Sunday, January 14, 2007

He Who Laughs Last...

Coaster Punchman was blogging about memories about the whole junior high school and high school social status thing and it reminded me of a moment in my life.

When I was in seventh grade, my family moved to Western Springs, Illinois, a middle class 'burb west of Chicago.

Things did not go well. My brothers and I were different-- we'd lived most of our lives up to that point in the city. We weren't jocks, and my family didn't attend church. We got picked on ferociously.

At some point, the three primary bullies of my junior high, all bigger than me physically, decided that punching me whenever a teacher wasn't looking was the most fun sport of all.

I endured it, made it out of junior high school and thrived in high school. As high school ended, I won a scholarship to North Central College in Naperville. I lived at home, and would usually take a commuter train to school.

One day, I was running late and missed the train that would get me to school on time. If I was going to get there on time, I was going to have to drive.

I hopped into the car, my family's yellow 1973 Ford Pinto, and got ready to go. I looked at the dashboard and saw that the fuel gauge was down near "E." I needed to go to a gas station.

I was really running late now, especially with the time it was going to take to go to the gas station, so I pulled up to the Full Serve. The attendant came running out and asked "Fill 'er up, sir?"

I was at a loss for words for a moment. It was John Birk, the bully ringleader.

I regained my composure and said "Just five bucks worth will be fine, thanks."

As I drove off to Naperville, I chuckled to myself. I was going to college on a scholarship and poor John was working as a gas jockey. I thought to myself "I guess that bully thing didn't work out for you so well, did it John?"


Mob said...

Ah, what a great story.

I wish I read more heart-warming tales like that every day.

Toccata said...

I once taught at a college for a pilot program where attending school was part of one's parole. You could have knocked me over with a feather when in walked one of the "it" girls from junior high. She always had the cool clothes, the cool guys, and was allowed to do cool things like go to dances for the 20 something set. I cannot tell you how I envied her when I was little and there she was and clearly life had completely gone off the rails for her at some point. I wish there was a way to bottle this kinds of incidents for kids currently trying to survive those crazy school years.

Erik Donald France said...

Rare to get this kind of kharmic boomerang/satisfaction. Great stories, indeed.

Tenacious S said...

I moved from the city to the suburbs in seventh grade as well. That was one bumpy ride.

Chris said...

Ah, sweet poetic justice...

Although, not to burst your bubble, but I've said before that one of my favorite jobs was working at a gas station. Granted, it wasn't a full time career.

Leazwell said...

You elitist, you!

Ha, ha, I have noticed similar outcomes.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I'm feeling all warm and fuzzy now. As Toccata said, we really need to find a way to bottle that feeling for kids currently trying to survive that jungle.

But I sure will tell my daughter your story (and yours too Toccata)!

vikkitikkitavi said...

Your post reminded me of that flashback scene in Broadcast News where Albert Brooks's character, as a little boy, was trying to get back at the bully that had just beat him up by (and I'm paraphrasing) screaming at him that he was never going to know the pleasure of writing a graceful sentence, etc. etc., and never going to earn more than thirty thousand a year. The bully, unphased, says "Thirty thousand dollars? That's a lot of money!"

Johnny Yen said...

Yeah, I had a pretty hard time not letting my smugness show through at that moment.

I know what you mean. I see it at the school I work at. The big dogs are going to be big nobodies in a few years. I saw it at my own high school.

You bet it was pretty damned satisfying.

And there were the parents thinking that they were doing you a big favor moving you to the 'burbs.

Yeah, jobs like that can be fun if they're temporary. I don't think that John was doing that while he saved money for college.

Not elitist-- just snide! Hehehe!

I usually tell that story to all my classes. And I've told both my kids.

I've got to put that one on my Netflix queue-- I've never sat and watched the whole movie, despite it having a several of my favorite actors in it.

My favorite Albert Brooks movie to date was "Lost in America." My favorite scene is when his wife has blown their whole nest egg at the roulette table and he's trying to talk the casino manager into giving it back to them. Finally, the casino manager says "OK, sir-- I'll comp your breakfast."

Dale said...

And off you drove with that hair flapping in the wind! Excellent story Johnny.

Coaster Punchman said...

That's pretty good. But read what happened to my bully .

Johnny Yen said...

Thanks. I think by that time I had really long bad late seventies hair.

Can I give you a list to get started on? I'll even spring for the matches....