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Father McDonald Class of 1977

Sal's Stories Chapter 1

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Published - December 3 2005



Chapter One - " Garry "

   I have been teaching at Father Mac, non-stop, since 1969.  Indeed, while I officially retired, I am still teaching full time at LaurenHill Academy which is the new name of Father Mac since 1999.  The teacher who was supposed to replace me quit on the first day and I was asked to stay on yet another year and I agreed.  Admittedly, I am having a ball as the students as usual are very nice


   While working at Father Mac for many years, many things have occurred.  Believe me, I could write a book about my experiences at Father McDonald.  Here is just one of them.  This one began in 1990 when La Commission Scolaire Ste-Croix hired a new Lab Technician for Father Mac.  He was a young man by the name of Garry, then 24 years old, straight out of the Canadian Army.  That’s Garry with two r’s.  For some unknown reason, Garry became very upset when one spelled his name with only one “r” instead of two “r’s”.  As he told me, “I don’t care what you do to me, but please don’t misspell my name”.  Indeed, the exact opposite of my philosophy.  Garry looked much younger than 24 years old.  Indeed, he looked more like a student than a lab technician.


   When Garry first set foot in the science prep room and saw me and Mr. Scalzo, he thought to himself, as he later confessed to us, “These bozos are teachers?”  By the end of the first week, however, he updated his thinking to, again to use his own words, “These bozos are smart.”  While Garry had no difficulty calling me by my first name, Sal, he could never call Mr. Scalzo by his first name, Ottavio.  Occasionally, somewhat disappointed, Mr. Scalzo would askl me, “Why does Garry call you by your first name and calls me Mr. Scalzo?”  I told him it must be out of respect saying that, “Obviously he has more respect for you than for me.”  One day I told Garry, “Listen, Ottavio would prefer that you call him by his first name.”  He told me, “I can’t, he has a European mentality.  He thinks just like my father who is from Czechoslovakia.”   I said, “What, you call your father by your family name?”  He said, “No, of course not.”  You figure it out.  I never could!


   Coming from the city of Sherbooke, Garry spoke English with a heavy French accent (for example, instead of saying “determine” he would say “de-ter-mine”).  Indeed, I had a heck of a time refraining my students from laughing at him the first few months.  I must say, however, that after only one year, he really improved his English.  In fact, the following year the students didn’t laugh at all.


   In the Chemistry lab, it was Garry’s job to demonstrate and explain to the students how to do the experiments while I stood by watching along with the students.  During one of the early experiments, for some unknown reason, Garry decides to demonstrate how to put on a pair of rubber gloves by telling the students, “You put these on like a condom.  Does everybody know how to put on a condom?”  We were all left speechless.  As if that were not enough, and much to my astonishment, he then asks the girls in the class if they knew how to put on a condom.  I couldn’t believe it and immediately interjected, “I think we get the idea Garry.  Now why don’t you just explain the damn experiment and forget the condoms?”



   During the next experiment, while pouring some chemical, Garry decides to ask, “Are any of you girls pregnant, because this chemical is bad for pregnant women?”  Again we were all left speechless and again I couldn’t believe it.  Foolishly, he then goes on to ask the girls, “How do you know you are not pregnant, are you sure, really sure?”  In a loud voice I immediately intervened, “Nobody here is pregnant, Garry, now can you please just do the damn experiment!”  Needless to say, after class, I gave him hell telling him to stop embarrassing the class and instructing him next time to “shut up while doing the demonstration.”


   A couple of weeks later, just prior to the start of the next experiment, I told Garry, “Remember, shut up while demonstrating the experiment.  We don’t need any of your comments.”  Wouldn’t you believe it, during his demonstration Garry starts gesturing to me in sign language?  I thought he was going crazy, as I didn’t understand a thing.  Without saying a word, you should have seen the elaborate hand motions.  The students, of course, began laughing.  Afterwards, he was surprised to learn that I did not know the “army” sign language.  I didn’t even know the army had a sign language.


   From day one at Father Mac, Garry began to clean up the science area and, fresh out of the army, he kept referring to the equipment as the “ammunition”.  Indeed, after a while, I also began using Garry’s lingo and referred to the equipment as the “ammunition”.  Remember, this is in 1990 much before any of the school shootings.  Every now and then, Garry kept reminding us that he has the army system in him where “there is a place for everything and everything must be in its place”.  Of course, each time he said that, I added the remark, “Yes, yes, Garry, but this is not the army”.  Mr. Scalzo, by the way, privately told me on a number of occasions that he felt like putting Garry “in his place”.


