TEMPERING my joy over the kids returning to school is the fact that I'll soon be asked to endure that hellish experience known as Back-to-School Night.
This is the evening when moms and dads are expected to squeeze into tiny classroom desks and tiny classroom chairs and engage in probing question-and-answer sessions with their child's teacher about the coming school year.
After sitting in these cramped prototypes from the Keebler Elves line of furnishings, my first question to the teacher is usually: "Who's going to pay for the laser surgery on my back when they have to fuse a couple of disks together?"
But these teachers, they don't want to talk about laser surgery on your back.
They would rather talk about "curriculums" and "core material" and their "reasonable expectations" for their students.
Which is all well and good. But I find that, when sitting with my spinal column bent at a 45-degree angle and my knees ramming into a hard, knotty slab of oak, my attention span tends to shorten considerably.
The first thing that happens when I sit at these little desks and little chairs is, I lose all circulation in my little feet.
Then -- and I'm not a medical doctor, but this is what it feels like -- the blood begins rushing to my little brain.
This produces a light-headed feeling, not unlike the sensation created if someone were to suddenly place a plastic bag over your head and squeeze the opening shut.
Pretty soon, while the teacher is engaged in a spirited discussion about the exciting world of fractions, I find myself fighting the urge to keel over onto the floor.
Thus far, I have successfully resisted passing out on Back-to-School Night, if for no other reason than common courtesy.
It just seems to me that the last thing a teacher needs while he or she is addressing a group of parents is me sprawled in an aisle with a team of paramedics hovering over me.
I don't care how experienced or poised a teacher is, someone crashing to the floor has to make you lose your train of thought.
Plus, I don't want my kids to get a bad reputation just because I can't handle sitting in their little desks and chairs. ("Oh, there's Sean's and Chrissie's dad -- the guy who's always passing out in the classroom. I wonder what their home life is like?")
So I have tried not to lose consciousness during these affairs, although Lord knows it hasn't been easy.
In any event, my advice to the schools is: Let's spring for some grown-up furniture for the moms and dads to sit on during Back-to-School Night, OK?
Me, I'm thinking, oh, folding chairs.
Now I know that schools are in tough shape financially these days, with teachers practically duking out administrators for a box of No. 2 pencils, never mind an Apple computer.
But keep in mind that we're talking about folding chairs here, not La-Z-Boy recliners.
All I want is something I can sit on without my knees slamming into my jaw. Is that so much to ask? Huh? No, I think not. I'd even bring my own chair -- maybe a chaise lounge -- to these Back-to-School Nights, but the rest of the parents tend to look at you strangely when you do this.
The comfort factor aside, there is also the image factor to consider when an adult tries to squeeze into miniature classroom furniture.
To be honest, it's hard to feel like a no-nonsense, take-charge kind of parent when you're sitting at a tiny desk that looks like it was made in Santa's Workshop.
I'm always afraid that I'll get carried away and blurt out: "Will the children be learning about piggies and duckies this year?"
In any event, I hope the schools will take this advice about folding chairs to heart, as I am tired of nearly blacking out and having my back bend like a sapling in a windstorm.
Please. Don't make me beg. It's unseemly for a man my age to get down on his knees. Besides, the floor is dirty and these are fairly new khaki pants that . . .
All right, but just this once.