Dear Readers,

Perhaps you’ve heard that we’re in a recession. As a professional who works at a school, I can educate you on the meaning of recession; since “recess” is a time of play, and “ion” is a positively-charged atom, quite obviously a recession is a time when people can more positively engage in playtime activities, since they’ve all lost their jobs.

The recession is being felt across the nation, from the airlines, to the oceans, where shark attacks worldwide in 2008 decreased to their lowest level in five years (Really! I couldn’t make up stuff like this!), suggesting that Americans are forgoing trips to the beach in favor of watching beach scenery on their computer screen savers, which is cheaper and carries less risk of limb loss.

But nowhere is the recession felt more than at Portland’s local Dollar Tree, where I went yesterday to stock up on motivational prizes for my students.

The items I’ve purchased during past Dollar Tree excursions (where I go on vacation in lieu of the beach to avoid shark attacks) haven’t exactly been of Toys-R-Us caliber. They’re generally what I call “quasi-crap,” which is 1-3 steps above being actual crap. However, they’ve always been disguised as decent prizes. The box of magic tricks boasts flashy images on the outer cover, and it is not until students open the box long after leaving my room that they discover several nondescript misshapen pieces of plastic along with instructions that are only in Chinese.

But on this trip, I couldn’t even find the facade of a passable prize. On this trip, it was evident that the recession has turned the Dollar Tree into the Dollar Sapling. I found light-up yo-yo’s that didn’t light up; matchbox cars with only three wheels, and even the candy had expired in the early 1980s.

Yet after six weeks of promising my students that I would buy them prizes “tomorrow” (which has now created a lifetime of semantic confusion for my students with autism who take me literally), I had no choice but to purchase the shoddy items. I would even have to pretend that they were cool.

As my students chose their prizes today, it was clear they weren’t fooled.

Anonymous student: “Really? This is it?? Where are the good prizes?”
Me: “Gee, whatever do you mean?! These High School Musical erasers look positively perfect! Or how about this Hannah Montana mechanical pencil?! Or, I know! This regulation-size, yet non-aerodynamic flimsy foam frisbee looks to be just the thing!!”

My students’ reactions were akin to a shark attack, the kind that took place prior to 2008 when people could still afford to take vacations to the coast.

I like playing positively, but this recession has just got to stop.

–Troi out

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