*** I tell this story now because I was visiting with my friend Sheila, who commented on my gorgeous (unemployment-enabled) fingernails, which led to this:
I grew up in Miami, Florida, in a time when that public school system was one of the best in the country, and to parents who valued education along with curiosity (and to some extent, questioning authority). My siblings and I walked to the elementary school and rode bikes to the junior high, which was a mere 2 miles away. We never rode a school bus except to go to the Gifted Program (which happened at a different school but would pick us up from "home base" twice a week), or if there was a field trip.
In the middle of my eighth-grade year, we moved to North Carolina. My mother, God Bless Her, told me that I'd be smarter than everyone in Charlotte. She may have said the same to my siblings, because God Knows it would have been true. It certainly was true for me, at least as far as I could ascertain. What I didn't know at the time was that education and knowledge were not valued in Charlotte, at least by my classmates. So the Smart Kids hid that fact, never volunteering answers, and certainly never CORRECTING a teacher's error (written on the chalkboard for ALL to see - c'mon, you guys, how do you not SEE that that's WRONG???)! I hadn't ever learned how to hide my intelligence. Needless to say, I had NO friends in Charlotte - ZERO. I did have ONE person do her best to protect me from the meanest girl, who would DAILY threaten to "stuff me in a locker;" the protector successfully prevented said stuffing.
We had to ride buses to school in North Carolina. We lived too far away from our schools to ride bikes, and they were three different schools because of our ages, so it didn't make sense for someone to take us in a car.
I was incredibly unpopular, so I rode in the middle of the school bus. I knew better than to try to sit with the cool kids at the back, and there was NO WAY I'd sit in the front with the total retards. So I sat in the middle. It was RARE that I ever had to share my bench seat, as I was The Pariah at my school. Until this one Monday, when the weather had threatened (and possibly delivered) rain, so in addition to all of my books and my flute, I had a raincoat. Not an umbrella; not a windbreaker. I'm wearing a full-length tan trench/raincoat. Sounds "cool" today. It wasn't. Knowing I wouldn't be sharing my bench, I had myself "spread out" on it, in the middle of the bus, at the end of the day on this particularly fine Monday. Let me take you back:
(Possibly the ONE person at the school who is even more hated than I), a boy named Michael, comes to my seat and stops.
"Scoot over," he says. "No," I reply. "Scoot over," he repeats. "Not happening" (or something to that effect), is my response. He continues being rude (would it kill him to say "Please"?), and I continue not to budge, offering the plethora of alternative seating available to him right in that very moment. Finally, he SITS DOWN. On my raincoat. Pushing me with his little bratty ass. I'm not having it, but neither am I going to get into a fight. My fingernails are much too gorgeously long and healthy to risk breaking one on this snot-nosed BITCH. So I reach across my own body with my left hand and grab Mr. Shitbag in his face. We're both facing forward, and not another word is spoken. I've got Little Mr. Priss' face in my hand, and it's a pretty long ride to his bus stop, so I'm having to collect a little skin under my beautiful nails in order to hang on.
We reach his stop, and I release my hold. He gets off the bus, and as we're pulling away from the stop, the COOLEST girl comes forward and shakes my hand. She says, "Do you know he was bleeding and crying as he got off the bus?" I don't, nor do I care.
I get home, and my protector (who ended up being my best friend, once I figured out that she was not only cool and funny but also incredibly intelligent and had fun parents) calls me as soon as SHE gets home. Because she knows. She's already heard. No one's got a cell phone, and everyone travels in different directions, by car or bus, but by the time I walk in MY door, EVERYONE knows what went down. So she's calling to let me know that what I did, while "cool" in everyone's book, is going to result in a visit to the Principal tomorrow, because Mr. Prissy-Pants' MOTHER will most assuredly call the school. So I tell Mommy what I've done, and what I know about our judicial system, and her response is, "Fine. I'M not taking your punishment." I have no idea what she means, so, um, okay?
The next day - Tuesday - I'm at school. A few periods have passed and I'm sitting in Mrs. Edwards' English class. The student body is abuzz but the teachers appear oblivious. Nothing's happened TO ME yet, so I'm playing it "cool" and just being the nerdy, raise-my-hand little smart girl I always was. Mrs. Edwards' PA system crackles to life: "Miz Edwards, do you have [emelle] in your class today?" "Um, yes, of course, she's here." "Will you send her to the office, please? And have her BRING HER THINGS." "Um, okay." The classroom is SILENTLY buzzing with a stadium roar. Mrs. Edwards is COMPLETELY confused, but she sends me on my way, and I walk out of that room with head held HIGH.
I get to the office and lose my nerve. I know I'm in trouble, but I don't know really what that means. The Principal explains to me that Mother Prissy-Pants has called and accused me of this HEINOUS crime against her sweet, sweet boy (BLECH!) and did I do such a thing, and am I prepared to pay his MEDICAL BILLS? Well, yeah, I did such a thing, because he's an asshat. No, I didn't say that, because #1, I WOULDN'T, and #2, no one used the word "asshat" back then. But, yeah, I do fess up, although I'm fighting the whole medical bills thing, because, c'mon! It's a friggin' SCRATCH! So the Principal gives me two options for my "punishment": the rest of the week off the bus (starting with today's - Tuesday's - ride home) OR the rest of the week in In-School Suspension. I'm starting to lose it at this point, because I really want to pick Door #3 - go Straight to Hell, do not pass Go, do not collect $200. He tells me I can call Mommy, so I do. She very calmly reminds me of what she said yesterday, "I am not taking your punishment." I REALLY need her to spell that one out, so she says, "You're going in In-School Suspension, because I am not driving you to and from school." Ohhhh! Um, okay.
So I have my things, and I walk down unknown hallways to a room filled (yeah, I'm one of maybe six kids in there) with REAL unsavory types. The only other girl in there has used her nail file in a KNIFE-FIGHT. We're allowed to do schoolwork in there and nothing else. There's no talking, there's no napping, there's no anything but schoolwork or cleaning our easily-accessible body orifices. When we walk to the cafeteria for lunch, we walk single-file with ONE FINGER HELD UP TO OUR MOUTHS. I shit you not. Like Kindergarteners. Because that's discipline that will help us learn the error of our ways! Riiiiiight.
My (now-) best friend brings me my assignments every day so that I have something to do, and I'm staying on top of everything. Because, SERIOUSLY, I AM the smartest kid in Charlotte!
By THURSDAY of that week, my teachers have all (ALL of them, together, united, like in a union or something, in North Carolina, a right-to-work state!) rallied to get me back in class. By the time I'm supposed to be in Mrs. Edwards' English class on THURSDAY, I am. Back in class, where I belong.
Thus endeth my stint in Juvie. My Daddy was so proud!