Remember when we were kids in gradeschool?
In between classes we had to line up in alphabetical order by last name to walk through the halls to our elective class–the music room, the art room, or recess (!). Mrs. Ominski led the way with all of the kids in the front section of the line behaving themselves in a well-kept manner, fearing the disciplinary actions of our ruthless third grade teacher. The kids in the back (whose names ended with S, or R, or W) were always the rowdy ones making jokes or pushing each other, and snickering at the other kids. Mrs. Ominski would bellow ominously to the end-of-the-liners, “Beee Quiiiet!!”, the echo of her shrill voice bouncing off of the painted brick walls.
Everyone knew it was cool to be at the back of the line when traveling in between homeroom class times. Even if Mrs. Ominski did yell about it. The end of the line was where gossip and secrets were shared in between classes. No one dared talk to each other in her third grade class, for fear of her public humiliation tactics: making someone come up to the blackboard and write an answer to the question they weren’t paying attention to and subjecting themselves to the silent snickering of the other kids.
It happened to Timmy. Mrs. Ominski caught him trying to distract Steven and called him up to the blackboard. His ears got really red. Unfortunately, Timmy could not talk about it to his friends in between classes. His last name started with a B. Alas, he would be remembered as having really red ears because he could not redeem himself in time. After school let out, it was too late…the other kids were already past his red ears, and into talking about how Suzie liked T.J. and so on.
I was a mid-liner. I heard what was going on in the back of the line and was sometimes involved depending on how many people heard the gossip or joke. I felt like a front-of-the-liner sometimes and other times, I tried hard to be included in the end-of-the-line ranting and raving.
Fifteen years later, there are triggers day to day that make me think back on situations such as this. Situations that elevate people above others in superiority and coolness…elitism, really. It is hard to rise above the tension when you are caught in between.