“All these jobs are racist against people who don’t have skills.”
-Luanne Platter, King of the Hill (created by Mike Judge)
“All these jobs are racist against people who don’t have skills.”
-Luanne Platter, King of the Hill (created by Mike Judge)
There’s a good chance that there’s at least one bully near you in every public place you go. For some, the same applies to their home life as well. The bullies may be quiet then, or might be distracted by someone else or something that interests them, but the fact still remains that they’re there. Just because they aren’t pushing you to the ground right then and there doesn’t mean they won’t try to do it as soon as you step outside.
Just about everyone ends up having a run-in with some sort of bully at some point. Some of them are pretty mild, resorting to scathing words or calling attention to something embarrassing, but others take things too far by getting physical. Just like pretty much everyone else, I’ve had to deal with a few bullies, either because they directly focused on me or victimized my friends.
I may not have handled the situation with maturity, but I caused several of them to think twice before employing their scare tactics again, especially if I was present. Sometimes it took more than one altercation to dissuade them, but eventually I’d get the peace I’d wanted. Here’s the two most notable times when I’ve taken a stand.
This demonstration of my loyalty actually caused the most apprehension for my mother, but it wasn’t that I’d gotten into a fight or that she’d had to leave work early that bothered here. No, it was something much worse that had caused her entire body to quake when she’d embraced me in the school office.
When I was in the 1st grade I lived in the mountains of eastern Washington, in an area that was known to have harsh winters. The plummeting temperatures meant the teachers wouldn’t allow us to go outside for recess unless we were wearing thick, heavy jackets because the danger of frost bite and hypothermia was too great. It was that sort of winter coat that both proved my ferocity and protected me from unpleasant repercussions. The jacket of my ‘victim’ was stuffed with poly fiber, giving it a thickness of about an inch and a half, and it’s the only thing that stopped me from doing some serious damage.
The school I attended at that time had precise methods we all had to follow at the end of recess. We had to all line up, I’m guessing to the teachers could take a count and make sure none of us had wandered off into the woods that were just beyond the fields, and once we got the permission to enter the school we stayed in our lines. The line I was in always ended up next to a 6th grade class, and one day a boy who was known to push around children that were a lot younger than him ended up standing near myself and my friends. Bored from waiting, the bully decided to turn toward us and intimidate one of the members of my group. At first, it was simple verbal abuse, but it quickly escalated to physical assault. It mostly involved pushing and pulling, but I’d always had a hard time making true friends so I developed a fierce sense of loyalty at an early age. As soon as the 6th grader put his hands on my friend I saw red (a term I’ll use a lot when I talk of my pre-teen years).
Before the older boy could realize what I was planing (because I was coming at him from an angle) I rushed forward, grabbed his arm, and bit him as hard as I possibly could. He screeched in pain, which summoned a teacher, but that didn’t convince me to let go. I stayed on him, like a pit bull with his jaws locked tight, until an adult grabbed me by the waist and pulled me backward. The boy continued to cry as we were quickly ushered inside and taken to the principal’s office.
Once we were in a private area and the teacher reported what little she knew about the incident to the principle they took us into separate rooms and questioned us about the fight. As expected, the boy claimed that he’d been doing nothing, and that my offensive behavior was entirely unwarranted, but the adults knew better than that. Despite their sympathy for me, they had no choice but to call my mother and request that she leave work and come to the school immediately. While I waited, which seemed forever because she was over an hour away and I was only six years old, they had me sit quietly at a secluded desk. It was torture for me since I hated causing my mom distress.
As soon as she arrived she rushed to me. As the administrators explained everything to her she hugged me tightly, her worry easily transferring to me and causing me to weep. When the story was finished she pulled away from me and commenced the scariest lesson she ever gave me: a detailed explanation of what AIDS was and how I’d risked contracting it. We’d both seen the distinct teeth marks on the boy’s forearm, and it was obvious that I’d been millimeters away from breaking the skin. My mother knew it was unlikely that I’d catch an STD from another child (this was in the early 90’s, so usually it was only promiscuous people and drug users that spread the disease), but she also knew that if she didn’t teach me the danger of such actions at an early age that I might end up getting into trouble at a later date. So she gave me a vivid description of how my life would alter if I ever caught AIDS or HIV, and it was enough to prevent me from biting others ever again. Well, at least it was enough to keep me from biting strangers.
On the plus side, the entire ordeal was worth it because that jerk never messed with anyone he noticed around me ever again.
A few years later, when I was in the 3rd grade, and after we’d moved to a new small town in North Idaho, I had another significant run-in with a bully, and that time the damage I inflicted actually caused me to feel a little guilt. While I can be rather hateful, I don’t like resorting to violence, so it’s common for me to blame myself even though I wasn’t the one who initiated the problem.
On a fall morning I’d gathered with the other children that lived in the trailer park my family had moved into some time before at the bus stop, quickly seeking out the few friends I’d made. I was acquainted with everyone around my age in and around the park, and I’d join in when they all congregated for fun, but I was never really treated well by most of them. In some ways, they all bullied me almost as much as the real bully did. But there were two boys, the grandsons of the elderly couple that owned the park, who never exhibited even a smidgen of cruel behavior.
