Why We Fuck Up

The agony

Evan detests his cranky knees, his aching back, plastic tray tables, narrow armrests, and narrower seats. Four hours into an overnight flight from London to SFO, he considers kicking down the cabin door, blasting himself somewhere over the mid-Atlantic, and enjoying a couple minutes of supreme legroom as he makes his final descent.

No need to worry, passengers. Alas, he is wedged into a middle seat. He twists, desperately trying to crack his back, but the armrest blocks his rotation.

He shifts, left leg on right, right leg on left. Traces circles with his toes. Drums the armrest. Checks the time on his phone. He’s gotta move. He taps the middle-aged woman beside him on the shoulder and signals that he’d like to stand up. The woman pauses just long enough to create the impression that this is a great burden to her in-flight experience. He mouths a perfunctory apology as he lurches past her.

As he shuffles down the dark aisle, he considers how nice a long jog would feel after landing: something to sweep the crust from his joints, like shaking sand off a beach towel. Sadly, barring a miracle, he won’t have the time – the plane lands at 6 AM and he needs to be at school by 7:15: Evan “Mr.” Brosh is a seventh-grade teacher in the San Francisco Unified School District. He is returning from a prestigious conference-slash-networking event for gifted educators and ambitious tech investors. The conference was very productive: there was much talk of transformation and innovation and representation and he left with a dozen new LinkedIn contacts.

His mind wanders to his eighth period class. He feels a tightness in his chest, a weight behind his eyes. Several kids had become unruly over the past quarter. Their fidgeting had become so severe that he recently started writing names on the board. The thrill of returning from spring break would rouse them even further. He’d have to spend the first half of class settling them down. He just knew it. He paced down the aisle, back to his seat. Why couldn’t those kids just sit still for forty-five minutes?