Where were you when the Challenger exploded? I was sitting in my senior Creative Writing classroom, reading a book. I was scheduled for lunch the period before my Creative Writing class, but I almost always skipped lunch and sat in the classroom reading; my teacher was scheduled for lunch the same period as I, so he’d wait for me to show up then let me in the classroom and lock the door behind him. Anyway, lunch period was almost over and he’d unlocked the door so students could come in and sit down, and then wandered off to the teacher’s lounge or the bathroom or whatever. Ten minutes later, he popped back into the classroom, pale, and said "Have you heard anything about the Challenger exploding?" The few of us sitting in the classroom looked at him, not knowing whether he was joking – I have no idea why he’d joke about such a thing, but he was one of the few teachers Lisbon High School employed who actually possessed a sense of humor, so I assumed if he was joking, it was just going over my head – and I said "No, we haven’t heard anything." He took off for the front office at a dead run and when he returned a few minutes later, he wheeled a television set before him, then plugged it in and tuned to one of the Portland stations. We spent the entire period watching the news. The class drama queen was in hysterics the whole time because she’d once attended the school Christa McAuliffe taught at. Not at the same time she taught there or anything, but in DQ’s eyes, this meant they were practically the same person. We watched the news in silence for the next 41 minutes, and when the bell rang, we filed quietly out of the room. I left school for the day – Creative Writing was my 5th period class, and I could leave early because I had "Senior Privilege" and as long as my grades stayed up I could skip my last two classes, which were study periods. As a side note, you had to have a "b" or higher average to be eligible for Senior Privilege and I believe my senior average was closer to a "d" minus because I was so damn sick of being in school, sick of listening to the teachers drone on, sick of the whole high school thing that as long as I kept my grades somewhere above an "f", I didn’t give a shit how I did. Since I wasn’t really eligible for Senior Privilege, I was basically skipping the last two periods. Every morning like clockwork after the principal’s announcements, they read off a list of students who were supposed to report to the main office. I showed up the first time and pled ignorance – "Oh, I didn’t realize I had to start showing up for study hall yesterday! I thought it was today!" – and thereafter just didn’t bother to show up when they called my name. The vice principal, who was a complete fucking idiot, god knows where they found him, he was only vice principal for that year as far as I know, never came looking for me and it all worked out well in my opinion. I think back on the shit I pulled as a senior in high school, and I’m flat-out amazed that I managed to graduate. Anyway, when I left school that day, I went directly to work – I was in my second year of working at McDonald’s, and had quit twice already. A year later I quit for good when they made me a manager in training, and I realized if I became a manager, I’d work at McDonald’s for the rest of my life, and who the fuck wants that? Sure, someone’s gotta do it, but not me, thanks. When I arrived at work, everyone was talking about the Challenger explosion. The manager on shift was Annette, who was 23 years old but seemed impossibly ancient to the 18 year-old me. Soon after I punched in and started taking drive-thru orders, she got a call from the area manager, Jim Provost (I can’t believe I still remember his name. I remember his face, too, clear as a bell. I guess the oh-shit feeling I got whenever I saw his face in the drive-thru line burned him into my brain. I got dinged by him many a time for not "selling up" – if someone just ordered fries without specifying a size, you’d ask if that was a MEDIUM fry, because more often than not they’d agree. You couldn’t ask if they wanted a LARGE fry, though, because that was considered pushy and would tend to make the customer irate). Jim told Annette to make sure the flag was flying at half-mast. Annette told Lucien, one of the grill guys, to go out and lower the flag to half-mast. Lucien wandered around the parking lot for half an hour before coming back in and asking Annette where the hell the flag was located. It was then that Annette realized there WAS no flag.

This entire memory was spurred by the fact that Lowe’s was flying their flag at half-mast today.