It is some weeks hence and after a delightful afternoon with friends, during the course of which you have over-imbibed, you stagger into the street and immediately collide with someone who says in that particular tone that turns heads and makes you avert your own, “Mr Diogenes!”

You enunciate as few syllables as is humanly possible by way of reply hoping to minimise any slurring. By the way your student reels back from the afflatus of a liquid lunch, the game is already up. This will get back and quicker than you think in the communication age. You will be texted and tweeted and, should your student discover you comatose in the gutter, you will also find yourself starring on YouTube. (A worse scenario is if a former student approaches you in a bar moments after you have been checking them out through the grog goggles with a breezy “G’day, Trev.” “I thought it was you,” you say, “Never forget the face of an old student.” You might have got away with it, then again you may not have.)

Years hence, in the immutable way of these things, you will run into another student outside the same restaurant with similarly humiliating results. “Mr Diogenes!!” By the double exclamation mark you know that you are done for. Your reputation will be sullied, yea unto the third generation. “Diogenes?” they will say, “didn’t he have a problem with the drink?”

Henceforth there will be no public social occasion when you are not on your guard. Is that Marlene? Todd? Tarquin?! You take to wearing disguise and never follow the same itinerary twice. Teachers beyond a certain age can never relax.

You think about these things when on the last day you cram into the school minibus with a designated driver (the fool) and head for fleshpots in the city’s several entertainment centres. The evening will only be partially recalled on the morrow when you attempt to piece together the shards.

Did you really reveal your passion for beekeeping? Surely you cannot have expressed lust for that particular person in the art department. The horror, the horror. And all because we teachers when out of the school environment feel the desperate need to communicate to the world that we are normal people. Sigh. We are not.

Peter Fray

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