Bobby and Markie were good, kind kids, and Markie had no trouble interacting with the myriad children that lived in the area, but Bobby wasn’t so lucky. He had a learning disability, not severe enough to force him into special ed classes, but enough to make him noticeably slower than most of the other kids. Some of us were raised right (like myself and my neighbors), so we knew better than to treat him poorly, and I always enjoyed hanging out with him because he never searched for reasons to pick on me like the others. Unfortunately, those of us who didn’t single him out were in a minority, and many of the children in school felt no remorse for the malicious things they’d say to him. But even with his near-constant mistreatment by our peers, most of them didn’t dare lay a hand on him. At least, until that morning .
Waiting for the bus always seemed to take forever, so we’d always initiate group games like Tag and Mother May I to pass the time. That morning the dozen or so of us decided that a rousing game a Tag would help us overcome the chill in the air, and everyone was invited to play. The game went well until a particular kid was tagged, making him the next to be “it”. Once again, this male child was known to be unpleasant, and he’d antagonized every other kid present with his rude behavior and ridiculous claims. It seemed every time we were kind to him he took advantage of it, making us regret his inclusion. Well, that morning he took out his aggression on the wrong target.
As all of us scattered to avoid the bully and lightheartedly taunted him when we were far enough away, so he zeroed in on the equivalent of the weak gazelle of our herd: Bobby. With his slightly distorted cognitive skills and the few extra pounds of weight that slowed him down, it was easy for the bully to catch up to him. As he drew near Bobby found himself running over wood chips, which only hampered his scrambling escape even more.
The bully closed the space, and he knew he could simply tap Bobby on the shoulder and be done with it, but he chose to turn a friendly game into an opportunity to hurt an innocent child. The bully only quickened his pace, then used the force of his motion to slam into Bobby’s side. Bobby crashed to the ground, receiving scrapes and cuts everywhere, and even ended up with splinters from the wood chips. He couldn’t restrain his distress, and began crying until his brother, Markie, ran to his side and helped him up. I wasn’t far behind Markie as I ran to help, but my attention was centered on the on the bully, his enjoyment of Bobby’s pain infuriating me.
Once he was righted and reassured, Bobby got over his minor injuries, but he didn’t resume his participation in the game. In fact, all of us stopped playing, the incident destroying the happy environment we’d enjoyed a few moments before. As time passed everyone began to find small distractions to help pass the time, splintering off into little groups.
I watched as the bully joined the most popular of us, laughing along with them and having a wonderful time. I seethed at the idea that he’d escape punishment, that everyone allowed him to join them after what he’d done even though they never liked him. I kicked a rock on the ground in frustration, which inspired me to devise a solid for of retribution.
Nonchalantly, so as not to draw too much attention to myself, I began to gather small rocks from the ground, most of them about half the size of a golf ball. When the bully wasn’t looking in my direction I’d gently throw one of them, testing my aim but allowing them to fall short on purpose. I knew I’d only get one shot to make him pay, so I wanted to warm up my arm and ensure precision. As more and more rocks landed near him, the bully would hear them and look in my direction, his suspicion clear, so as soon as I exhausted my initial handful I scouted for one with a little more bulk.
After a few minutes of searching I found the perfect projectile, its shape making it ideal for lobbing. I hefted the rock in my hand, which was twice the size of my practice stones, taking the extra weight into account so I could hit the mark. I returned to my vantage point, the ground slightly higher and a good distance away, and swallowing my nervousness, I chucked the rock through the air. It sailed through the air, arcing high just as I’d wanted it to, and hit its mark, my throw displaying the efficacy of a major league baseball player. As soon as I heard the sickening thud of the rock striking the back of the bully’s head regret flooded me.
To this day, I’ve never done more damage to another human being as I did to that boy. Don’t get me wrong, I still think he deserved a taste of his own medicine, but I’d never intended to inflict so much pain, to injure him so seriously. My anger had overridden common sense, causing me to overlook the fact that a rock to the head could seriously harm him, even kill him. It was lucky that his skull was hard enough to withstand the impact, that he didn’t even lose consciousness, and every time I think of how that scenario could have ended up much worse than it had I hate myself a little more. In the end, I can’t change the past, and my actions, rash as they were, did actually do some good. But I wasn’t out of the woods yet.
Shortly after my malicious assault the bus we were waiting for showed up and everyone filed into it, not a single person mentioning the incident to the bus driver. I saw that as a good sign, and relaxed enough to enjoy the ride. At that point the injury I’d caused wasn’t very apparent, so I began to wonder if I’d somehow avoided actually hurting him. I couldn’t find any serious marks on him during the bus ride, so I shrugged off the matter and focused on the other children around me.
