"Class," the teacher began as we sat down, "this is Jan Sleet, as I'm sure you're aware. She has consented to come and speak to us this morning, as part of our career program. She–"
She stopped and turned as she became aware that my employer was lighting a cigarette. Before she could speak, one of the students said, "I guess this means we can smoke, too, right?"
The teacher, who I had finally recognized, turned back, but Jan Sleet responded first. "If the policy is that you're not allowed to smoke in this class," she said, "then you can't smoke. Ms. Tumolo is your teacher, and it's her decision." She looked at the boy who had spoken. "What is your name?" she asked.
"I'm Willy," he said, tensing a bit. He was slender, with straight, sandy hair, wearing jeans, a T-shirt and a denim jacket.
"Willy," she said, drawing on her cigarette and leaning back in her chair, "one of the first things you learn as a reporter is that authority exists, in every situation. You may think it's valid authority, or not, but it's there and you have to deal with it. I've interviewed world leaders who had no legitimate claim to authority, who schemed and lied and assassinated to get where they were, and if they said I couldn't smoke, I didn't smoke, because I wanted the interview."
She gestured at the advertisement on the wall. I noticed that Willy seemed to be relaxing again. "One time, I had to wear a dress, because a particular general would not even speak to a woman who was wearing pants." She shrugged. "I hadn't worn a dress or a skirt in over ten years, but I did then, because I wanted the interview. Then I wrote an article which nearly got me killed, but that's a different story.
"On the other hand, there have been situations where the subject, for whatever reason, needed the interview more than I did. In those cases, I smoked, and I dressed normally." She turned to the teacher. "I'm sorry, Ms. Tumolo, I'm taking over your class as well as flouting your rules. Please continue."
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