The teacher set us an ultimatum. Someone had spat on the blackboard and unless the culprit owned up we were all wasting our lunch hour in class. We muttered our frustrations and mentally pointed fingers. It wasn’t fair. Why should we all suffer for one student’s misdemeanour?
Ten minutes transpired and the class larrikin who probably objected to the mentally pointed fingers said ‘It wasn’t bloody me!’ then swore and added, ‘I’ll fix it’ and snatched some paper towel off the bench to wipe the offence from the board.
Except it wasn’t spit, it was glue. Dried. It’d been there for days, if not weeks.
Class was promptly dismissed.
It doesn’t hurt to learn as a child or as an adolescent that life often isn’t fair. You don’t always get what you want and most things come at a price. This is good. It’s life stuff. But for me, this kind of situation found its own level of indignation. It transcended not being able to go outside because it was raining and felt nowhere near the kind of unfair that comes from loss. It seemed unfair-er because it was preventable. We all suffered because of another’s selfishness or stupidity.
OK, so in my example, perhaps the teacher appeared most foolish, but there were many occasions during my school years where we were banned from certain areas or activities, or new rules were created because of an individual’s actions.
Which brings me to now. At the moment, my street contains a thoroughfare for a local school and the lane is facing closure because of vandalism to the neighbouring properties. I don’t mean the odd bit of rubbish, I mean police-called vandalism. And possibly the fire brigade.
My pro-closure neighbour bailed me up in the supermarket to bring me up to speed with the situation. As the eyes and ears of our street she explained who’d been affected, how my own property was in danger and suggested very strongly where my allegiance should lie. And I nodded like an automaton and said I’d give it some thought. But I find my mind arcing back to me. School-aged me. One of those students who found themselves invisible under a cloak of diligence, never found in detention, never seen after hours, with all evidence I existed carried away with me. No litter. No footprints. And yes, it’s appalling that certain individuals have shown such disrespect, but who’s speaking for the mute majority? The closure of this access will force students to use the indirect route, twice the current distance to the bus stop.
I cringe. I’m ashamed to say I have that voice niggling in the back of my mind. The one that tuts and shakes its head at the ‘youth of today’, the one that doesn’t miss the students during the school holidays because those few rowdy, littering and vandalising individuals are such a dominating force.
I suddenly feel really old.
The cheapest and easiest solution is to block it off. Regardless which way I vote on this matter, I think this outcome is inevitable. The awful students will go and find something else to ruin and those silent and responsible students will just catch the bus. They’ll mutter their frustrations, mentally point fingers and then conscientiously take the long road.