Tardiness Never Was Happiness

Ihad to serve a detention recently because I had three tardies to chemistry class and public floggings are no longer permitted in school. This was only the second time that I’d been given that punishment (the detention, not the flogging); the other time was last year, after Ed Farrell and I accidentally walked out of Algebra II class fifteen minutes early.

That was an honest mistake though. Everyone else was sneaking out, and Ed and I naturally assumed that twelve wrongs make a right, so we left too. Mr. Hamilton began to suspect that something was up, though, when he poked his head out of his grade book and discovered that he was alone in the room. So we all got in trouble.

Anyway, I got this chemistry detention because of my inability to walk the 17.4 km from English to chemistry in the allotted time (8 minutes). I apparently failed to run the race on three separate occasions, because one day I walked into class and my teacher said, “Okay, class. Before we do some lunatic thing with a bunch of possibly explosive chemicals, Eric needs to go to the B.I.C.!”

Oh, didn’t I mention that? B.I.C. (Behavior Intervention Center) is the room where detentions are served. Last year we had a room called the “Penalty Box,” also for detentions. The B.I.C., however, is entirely different from the Penalty Box in that in the Penalty Box, all of the words on the signs were spelled correctly. Some semi-literate person whose salary is paid by your tax dollars did the signs this year, and it makes me question the school’s intent to really educate us when the people in charge don’t know the difference between “your” and “you’re.”

Anyway, I was handed this little white slip ordering me to goose-step on over to the B.I.C. and schedule my detention. I guess I can understand being punished for three tardies because if you add them up, I was probably an entire MINUTE late, and goodness knows that in that minute, my teacher could have TAKEN ROLL!!!!

What annoys me is that I didn’t even know I had two tardies! I don’t keep track of them; I happen to think that there are better uses for what brain cells I have than remembering how many times I’ve come into a class a few seconds late. I need a few of them, for instance, to remember where I parked my car in the student parking lot, which, by the way, often resembles the Indy Speedway, except that on the Indy Speedway, no one ever tries to cram more than seventeen people into the back of one pickup truck.

So I went to the B.I.C. and said to the woman at the desk, “Hello, I’d like a detention, please.” Rather than chuckle at my witticism, she looked at me as though I had just blown my nose on her blouse, and quite frankly, I had half a mind to do just that.

We scheduled my hour-long sentence for the next Tuesday, and she filled out the Official B.I.C. Detention Slip, which had the words “Penalty Box” crossed out and “B.I.C.” written over them in pen. She gave me a copy of the slip, presumably so that if I came in on Tuesday and for some reason they didn’t have my name down, I could produce my receipt and prove that I was, in fact, supposed to be there. I can see how a lot of people might sneak into the B.I.C. and try to serve detentions that they weren’t supposed to serve.

When I showed up to serve the detention, I was handed a sheet of paper that said (and I quote): “We are the best, we know it and we show it.” The large, burly B.I.C. lackey told me that once I’d written that a hundred times, I could leave.

Now, really! Not only is that a run-on sentence (I mean, where did these people go to school? Elsinore?), but making us write it a hundred times is propaganda if ever I saw it! I mean, I realize there’s a problem with school spirit, but is this how they intend to increase it? By beating it into our minds until we become weak, submissive jellyfish? If someone were to tell George Orwell (1984) about this, it would kill him, were it not for the fact that he’s all ready dead.

What’s more, I was told by the aforementioned Miss Congeniality that if I wanted to engage in some constructive, non-brain cell destroying activity such as, oh, say, doing my homework, I couldn’t. I HAD to do this.

But I guess it all makes sense, really. High school is supposed to prepare us for real life, and with the detention policies, it’s doing just that. There must be just THOUSANDS of jobs where the boss orders you to waste time and not do anything productive. And as for being late — I can’t tell you how many people I know have been fired for being ten seconds late! It’s a jungle out there, and the school is preparing us for it by enforcing rules that make us feel like we have the brains of retarded soup spoons.

I could go into more detail about the situation of universally-enforced rules that sometimes don’t make sense, but I can’t right now. The bell’s about to ring, and if you get FOUR tardies, they drag you out in the street and shoot you.

Well, I started 1991 with a bang, didn't I? I love this column for its sheer anger and sharp-tongued bitterness. I had written a similar jeremiad for the school paper and was merely recycling this here, but I'm really glad I did. It's funny and biting, but it doesn't make me come off like too much of an over-cynical smart-aleck, like some columns do. I especially like the very first sentence. A lead is supposed to give a feel for what the tone of the article is, and this one certainly does. Oh, I love it.

The title, "Tardiness Never was Happiness," was not the original one used; it was created for this Web site. It's an inside joke that only Mormons will get, based on an oft-quoted (and doctrinally sensible, even if you aren't Mormon) line from the Book of Mormon, "Wickedness never was happiness."