Ready for the World. Or Not

Ready for the World. Or Not

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It’s back-to-school time (cue soundtrack of angels singing), and our kids are stuffing their backpacks full of shiny, overpriced supplies they’ll probably lose even before they learn how to pronounce their new teacher’s name.

As we kick off another educational year, our kids’ most pressing concern is whether their lunch bags contain items from the “ito” food group (Doritos, Cheetos, Fritos). We parents, on the other hand, want the assurance that our children are learning the skills necessary to thrive in the real world.

To test that, I asked elementary school kids hard-hitting questions to see how they would handle the critical situations they’ll almost certainly face in the workplace one day.

What should you do if a co-worker keeps stealing your lunch out of the office refrigerator?

Alex: I’d make a TV commercial that points at them and says, “Buzz off!”

Katie: I’d yell, “Stranger! Stranger!”

Bobby: Call the police. They’d take them away in handcuffs.

Jonny: I have a question for you.

Um, but you didn’t answer my question yet.

Jonny (undeterred; showing the laser focus of a potential CEO): If someone is bleeding all over the place and they go out in the rain, now what happens?

Let’s move on to the next question. What should you do if your cubicle is right next to a guy who sings Barry Manilow songs all day long?

Hannah: I would try to help him.

Even if he sings Copacabana?

Hannah: Then I’d tell him he’s annoying.

Kim (gazing off into the distance): I’d plant some flowers.

David (covering his ears with both hands and grimacing): I’d have to look away when I’m eating.

At the Copa, Copacabana, the hottest spot north of Havana. Here at the Copa, Copacabaaaaaana…

David: Stop! Stop! I’ll put you in time-out!

What if you have to sit right next to a woman who constantly talks about her 14 cats?

Owen (with a grim, Clint Eastwood-like expression): I’d talk about my 14 dogs that love to eat cats.

Alex: I’d hire a hypnotist to sneak into the office and jump out at her and hypnotize her so she forgets about them.

Kim: I’d tell her to stop blabbling (sic). I want to talk about flowers. I like seeds. Flowers smell good and they’re beautiful. Cats smell like pee.

Bobby: Fourteen is annoying.

How about 13 cats?

Bobby: That would be OK.

What if the boss always calls you by the wrong name?

Jack: I would replace his name tag and make it say “Betty.”

Kim (dreamily): Flowers are so pretty.

What if your annoying co-worker tries to take credit for your work?

Will: I don’t care. I don’t need the money.

Jack: I’d get in a costume of them and steal their paycheck.

Alex: I’d go on the computer at nighttime and change my work so it was all wrong, so when my boss looks at it, he’d ask the other guy why it says, “You are a banana peel.”

Why a banana peel?

Alex (in a tone that implies I’m clearly missing the point): It’s yellow.

Katie, do you like flowers?

Katie: (blank stare)

At the Copa,Copacabaaaaaana…

Bobby (covering ears and shouting): Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are…

You win!

Conclusion: Teachers deserve raises. Big ones.

Sarah Pekkanen’s first novel, The Opposite of Me (Washington Square Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Inc.), was released in March. She can be reached at

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