Q. I am a high school teacher and fifth-grade basketball coach.
I was recently coaching a fifth-grade practice when a disgruntled parent walked into the gym with 10 minutes left to go and started harassing me verbally. He got into my face, and started yelling at me with foul language. The parent was a rather large individual, and I did not want to start a physical altercation, so I handed him the ball and walked away.
I did not want to try and negotiate with him because I didn’t know how he would react.
The children’s safety was not at stake, but I felt mine was.
I left the gym and sat in my truck because I didn’t have access to a phone inside the gymnasium.
There were about five or 10 parents and children who were on the sidelines who witnessed the event.
Afterward, the parents told me that the disgruntled parent just yelled at the kids to go home. No one was hurt.
The school superintendent charged me with leaving the kids unsupervised for a period of 10 minutes. I felt I handled the situation best by walking away, keeping my distance from the parent, and not trying to negotiate.
Do you feel that this is how most reasonable people would have reacted? Does the school have the right to charge me with leaving the children unattended for 10 minutes, when my own personal safety was at stake?
A. I am very sorry this happened to you. I do happen to agree with the school’s reprimand, however.
If there were a different sort of episode that frightened you (a lightning storm, power outage, etc.), would you have left these fifth-graders unsupervised (by school personnel) in the gym? Obviously not.
You should have asked a witnessing parent to please call school security (or the police) while you tried to deal with the parent.
Q. I mow my lawn with an old-fashioned push-reel mower. I enjoy it immensely, since it’s quiet, it doesn’t pollute and it gives me a great workout, plus, it doesn’t use gas and I can sharpen the blade myself.
But here’s the strangest thing: Different neighbors keep offering to loan their gas-powered lawnmowers to me. Some of them have offered more than once.
I always politely decline, thanking them but insisting that I like my push-reel mower just fine.
This has been going on since I bought my house two years ago.
I’m sure these people mean well, but I don’t understand why this keeps happening.
One neighbor went so far as to tell me he was offering because, and I quote, “You don’t have a lawnmower.” Ironically, at that moment, I had just paused in the middle of my mowing to talk to him.
What on Earth is going on? And what’s the proper response? I don’t want to preach about air or noise pollution, but I do want to mow my own way. Do people think I somehow can’t afford a gas mower, or that I’ve never heard of such a thing?
I’ve considered doing yardwork wearing a T-shirt saying, “This IS a lawnmower!”
It’s enough to make me paranoid about the respectability of my yard. Complete strangers have offered compliments on our flowers. It’s just the people on my block who somehow feel the need to mind my business for me.
Any words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated.
A. I like your T-shirt idea.
What your neighbors are doing is sort of like pulling up next to a jogger or bicyclist to ask if he needs a ride.
I hope you will take this in good humor. What you are doing makes your neighbors just a little bit uncomfortable. They probably hope your ecological ethic and righteous willingness to work up a good sweat while mowing isn’t contagious.
If your hand-mowing shocks them, imagine how they’ll react when you rent a small herd of goats to chomp down your grass. An Internet search turns up many different goat rental companies, available for this purpose.
Q. I want to weigh in on your advice to “Worried,” who wondered how to help her husband’s elderly grandmother.
A. We can all do a better job of taking care of each other.
Amy Dickinson can be reached at email@example.com.