Louise M. Keller, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, was lecturing fifty psychologists on anger management. “Insisting you don't need this training,” she said smiling with clenched teeth, “shows just how much you need it.” Ten days a year, we were pulled out of our jobs with the school district and held hostage before a hastily arranged speaker who could fulfill the quota for professional development hours.
“Anger is a human emotion.” Louise read verbatim from her puke green power point presentation. The supervisors lined the sides of the auditorium like secret service agents. The members of the audience had one collective wish: just once, don't insult us. “Whenever we can, we want to engage the family,” Louise said.
“Hey, I never thought of that,” Daniel said. Twenty years prior, we began our careers together at the three thousand plus high school with an uncanny resemblance to Wild West City . We were old enough to remember when kids were more important than paper work.
“Lunch?” I asked at ten.
“You pick,” he said. “She's killing my appetite.”
“I need everyone's attention,” Louise said. She stared at us. Click. “Anger signals something's out of whack.” Click. “We need to make sure their anger works for them and not against them.” Click. “The bully craves nurturance.” She reached down and stuck a finger in her furry suede boot. “Intimidation is not how to get control.”
“It seems to work for her,” Daniel said.
“You think I'd look good in a parka?” I asked.
“With our without pumps,” he said refolding his paper.
Louise cleared her throat. Our supervisor glared at me. I glanced at Daniel who continued reading. Click.
“When facing out of control students, ask them, how angry are you? Tell them to plot on a mental chart. Not angry, mildly angry, angry, or burning mad. See the interplay between thoughts and physiology?” Click.
The veteran's hand went up again, “Have you ever worked in a school?” he asked already knowing the answer. Dr. Hart was distinguished and accomplished, but unlike most of us, he clung to the notion that common sense would prevail in a bureaucracy.
“You should examine your anger issues,” Louise said. She pointed her clicker at him like she could zap him out of existence.
“I rest my case,” he answered.
“How angry are you,” I asked Daniel.
“Burning,” he said, “and you?”
“Off the chart.”
Click. Click. A slide of an Irish Setter. “Isn't he wonderful? His name is Red.”
“She's insightful and imaginative,” Daniel said.
“I was worried about leaving him because they're predicting snow back home. I have a four hour drive,” Louise said. She had gotten too close to the microphone waking those who were still breathing. Suddenly Louise trotted to the table stacked with her $26.95 book. “Goodness,” she said relieved after patting the surface. “I'm always losing my keys.”
Click. “People are like dogs. They need training. That's why I'm here today.”
“No, you're here because they paid you a grand to trek in from the Yukon.” Daniel passed me the paper and his pen.
“Not fair,” I said. He had violated our two entries per person crossword rule.
“I couldn't resist,” he said.
Click. “My book, Making Anger Work for You will make you experts, even able to recognize the moods of an Irish Setter. Let's focus on techniques. One. Count.” Click. “Two. Breathe.” Click. “ Three. Consider the consequences. This is a good place to break and reflect on these powerful tools. I'm available for signings.”
“Where are you going?” Daniel said.
“Working on anger issues,” I replied.
“Can I facilitate in the therapeutic process?”
“Certainly,” I said adjusting his tie a quarter inch to the left.
He touched the small of my back as I headed for the table. Louise stood riveted to Daniel's cobalt eyes.
I lifted the key ring. Daniel grazed her shoulder. I smiled.
Daniel left her mid sentence.
We walked out into a mild November day lighting cigarettes.
Daniel pushed the waste can open with the paper. I deposited my contribution.
“How's your anger?” he asked.
I counted. Took a deep breath. Considered the consequences. “What anger?”