On an Autumn Friday, I walk down my high school's hallway and right into trouble.
I can only hear the tinkling of glass and the gasp of the crowds. When I round the corner, all my questions are answered. Crumpled on the floor are two belligerent figures in a headlock, pounding each other with their shirts rolled halfway up. I deconstruct their surroundings like a crime scene as the crowd looks on: an open locker, a trail of spilt chocolate milk, a broken window. No blood anywhere. A principal soon arrives to break up the fight and start interrogating the two contenders.
I later hear this fight was hours in the making as the instigator plotted his strategy over lunch. "He was saying, 'Should I hit him from behind or should I just go right into him?'" That might explain the milk. I still couldn't get over the broken window and how nobody got cut.
Thus it was for most of the fights I witnessed in high school, which were often short, anti-climactic and peculiar. A kid in gym class walks through the locker room with a blood stained face like nothing has happened. A boy runs down the hall holding a bleeding hand after being stabbed with a comb. Two guys hit and run down the hall between classes; blink and you'll miss them. Two girls do the same. A fight in the middle of a crowd is more NHL than MMA, with neither person able to get the other one's shirt off.
But the championship bout in the ring of awkwardness goes to a dust-up in my freshman typing class. People were coming back from lunch, and the two instigators were first in the door. It started with a shoving match, as so many of them do, and soon they were clenched in combat, shoving typewriters aside.
A beleaguered substitute teacher saw it and made a limp attempt to ring the bell. "Hey! Hey! Oh, somebody break them up."
She motioned to me. "Call the office!"
I carefully strode over to the intercom button as the two aggressors shoved each other into a neutral corner.
"Office," crackled the voice through the giant grey speaker.
"We need a principal in here!" said the flustered fill-in.
The two kept pounding each other until they either gave out or somebody else broke them up -- I forget which. The summoned principal arrived and escorted them to the office shortly before class resumed.
Having the first set of eyes on the combat, my peers soon pried for information the next day: "Is it true they were throwing typewriters at each other?"
Rumors are so cute when they're young. "No. But they did shove a few back."
The regular typing teacher, now back at the helm, saw it as a teaching moment. "You know, if you all break something in here, you have to pay for it," she warned the class.
That could end up being an unintended improvement, with the rooms aging fleet of IBM Selectrics dating back to the 1960's.