Saturday, January 17, 2015

Pranks Ink-orporated

No tale of the old one-room 1800's schoolhouses is complete without the revelation that young boys would tease young girls sitting in front of them by dipping their pigtails in the inkwell conveniently located inside the desktop so close to their hair. Make it easy, make it tempting, and kids will find a way to make trouble.

As writing technology improves, the prank morphs into guerilla warfare. People destroy purple ball-point pens, leave the ink to bleed all over their desks and walk away, endangering the next kid to sit there during an multiple-class high-school day.

"Could you switch this desk with that one?" my Spanish teacher asks me one day when I happen to get to class early. I move a splotched mess of a work environment with a clean specimen and wait.

The boy who sits there next is soon wondering how his desk ended up being the messy one. "My pen broke," he explains to the teacher when confronted with the hairy eyeball. I don't think she bought it.

I know my seventh-grade math teacher didn't. One day he walks up and down the rows of desks looking for ink-stained wretchedness.

"If I see any more broken pens, it's a detention!" he grumbles.

I hated how magic marker and ink stains never came out of my hands as a kid. Softsoap lacked the necessary power. Whatever industrial concoction they put in the school soap dispenser proved to be a cruel joke. Only Lava made any headway, and good luck getting that at school.

Some kids didn't mind marking anything up. In Kindergarten, a guy hashes a pencil onto the wall next to the sharpener. The teacher leads him out and leads him back with Ajax in his hand.

"You know what that is?"

Nod. Nod.

"You know where you got that from?"

"Mr. Larison," he says, acknowledging the principal, the one with the big paddle Mrs. Landers showed us once, back during a time when you could still spank kids at school without lawyers getting involved.

A sixth-grade teacher throws a controlled tantrum when somebody leaves crayons on the heater to melt. What's supposed to be a study hall turns into a session on communication and listening to the instructor, and how maybe, maybe part of it is her fault.

Then comes a major scandal. Who, who, WHO, is taking their Crayolas into the restroom to mark on the walls on the tile grout?

"You don't need to take your colors in there!" a teacher vents in exasperation.

They never find the culprit, just like they never find most of the people who write on the bathroom walls -- the social network of our young generation.

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