When we first arrived at the elementary school it was business as usual for me, but shortly after the bell summoned all of us inside for the start of our day my routine was derailed. This nice, caring woman from the office showed up in the middle of my teacher’s math spiel and led me away immediately. I had been so certain that my run-in with the bully wouldn’t amount to anything that I was completely confused during the entire walk. It wasn’t until we entered the office and I saw the bully sitting in a corner that the purpose of our spontaneous meeting was clear. And all it took was a single glance in his direction to know that I had really hurt him.
As it turned out, most of the damage I’d done to him had taken almost an hour to become visible. The bully always kept his hair shaved almost clean, so it was easy to examine my nasty handy-work. The rock hadn’t broken the skin on his head, but the deep purple, blue, and black bruises that covered almost half of the boy’s head were gruesome on their own. His altered appearance had shocked me so much that I didn’t even hear the adults as they started berating me. I’d never thought myself capable of causing so much harm to someone, but the evidence was clear.
Once again, my rash, angry actions forced my mother to leave work significantly earlier that she should. Of course, this wouldn’t have been such an issue under normal circumstances, but she was the only adult with a job in my family. But even though she was annoyed with me, as well as scared out of her mind (she was very protective), she immediately jumped to my defense as soon as she walked through the door.
Once the truth of the matter was sorted out and apologies were shyly mumbled the principle told my mother to take me home for the day. I’m not sure what happened to the bully, but more than likely his mother (who oddly didn’t seem surprised at all that a girl had wreaked such havoc on her son) hauled him to the hospital to make sure he didn’t have brain damage. Beyond going home I wasn’t punished in any other way. No suspension, no detention, no nothing, not even from my mom. Because I was always the silent type and never started fights the principle knew there was no need to crack down on me, so he didn’t bother. But shortly after my mom took me home the situation got very strange.
Although I know the bully didn’t sustain any lasting harm because I saw him often after the incident (and even ended up getting into another fight with him) I still hurt him pretty bad, and sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t have gotten off so easy. I know that kid was always hurting whoever he could, but that still didn’t excuse my own poor decisions. It seemed I was the only one that felt remorseful, that felt sorry for him.
A few hours after I returned home the news of my little ‘curve ball’ had spread from ear to ear (as any news does in a small town), but instead of scorn and disappointment, most of the adults seemed pleased by my actions, and two in particular were absolutely thrilled. An unexpected knock on the door turned out to be the elderly owners of the trailer park, Dave and D.J., but their reason for the visit wasn’t what I had anticipated.
I’d always enjoyed spending time with people much older than myself when I was a child, so I was well acquainted with our landlords. They were good, fair people who worked hard to provide a pleasant environment for the many children who lived there. They were always paying attention, and they never tolerated fighting anywhere, so I’d witnessed them reprimanding children for such acts on numerous occasions. I’d expected a similar tongue lashing, but there wasn’t a single trace of rebuke on their faces.
Ever since Bobby had started going to school he had been ridiculed and mercilessly teased by every child he came into contact with, even the ones that were supposedly his friends. Dave and D.J. had seen their grandson come home upset almost every day, and the constant abuse was beginning to take a toll on Bobby mentally. Their situation was getting so tense that they were considering pulling him out of public school entirely, and no one, aside from his brother, Markie, had ever stood up for him.
They were so thrilled to hear about my actions that they actually rewarded me. Dave and D.J. had built that trailer park themselves, and they’d been very clever in every aspect of it, so it was a great place to live. It had beautiful, lush lawns, large yards, and was situated on a lake so it had a wide beach, dock, and a miniature park. But the smartest addition they made was the small general store they’d built at the entrance, which all the kids loved because it had a good variety of candy and toys. I was known to make at least one trip every day to that store, typically to buy some of the several types of penny candies they carried, so it wasn’t a secret that I had a sweet tooth.
After effusively thanking my parents for raising me to defend others, Dave and D.J. escorted me to their store themselves and told me to pick out whatever I wanted. Unlike some children, I was always the type to never take advantage of someone’s kindness, so I chose a single candy bar as my reward. The landlords seemed to only find my behavior more endearing, and insisted that I take more. The process continued a few more times until I finally ended up with enough snacks to fill a small paper bag, and even though I was thrilled to receive a bunch of candy for free (I love chocolate) I still felt a little odd about accepting the gift. But my parents had taught me the different ways one could accidentally cause offense, so I knew turning down their generosity wasn’t right.
Dave and D.J. never forgot what I’d done, but they thankfully didn’t continue their praise for long. The other children, who had always thought of me as a pushover and had never taken me seriously, began to view me in a different light after that. Seeing my assault with their own eyes only reinforced the image, and they started to think twice before making me the butt of their jokes like they had before I threw that rock. In many ways, my life and the general atmosphere in the park had improved because of what I’d done, but I’ll never forgive myself for it no matter what justification is presented to me.
I have many reasons for writing out these snippets of my past, but as far as identifying the lesson behind them goes, you’re on your own. The moral of this story will be different for everyone, and it’s up to you to figure out what you want to take with you from it. In the end, it’s the act of finding the moral right for you that I was trying to inspire.