Cotton Ball Class

Cotton balls have many purposes. One of them was placed on my arm to soak up the few drops of blood after some my life-flow had been siphoned away into test tubes after my annual physical exam. That’s one purpose. Another is gluing several of them onto the paper of a kid’s art project, as he builds a cute fluffy snowman, that will end up as another addition to the refrigerator’s front clutter.

My mom would use cotton balls to help remove her makeup and, in my infrequent uses of a razor for shaving, I would use them to dab up the blood emerging from my nicks.

And now a new purpose: Artificial AirPods. Since the ear devices and cotton balls are the same color, it is almost like having a knock-off Gucci handbag or over-priced Nike basketball shoes. Who can tell the difference?

This newly discovered purpose had arisen as a result of our middle school’s “no cell phone policy”. From the time the students enter the building to the time they leave, roughly 7:30-3:00, they are not permitted to have their cell phones. The phones had become too much of a distraction, not only in the classroom but also in the hallways, cafeteria, restrooms, at athletic contests, and band concerts. In many students’ minds, iPhones had become more necessary than curriculum, a computer, classroom discussions, and science projects. As a result, AirPods populated the ears of more students than the protection of gloves for their hands on twenty-degree days.

But no more. Many students twitched. A few thought they would surely breakout in hearing-hives or develop some kind of withdrawal symptoms that would keep the school nurse hopping. However, to their dismayed, protesting attitudes, they didn’t.

So I shelled out a buck-twenty-five for a bag of 200 from the local supermarket and offered AirPod placebos for a couple of students who were beginning to wonder if their parents would allow them to be 8th grade dropouts? The first student I offered the white fluff too refused the help. He thought it was an inadequate replacement for the unjust eviction of his usual ear resident. But another unadorned student nearby perked up and asked, “Can I have one?”

“Sure,” I responded, reaching into the bag.

“Me, too?” came another plea.

A minute later, most of the class sported a cotton ball in at least one ear. One boy, a sculptor in the making, shaped his into the form of an AirPod, the tail coming down from the ear to resemble a shrimp. One girl kept tapping on hers, as if she was changing the playlist to the next song. Another student rocked his head back and forth, as if he was listening to Drake.

The next day I didn’t even get to initiate the offer of cotton balls. Class members asked me! At the end of class, I had them assemble on one side of the room with their artificial listening devices inserted for a class picture. They thought that was pretty cool, as I used to say, and even put some attitude into their poses.

I’m not saying that cotton balls are a long-term solution. They’re more like Sweet ‘N Low for someone trying to kick the sugar habit. For a few days, in the midst of the AirPods-induced grief, they’re providing a lighthearted alternative. The novelty will soon pass and they’ll join the ranks of Chia Pets and Moon Rocks, items that were here for a while and then cast to the side.

Meanwhile, the absence of their AirPods has resulted in another problem, another wart, rising to the surface. They talk a lot more to one another! The drop in rap music inside their ears has raised the level of verbal relating outside their parted lips.

I guess that’s not a problem. It’s more like them getting back to being the amazing, precious people that they are.

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