Once A Boy: Petey, and the road not taken

Ah, the third grade—where a boy finds himself at the first important crossroads of his life: do I spend my adolescence and remaining elementary years as the obedient quiet child so favored by stressed out teachers, or, as the class clown constantly seeking new methods to raise the collective blood pressure of teachers all over the world.  

Well I can say, for the most part, I was the former.  I was shy, terrible at sports, and cute according to my mom, but not to the girls in my class. I also insisted on wearing sweatpants everyday to school, that is until I realized a daily sweatpants wedgie in the seventh grade was about the lowest social level on which to land, so that stopped immediately—but I digress—that’s another post.

Now allow me to provide a perfect example of the latter.

A fellow third grade student of mine, let’s call him, ‘Petey’, was a large kid with thick framed glasses—the kind a shop teacher might wear because his nice pair always break.  Petey took on what seemed to be a daily challenge: to somehow disrupt the class, resulting in banishment to the hall or the principal’s office.   Our teacher, Mrs. Morgan, was an older lady who didn’t smile much, especially when Petey entered the room.  There were days I thought I heard her swear under her breath.

We all thought Petey was pretty funny, most of the time.  Those of us who might begin to display any doubt toward the hilariousness of Petey’s antics, quickly found the capacity to laugh when he would threaten us with bodily harm— during bathroom break for example .Please God, don’t let him open the stall door, my sweats aren’t even pulled up!

When traveling the hallways to and from various activities, it was customary practice for elementary teachers to have students walk in a straight line and remain quiet until returning to the classroom.  Mrs. Morgan was very strict with this rule one day as we left the art room and proceeded back to our classroom.   

Well, Petey wasn’t having it. He saw no reason to quietly traverse the hallway with his peers in peace.  He couldn’t pass up a golden opportunity for introducing some chaos into the order.   So he chose to begin beat boxing (this was the late 80’s after all).  

Boom-boom-Pssh….Boom-boom-Pssh…Boom-boom-Pssh…snort! (he laughed between musical measures).

As we all filed one-by-one into the classroom, Mrs. Morgan’s voice could be heard cutting through the air, “Petey, I would like you to walk to the front of the classroom and demonstrate your sound effects for the class.”  She was holding a 2 foot long wood paddle, slowing lifting it then smacking it down on her other hand.  “If you don’t do it well enough, I’ll have to use this paddle to assist you.”

Petey’s face turned as white as a ghost—a chubby ghost wearing Reebok Pumps with the laces untied.  

He walked to the front of the room and began a soft, shaky rhythm while staring down at the ground: boom…boom..pssh…

“Louder!” Mrs. Morgan bellowed.  Petey began to cry—snot and everything.

Boom-boom-pssh (sniff sniff)…Boom!-Boom!-Pssh! (sniff sniff)

The rest of us just stared in amazement at the scene unfolding in front of us.  We didn’t know whether to laugh or cry ourselves. I found it hilarious watching him attempt to beat box while sobbing uncontrollably.

A  part of me felt sorry for my attention seeking classmate.  His inability to heed the rules and guidelines of elementary school placed him in these types of situations on a daily basis, and I should probably mention that I was beat boxing as well, but I somehow avoided the same fate as Petey.    

“Have a seat,” the teacher said sharply to Petey, “and from now on, stay quiet in the halls!”

Petey slowly walked back to his seat, resembling Eeyore wearing a torn Bugle Boy hooded sweatshirt.  He looked up and caught my stare and his eyes seemed to catch fire and I knew my next bathroom experience would be a terrible one.  

Thus the end of my third grade beat boxing days.

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