub her forehead. “Ugh. It’s not just him.”
“Hmm? What is it, then?”
“You have to promise not to tell anyone but Mr. Cord.”
I nod. “Sure, that’s easy.”
“The whole class is awful!” she finally cries.
I wasn’t expecting that. “Uh, how?” I ask.
“They mouth off all the time! They’re always playing on their phones, and the girls gossip when they should be taking notes, and the boys throw their water bottles all over the place! The plastic, cheap ones. I’m this close to not allowing water bottles in this room.”
Gah. That does sound like a class from hell. “I’m sorry to hear that, ma’am,” I say. “But Mike wants you to be able to like him. He feels bad, like you really don’t like him for no reason. He wants to know what he could do better.”
She sighs. “Well, I must admit that he does talk a little too much and is a smart mouth, but he has potential. He’s not nearly as bad as the rest of the class. Just tell him to try to be a little quieter during notes, and that’s all he can do. Let him know that I’m angry at the whole class, not just him. Also, him going to you to find out why I’m rather brusque shows that he’s earnest. That’s all good. Also, he can still tell jokes. Just not during notes, or when I’m explaining something.”
I finish scribbling down the information. “Thank you, ma’am. That was very helpful.”
Before I leave, she says, “Also, tell him to talk to me personally, all right?”
I’m confused. “He says he tried to, but you nearly but his head off.”
“Bit his head off…?” She trails off. “Oh no! I’d been having a rotten day. I’d even yelled at the class to be quiet! Oh, and he’d tried to talk to me… You’re right, I did. Tell him I’m sorry, I’d let my emotions get the better of me.”
I nod. “Okay, I’ll tell him.”
Mike slouches in his seat. “What’d she say, Sage?” he mumbles.
“It’s not just you, Mike.”
His head jerks up. “What the heck? How’s that even possible!” he cries.
“She doesn’t like the entire class.”
He looks relieved. “That’s better! She doesn’t especially hate me?”
I shake my head. “No, in fact she said that you’re more tolerable than the majority of the class.”
“Oh, tolerable? I guess that’s okay, as long as I’m tolerable,” he says sarcastically.
“Mike, maybe you should listen to what else Sage has to say,” Evan offers. I’d told him everything before Mike came in.
“Shoot,” Mike says.
“Ms. Thompson told me that the day you tried to talk to her, she wasn’t having a good day. That’s why she was particularly vicious. You need to keep that in mind when talking to teachers.”
Mike thinks for a second. “Oh! Yeah, this one guy tried to see how far he could throw his water bottle without it breaking. It broke.”
I nod. “Ah. No wonder she was so mad. However, she did say you could make some improvements.”
“Ooh! What’re they? Stand up straight? Zip my lips?”
I groan a little. “No. It’s mainly just being quiet during notes and explanations.. She says it’s okay for you to joke around, but sometimes it’s irritating. Try not to mouth off so much.”
He thinks. “All right. That sounds doable. I mean, I joke more in that class because she’s so rigid…”
I nod. “Lemme know how it goes next week, okay?”
He nods. “Sure! All right, I gotta go. Thanks!”
The next week after school, me and Evan are waiting for Mike until he finally shows up. I can tell by his smile that it went well. “What happened?” I call.
He grins and does a double thumbs up. “It was great! She only scowled at me once a class!” I’m tempted to think that that isn’t much of an accomplishment, but then I remember my meeting with her; I don’t believe I was being obnoxious, but she scowled at me most of the time.
“That’s cool! How about other classes?” Evan asks.
He nods. “Still goin’ well. I think that the teachers actually like that I’m try to be a little quieter.”
I smile a little. “That’s good, Mike. Nice job. Y’know, changing habits takes time. So don’t worry if you keep joking around a bit much for other people’s tastes. I’m sure if you try, you’ll continue to tone it down to the right level for a classroom.”
He shrugs. “Thanks for the advice, Sage. Well, I’ll be on my way. I’ve got a skateboarding thing after school, and I don’t wanna be late.” We say our farewells, and he leaves.
“That was interesting,” Evan comments.
“What?” I ask.
“The social problem. It wasn’t entirely his fault. I mean, sure, there was still stuff to work on, but it wasn’t just about him, y’know?”
I nod. I’d noticed that myself. “Yeah, I get it. It wasn’t all about him. It mainly had to do with the environment he was in.”
It makes me wonder how many situations are like that. How many problems people think they have, when really it’s the environment that’s a problem. It really makes one think a little.