Fern and Angelo started track this week. It’s still too cold to run outside and the gymnasium wasn’t available so the coaches had the kids run in the hallways of West Middle School for practice.
When I was in school, running in the hallways was strictly forbidden. Even walking quickly was viewed as suspicious activity. We were expected to walk from classroom to classroom in a calm, Catholic way. We had six minutes to complete this task.
There was a “sweet spot” a few seconds before the bell would ring and the next period could begin. Just before it rang, the entire school would settle into a lovely hush. I savored that moment of quiet. But every once in a while, as the school settled into that stillness, I would hear some pathetic loser running down the hallway.
These were not the skillful strides of a trained athlete. They were the manic, desperate steps of someone who believed that running in the halls was a sin and that the only thing worse than running in the halls was being late.
Inevitably, the bell would ring, and I would hear their footsteps stop. The poor, hellbound sap would turn around and walk with utter defeat to the main office where they had to get a permission slip to go into class. Their frustration was palpable.
I’d wonder who it was. I’d wonder how much trouble they were in. I’d feel sorry for them. I’d wonder what their punishment would be. I’d wonder–
“Let this be an example,” a teacher would say, interrupting my thoughts. Of course I can’t remember exactly what my teachers said, but they all reacted the same way. They’d gesture in the direction of the footsteps and say, “Don’t be late and don’t run in the halls.”
Sometimes the teacher would show remarkable compassion for the tardy student.
“I’m just relieved they didn’t get hurt. Or worse: hurt someone else! Because running in the halls is dangerous!”
The teacher would then shake off their disgust and offer pragmatic wisdom.
“If you’re going to be late, don’t run. Just walk calmly to the main office and get your demerits.”
I never ran in the hallways but one day I wasn’t feeling well, so I stayed in the bathroom during a class until I felt better. I was nervous, but I did as instructed: I walked to the main office to get my tardy slip. As I walked, I wondered if I’d have to see the dean and what kind of detention I would get. I wondered how I was going to tell my parents. I wondered if I hurt the teacher’s feelings by not being in their class. I wondered–
“What’s the matter?” the secretary asked, interrupting my thoughts.
“Hi, I wasn’t feeling well, so I stayed in the bathroom for a few minutes after lunch?”
“What class are you missing?” she asked.
“Study hall,” I told her.
“They won’t even notice. Just have a seat and wait to go to your next class.”
I couldn’t believe it was that simple. No tardy slip, no detention and I never had to tell my parents. Had I run in the halls, I probably wouldn’t be the person I am today.
Thanks for reading my blog. Gotta run! -Connie