Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Generation Pantload

We are in the last days of August for 2016.  The weather is still pretty humid but the final days of summer are upon us.  The kids around here all started their back to school rituals on Monday. While driving home today I got stuck behind a school bus.  I couldn't figure out what the hold up was, and then I realized that the bus was stopping at every driveway to let the kids off.  When did this start?   I know this makes me earn my title as the Perennial Curmudgeon; but I remember being 9 or 10 and walking to the end of our street, which intersected with a major street in order to catch the bus.  Sometimes the bus stop was farther away than that.  Usually there was one stop for a handful of kids.  The bus was transportation to and from school and not a personal chauffeur service.  Are kids now incapable of walking more than 6 feet to their homes?  Are they unable to figure out where they live?  Or is this another one of those paranoid, coddle and smother tactics to render kids incapable of being able to achieve even the simplest of tasks?  Whatever the case, it made me angry.  I thought of George Carlin.  In my head I heard him ranting and raving about how kids are too soft and soon parent's will ban standing around because some kid's foot will fall asleep.  Goddamnit!

When I was 6 years old I ran away from school.  Well technically I didn't really run. I just sort of picked up my shit and left. Back in the 80's teachers were allowed to take 15 minute coffee and smoke breaks. During these breaks another teacher in a near by room, was chosen to "look in," on the class.  This seems totally irresponsible by today's standards.  I mean nobody would think to leave a classroom of elementary school kids unattended. Especially now, when parent's want to call the national guard because some kid has a peanut butter sandwich and they could switch lunches with a kid that has nut or gluten allergy.  But teachers back then were already dealing with one overcrowded classroom of their own, so what harm could come from looking in on a second class.  These were the Regan years, and teachers wanted to help out their peers.  I mean what else were they going to do "just say no?"

Mrs. Anderson left for her regularly scheduled coffee break and had the kindergarten teacher "keep an eye on the class."  For some reason my first grade teacher had this idea that if she put the delinquent kids next to the good students, their upstanding behavior would rub off.  Much to my dismay, I had just had my desk moved and I was sandwiched between the class pain in the ass and the kid who always shit himself.  At 6, I already had some pretty severe anxiety, plus some pretty serious school phobia and I didn't respond well to changes in my environment.  On this particular day, when Mrs. Anderson left the room the class delinquent started poking me in the arm.  I ignored it at first, and then I told him to stop.  I recall him starting to poke at me with his dull pencil.  After what seemed like an eternity of annoyance, I had had enough.  Even at 6 my attitude was the same as it is today. I said fuck it!  I got up out of my seat, I went to the coat closet, grabbed my lunchbox and my backpack and left the classroom.  I went down the stairs and out the front door.

My best friend from this time still maintains that the kindergarten teacher saw me and yelled after me to come back.  But I didn't hear her nor did I care to hear her.  Enough was enough and I was leaving.  I turned into a 6 year old version of  Cartman from South Park and was all like "Screw you guys, I'm going home." Even though I was 6, and didn't say a word as I left.

I could have walked the back roads and side streets home, but I didn't.  I followed the main drag.  I remember crossing in the crosswalk, and thinking to myself how polite all the drivers were to let me cross.  Reflecting back on it now,  I guess if I were driving and I saw a 6 year old crossing the street at 10:30 am during school hours, I'd let them cross too.

It was only an 11 minute walk home and a little under a mile.  I remember being really proud of myself, that was until I looked in my bag and realized that I had forgotten my house key.  My grandparent's lived on the next street, so I figured that I'd just walk up to their house and see if they were home.  As I was walking towards my grandparent's house I saw this little maroon Firebird racing towards me.  I caught a glimpse of the driver and I realized it was the crotchety, old bitch of a principal from my school.  For some reason I thought of Big Bird being chased by Ms. Finch in Follow That Bird.  Instead of going the long way around to my grandparent's house, I hurried up the hill, through the neighbor's yard.  I recall "Ms. Finch," reaching her arm out and almost catching me.  "I don't live here,"were the words I yelled back at her, over my shoulder.  I lost her for a few minutes, and made it to my grandparent's front door.  I rang the bell, I was almost to safety.  Just as my grandmother opened the door to greet me, that angry bird of a principal grabbed me by my backpack and dragged me into her little red sports car.  I can still see the look of surprise and confusion on my grandmother's face, as we raced away at top speed.  I don't remember what was said to me in the car. I just stared at her crew cut as I thought about how she wasn't even wearing her seat belt and what a fine example she was setting for me.

After that I only remember bits and pieces from that day.  I remember sitting in the Principal's office zoning out, while Ms. Finch and Mrs. Anderson asked me a plethora of questions.  I recall the delinquent kid coming in, and hearing them yell at him until he finally started crying and confessed.  I remember wondering who was watching the class while Mrs. Anderson was in with us. After school that day, I remember my friend saying that she wanted to go with me but she was too afraid to leave her seat.  Apparently my mother had gotten a frantic call from my grandmother, informing her of what had transpired that day.  I know she held it together until we got home, at which point she sat me down on the couch for a serious talk. I remember her sobbing and hugging me, telling me never to do anything like that ever again.  I remember sitting there and not understanding what the big deal was. Even though I was a kid at the time, I felt like an adult.  I felt as much like an adult then, as I do now, at the age of 35. I still maintain that what I did was the right thing at the time and I have no regrets.

Around the age when this story took place, I used to roll my eyes at people and deliver a line given by a young Drew Barrymore in the movie E.T.  That line was: "I may be little but I'm not stupid!"  Even though it would always get a laugh, I always meant it. So this is why I had such an issue today with the middle school kids and the bus.  If a 6 year old kid can endure an 11 minute walk home, I'm sure a 14 year old can make it across the driveway without an international incident.  Give kids some credit, and stop trying to turn them into Generation Pantload!

No Regrets

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