My 4th Grade Teacher Secretly Moonlighted as a Used Car Salesman

A 4th grade book list and a teacher at a Cincinnati used car lot are shown.

As you navigate your way through what we call life, there are times when you pause, reflect, and learn something new from your past. This happens to everybody, and there are no exceptions. For example, up until a certain age, you probably believed in Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny. In some cases, it is just the opposite; you suddenly solve a mystery of your youth. For me, it took 45 years until I realized that my 4th-grade teacher was a used car salesman in the evenings and on weekends. That’s right; my 4th-grade teacher worked at a Cincinnati used cars lot.

A close up shows a pencil, money, and a paper graded with a C minus in red.

Anything to Make a Buck

Looking back, the way he talked, the way he acted, it should have been quite evident that he sold used cars. Look, you have to be suspicious of any teacher who would bump up your test score for $10. But the dead giveaway was when he tried to sell me a used pencil with teeth marks when I had left mine in my locker. He told me it was no big deal, a little sandpaper to the pencil and it will look as good as new. I was desperate, so we negotiated, and I thought I got a great deal on that used pencil only to get back to my desk and discover a crack running the length of it. When I pressed the pencil on the paper, ready to write, it snapped right in half, and I sat there stunned as the rest of the class completed the assignment. Obviously, I failed the assignment, but thankfully the teacher only charged me $20 to raise the grade to a C-.

My 4th-grade teacher also had a strange way of teaching and motivating. He would be giving us a lesson about World War II, and he would make it sound like it was a picnic. If a student wasn’t paying full attention to what he had to say, he would put his arm around them, give them the biggest fake grin ever, pat them on the shoulder, and pretend to be their best friend. Shockingly, that method proved to work time and time again. The man had skills, to be sure – I can picture him selling a lemon rattletrap Ford Pinto for the price of a convertible Thunderbird.

That Plaid Suit

There were other signs that he moonlighted as a used car salesman that should have been a dead giveaway. For instance, he wore suits to school that looked as though they were stolen from Frank Bonner’s character Herb Tarlek on WKRP in Cincinnati. To be fair, he could rock a gaudy green and red plaid jacket and matching slacks. Man, you could hang glide with the collar on his disco-era shirts. Speaking of WKRP in Cincinnati, wasn’t Bailey the very reason every 13-year-old male in the 1970s watched the series?

Kicking Tires and Slamming Car Doors

I don’t believe that the fact my 4th-grade teacher was a used car salesman negatively affected my education. Now, that’s not to say that over the years, I was always corrected concerning certain information I had obtained from his lectures. It wasn’t until I was well into my 20s when I realized that it was highly unlikely that the oil crisis in 1973 was caused by people like my parents who preferred buying new foreign cars as opposed to used American models. I guess that I shouldn’t be surprised; after all, it was probably difficult not to carry over the lies and untruths a used car salesman spews into the classroom where he teaches.

What worries me is that there are likely some other lies he taught me in the 4th grade that may still come back to bite me in the rear. I’m all for teachers moonlighting to help make ends meet; I do realize they aren’t the best-paid professionals. However, whenever I meet my kid’s newest teacher, I always check to see if they are dressed in plaid and ask them if they tend to kick car tires and slam the doors.


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