   After about a month, Garry informed me that there was insufficient time to straighten out the “ammunition” in the labs.  Apparently, he could not work on organizing the labs during school time.  He got the bright idea that he must come in on the weekends to establish a place for everything and put everything in its place.  I remember thinking that this guy is a real “neat freak” but better a neat freak than a messy slob.  So, one Friday afternoon, Garry and I asked permission from the late Mr. Archambault to come in on the weekend.  From the look Mr. Archambault gave us, I think he thought we were crazy.  Nonetheless, he gave me the key to the front door of the school as well as the password with which to phone the alarm company.  Since Garry did not have a car, I agreed to pick him up at 9 AM the following morning.


   At exactly 9 AM on Saturday, I was very punctual as I figured a neat freak from the army would be a very punctual individual, I picked up Garry and we drove to Father Mac.  Upon arrival, I opened the front door of the school, called the alarm company, gave the password, and asked Garry, “At what time do you want me to pick you up for lunch?”  In his usual angry tone of voice he answered “What lunch?  I have no time for lunch; I have work to do, just come around 4:30”.  “Yes Sir”, I replied.


   At about 4:30 that afternoon, I entered Father Mac and went upstairs to the labs.  Walking in the corridors of the science area, I saw Garry through the window of the lab.  Since he hadn’t seen me, I decided to have a little fun.  Quietly I walked into the prep room and threw a piece of chalk in the corner of the room.  Garry yells out in a serious and loud voice, “What’s that?  What’s that?”  I laughed, saying to myself, “Man is this guy uptight.”  After a short pause, I threw another piece of chalk.  Garry now says, again in a very loud and angry voice, “Stop that.  Is that you, Sal?”  As I walked in he showed me a bandaged hand and told me, “Look, I cut myself.  And you want to play games?”  I told him, “How am I supposed to know what happened?  How bad are you hurt?”  He told me, “Very bad.  I thought I was going to bleed to death.  I wanted to call 911.  Where is the phone around here?”  I told him, “There is no phone around here.  The only accessible phone is the pay phone down stairs.”  I then asked him if he wanted me to bring him to the hospital.  He said, “No, I’m ok now”.  When I saw blood on the table in the lab, I touched nothing as a precaution against aids saying to myself, “You never know”.  However, I refrained from making any comments to Garry concerning the blood as he was in a rather unfriendly mood.


   While waiting for him to get ready to leave, I asked, and I kid you not, “So, Garry, did you finish with the ammunition?”  With the same angry tone as in the morning, he told me, “Are you crazy?  This is a three or four weekend job.”  I told him, “No problem, tomorrow I will bring you back here.  Now let’s go because my wife and I are invited for supper at a friend’s house.”  We left the science area and went downstairs.  I telephoned the security company, gave the password, set the alarm, and we exited Father Mac through the front door on Decelles street.  I locked the door and made sure it was locked.


   As we started walking down the steps at the front of Father Mac, we heard a car screeching around the corner blowing the horn a few times in an obvious effort to get our attention.  As the car slowed down in front of the school, I said to myself, “This guy must want directions” and prepared to offer my help.  I figured that since Garry was from Sherbrooke, I should be the one giving out the directions and moved next to Garry who was standing just a little bit ahead of me.  Although never actually coming to a full stop, the car was now traveling extremely slowly.  As it approached us, the window on the passenger side began rolling down.  All of a sudden, to our shocking surprise, a man with a gun in his hand stretches out his arm and points the gun directly at us.  The man, approximately 30 years old, looked like he was Indian or Pakistani.  Both Garry and I instantly froze.  While I am usually a joker type always making some comment, I said absolutely nothing as the situation appeared to be deadly serious.  Although the gun was pointed at us for only about 4 or 5 seconds, it seemed like an hour as time for us stopped.  I said to myself, “Who the hell is this guy Garry?” as I was convinced they were after him.  Moreover, I suddenly became very angry at his use of the word “ammunition” as there was now an ammunition right in my face.


   Standing motionless in front of Father Mac, both Garry and I were at the complete mercy of this guy pointing a gun at us.  My stomach went sick, a first time experience for me, as I was convinced we were going to be shot in front of the school.  Believe it or not, what flashed through my mind was “the Lancione Award” for science with the words “killed in the line of duty” ringing in my ears.  Both of us kept our eyes glued to the gun so that when the car fortunately accelerated away, we were unable to read the license plate.  As soon as we were out of danger, we both let out a sigh of great relief.  Garry then turned to me and started screaming loudly, “I knew it.  I knew it.  You are part of the Mafia.  Why didn’t you run, you shouldn’t just stand there like a stationary target! You should run and roll like they teach you in the army.”  Yes, of course, I was to “run and roll” like they do in the army.  Problem is, I never went to the army.  I suddenly became as shocked at Garry as I was at the gunman.


