Hope everyone is having a good start to the new year, here's another story for you. Happy new year!
Every time I see this movie, I am reminded of an experience I once had.
Pride is a motherfucker. In this culture of confrontation, we have all experienced a challenge to our reputation and to our ability. It drives us to go out and conquer our foes. This is something that has lead to many unfortunate experiences, those documented by history and the many day to day challenges that are lost in the halls of time. Political upheavals and wars have been waged because of two individuals that disagree and seek to prove the other wrong. Every day we are witness to such things. As any proud individual, we will not allow a person who seems to be inferior to us, insult our will and reputation and get away without a fight. Here is the story of a time were I was challenged and I refused to back down.
Winter is a bitchin season when you are 7. Snow days, snow forts, snowmen, snowballs are all reasons why I would almost foam at the mouth as a kid at the mention of an "Arctic Air System" moving towards my house. Plots of ambush and destruction entered my head when I started to hear the Christmas carols on the radio and in the mall. I would gleefully run out of my bed every morning and rush to my window to check to see how much snow fell the previous night, hoping there would be plenty to implement my plans of snowy doom. At school, children would edge closer and closer to the exits as the time ticked down to the recess bell, knowing that every second counted when you had to get suited up in your boots and coats, in order to get to your snow fort first.
This day was no different. Unfortunately, the roads were not closed due to snowfall, but there was more and an ample amount to conduct some snowy mischief at school. Lunchtime was coming to a close and we were getting zipped up in our snowsuits to head out into the great outdoors. Chatter filled the boot room. Plans for how to spend the recess were discussed. My buddy Scott and I got right down to business.
"Ok, so as soon as that bell goes, we run for the fort before Joel can knock it down again," I said, "That guy is such a dillhole!"
"Yeah," Scott agreed, "He thinks he owns the play ground. He does this every year. I wish somebody would show him up for once"
My 7 year old pride swelled up in me as I unzipped my backpack.
"He's not so tough," I turned to Scott and said, "he's just a little bitch."
It was here when I noticed Scott was staring right behind me and that the buzzing of chatter had dropped to a hissing of whispers. I looked down at my boot to finish tying it and notice a shadow envelope my form. I slowly turned my head and looked behind me. I gasped slightly when I realized who it was. The school bully, Joel.
Joel was a notorious bully to the younger kids in school. Being a couple grades above us and blessed with the advantage of height, he thought he had been granted some divine right and was king of the playground. No one dared to challenge his rule. The usual tactics of bullies that involved style and some imagination were lost on this jerk off. Swirlies, wedgies, tit twisters didn't even register as options to this cretin. If he had a problem with you, he'd solve it with his fists. I was suddenly pulled up by my coat and spun around, hitting Scott with my backpack.
"What was that, you puke?" Joel inquired.
Everyone's eyes were on me. Fear had hit me in full force. I was now public enemy number one in Joel's eyes and that was not a good place to be. My brain was screaming at my body to run away, but I was frozen in the spot. My mouth went dry. I didn't know what to do next. He repeated his question.
"What did you say Luke? I'm nothing but a little bitch? That's funny coming out of your mouth."
Rage began to build inside of me.
"Aww, got nothing to say?" His stinking breath poured over my face. "Figures, you little faggot."
Now, I was a calm kid. I was always friendly, I would always share and help out kids and I would never ever, look for trouble. But this word, pissed my 7 year old self off. My synapses fired off, running scenarios and statistics as to how I could one up this bastard. The monkeys in my brain rushed to and from their offices, correlating data. I could punch him in the face now, but that would probably end up with me getting beaten that much harder. I could yell for the teacher and get him in trouble, but the playground society would label me as a "tattle-tale". Then, I was struck with an idea so epic, I could hardly believe my own cunning. I stopped staring at my feet, put my lunch pail into my backpack, and looked him right in the eye.
"Yeah, I did say that. You want to prove me wrong? I've got a challenge for you then."
The the whispers began to build in volume. Joel laughed and asked what I was thinking. The recess bell rang.