   Incredibly, Garry was genuinely convinced I belonged to the mafia and that those guys were after me.  For my part, I yelled, “Stop with that army crap, you and your damn ammunition.  I thought they were after you!”  Strangely enough, I was as convinced they were after Garry as Garry was convinced they were after me.  Stunned, almost trembling, and in total silence, we quickly walked to my car.  When we got into the car, I noticed that Garry sat as far away from me as possible.  I think he was actually leaning against the door.  Upon arriving in front of his apartment building, I told him, “Listen, Garry, let’s forget about tomorrow.”  He yelled at me, “No, no, no, I must finish. I must finish.  Pick me up at 9 tomorrow.”  I agreed and began driving home.  Although the thought crossed my mind, I refrained from saying, “This is really not your day, Garry.  First you almost bled to death, then you were almost shot to death” as we were both much too horrified.  But, as I say, it was on my mind.


   On my way home, I decided not to mention a thing to my family lest they become scared.  Unfortunately, however, I did not think of telling Garry not to phone my wife.  Indeed, I was in no condition to do much thinking as the image of the gunman was still very fresh on my mind.  Trust me, to this very day I still have that picture vividly in mind.  Both Garry and I may never forget it.  Anyway, during the time that I drove home, Garry was busy first phoning the police, who told him they could do nothing since we had no license number, and then phoning my wife to inform her, believe it or not, that the mafia was after me.  What possible purpose it served Garry to phone my wife and tell her that the mafia was after me can only be explained by the fact that the incident deeply traumatized him.  I mean, who in his right mind phones a woman to tell her, “The mafia almost shot your husband”? 


   You could image the scene when I arrived home.  My wife insisted that I call the police and call off the supper invitation.  It took me a little while to calm everybody down and finally go to supper at our friend’s house.  I instructed all members of my family not to mention the incident.  I must say that going out that evening helped me forget the whole affair if only for just a little while.  Unfortunately, all night long the face of the gunman was in the front of my mind.  Poor Garry, it troubled him so much that within about a week he told me he was seeking psychological help (a psychiatrist).  A few days later, he told me he was considering purchasing a gun.  I remember yelling at him, “Are you crazy?  Don’t be a fool.  Just forget the damn incident!”  Of course, we never will.


   At 9 AM sharp the following day, I picked up Garry, and in complete silence (without even saying good morning to each other) we drove to Father Mac.  Being somewhat angry at him for phoning my wife, I didn’t want to speak nor did I want to hear him speak.  In an effort to make sure no one talked, I turned on the radio, loud.  The news was being broadcast and, just my luck, the announcer announced that a man narrowly escaped being hit by a random shooting outside the local library in Dollard des Ormeau.  Garry immediately said it must be the same guy that pointed the “9 millimetre berretta” at us.  Of course, coming from the army, unlike me, he knew exactly the type of “ammunition” it was.  I told him, “I don’t know and I don’t care, I just want to forget the whole damn thing.”


   While walking up the front steps of Father Mac, Garry becomes somewhat paranoid telling me, “Quick, I’ll watch the street while you open the door.”  I laughed, thinking to myself that the incident really got to him.  Of course, I must say, it took me more than a month to fully rid myself of that sick feeling every time I walked down the front steps of Father Mac.  In fact, for about two weeks following the incident, I would stop, check that there was no screeching car turning the corner, then walk quickly to my car.  On our way out that Sunday afternoon, Garry didn’t want me to close the door,
“in case we have to run back in” as he put it.  You have no idea how many times during the next few months Garry told me, “I think I saw the car today.”  As if I cared.


   On the following Monday, as I entered the science prep room, Garry greets me with the saying, “Good morning boss”.  And, all week long, he referred to me as “boss”; “yes boss,’ “right away boss”, “anything else boss”, “shall we go to lunch boss”, etc.  It was sickening.  By Friday afternoon, I had had enough.  I called Garry over and told him in a very stern voice, “Get this straight, Garry, I have nothing to do with the mafia.  I don’t know who the hell those people were but they were certainly not from the mafia because if they were, believe me, both of us would have been killed.  Now stop calling me boss, I don’t like it, understand?”  He got the message because he never used the word “ammunition” and never called me “boss” again.  I can’t understand why these things happen to me!


Sal Lancione


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