The crowd separated and let Joel and myself walk out of the doors first. Side by side we pushed the doors open and walked out towards the playground. The cold winter air hit my lungs so hard. Covering my mouth, I started to cough. The other students crowded behind us and were openly cheering and calling over other friends, informing of them of the intensity that had just played out. Students emerging from the other exits saw the large group and came to join the throng. We walked straight past the wood and tire play structure and headed towards two Tether-ball poles.
For an unfortunate few, the lesson to never stick your tongue to a metal pole in the dead of winter was learned the hard way. Everyone has heard or read a story of a child who did this act and had to be freed with the mixed blessing of hot water poured onto the affected area. The closer we got to the Tether-ball poles, the more people came to realize what was about to unfold. Excitedly, the crowd formed a circle around the two poles and talked energetically to the students around them. I stood between the two poles and looked over at Joel.
"So," I began, "I bet you that I can stick my tongue to this longer than you can."
The mob went silent, straining to hear our conversation over the wind.
"That's stupid! You think you can trick me like that?"
"Tell you what, I'll stick my tongue to the pole first." I walked over to one of the poles, stuck my tongue out and pressed it against the icy cold pole. The crowd looked between me and Joel. The ball was in his court now. Joel looked slightly uncomfortable. However, he cleared his throat, let out a nervous laugh and walked over to the second pole. Looking around at his expecting peers, he stuck his tongue to the pole too.
The crowd burst into cheers. Screaming and chanting came from all sides. People pointed and laughed and ran around the two of us. Joel's friends came closer to me and started to hurl insults, trying to break me. forcing me to pull away. Little did they know...
10 minutes passed and the energy level of the group was starting to waiver. The jeers slowly quieted down and students began to look slightly bored. Time for phase two.
"Jol," I called over, "wanna mag thiz mo inderessin?"
"Whaddaru 'alkig abou'?" He asked. The look on his face told me he was regretting this.
I unbuckled my snow pants and unzipped my fly. This act made everyone go silent immediately.
"I bed hu thad I cun pud my bird un herr longur dan hu can!" Audibly gasps could be heard coming from all directions.
I had him. Joel, the biggest baddest bully at my primary school had just been called out by a kid two years younger than him and if he backed down, he would be ridiculed and harassed for the rest of his time here. Joel's face betrayed him. He looked like he wanted to be anywhere but here right now. Grudgingly, he unzipped his pants, pulled out his bird and stuck it right on the pole.
Earlier that day for lunch, I had carrot sticks and dip. As an added safety precaution, my mother had placed a section of saran wrap over the top of the container with my dip inside of it and put the lip over it to ensure a seal. When Josh had apprehended me in the coat room, I was in the process of putting my lunch away before I went outside. When I came up with the Tether-ball challenge, I slyly removed the saran wrap from the container and when I went outside I placed it into my mouth. When I had reached the pole, I situated the saran wrap over my tongue and had a barrier between the it and the icy tongue-magnet of death. Since Josh had put his bird against the pole first, my bluff had worked. I pulled back from the pole, my tongue sticking to the saran wrap for just a second, and started to pelt Joel with snowballs.
It took about 4 seconds for the evil ploy I had just enacted to hit home with the rest of my fellow onlookers. Then, like a row of dominoes, the point hit home and people burst into laughter. Suddenly, people joined me in the joy of hitting this bully with snowballs. Years of repression burst forth and a hail of snowballs rained down on Joel. He scream in pain cause by the blunt force trauma of the snowballs and the pulling and tugging on his two points of attachment to the pole. Tears poured down his face.
It was here when the teacher's arrived. With a yell, the barrage stopped and the students scattered. I had lost myself in the crowd and ran back towards the Playground proper. I ascended the play structure and looked back at the Tether-ball poles. Joel was sobbing uncontrollably, his wails carried on the wind. Two teachers were supporting Josh from his side, to keep him from falling down and tearing himself free. I noticed a teacher come walking out with something in his hands.
It was a kettle. And it was steaming.
Icicles fell off the monkey bars as Joel's screams pierced the air.