They don’t do it like it says on the tin anymore…

I sometimes find myself in a zone where not much seems to happen – kind of like being stuck in traffic without much hope for movement.

You know the general direction you’re heading in life, but there’s zilch you can do about the sheer pile up of a jam in front of you.

Some folks prefer to call this state of affairs as being in limbo, but I prefer to think of it as downtime that I can justifiably take pleasure at doing absolutely nothing as I wait for the proverbial car in front to move a few notches.

This past “doing nothing” moment found me talking on the phone to an old pal who I keep in touch with once in a blue moon – and for some reason, we were lamenting about how our sons (who are roughly the same age) are growing up on a totally different planet from where we live. I guess before concluding that we were just a bunch of old geezers, we found ourselves reminiscing about the good ole days of growing up the hard way.

Nostalgia does have this amazing habit of filling voids that seem annoying at best, and a recipe for procrastination at worst.

My pal and I went to the same high school and we were just thinking of our experiences there. Much has changed these days and a few years ago, I gave my wife a guided tour of my old high school and erroneously expressed my wish that one day our son would follow in my footsteps by attending the same school – only to be met by that “over my dead body” steely no-nonsense look. You know that look – yes, that look that you sometimes get say when you occasionally do something stupid during them drama central moments like suggest that, let me see – “maybe I should just get a second wife”…LOL! Yeah! That look – you know it.

Back in those days, the treatment we got as rabbles (the common terminology for first year fresh meat who had just got off the milk train of primary school) would put any boot camp worth its salt to shame.

It was a rite of passage that would scare the living shit out of any parent.

It’s always debatable whether some of the perpetrators who unleashed the shall we say, customary treatment, were by any measure candidates for prosecution for child cruelty or even torture. The school was renowned for this and my wife knew it, and not necessarily because my friends and I who she had been around vividly narrated stories of our hell – I guess also because a very close relative of hers was involved in making my life a nightmare in the first year.

The school had its roots in the British Navy and everything about the way it operated and the culture of the school stemmed from this.

Students actually run the day to day activities and supervised each other as modeled by ranks in a military setup – where monitors, prefects and senior prefects played the symbolic roles of sergeants, lieutenants and commanders.

At first, it really didn’t make sense that your fellow students had so much power over you, but once you’re immersed in the culture, you can’t really wait your turn to unleash the same treatment to those that follow you.

I couldn’t help but think that actually, it was that experience, that rite of passage, that baptism of the fiery sort – that molded me into who I am, that taught me the virtues I had and the guile to grit through the issues in life. How can that be a bad thing for Cryptic.

The law says here that you can’t even bitch slap your kid when they’re clearly due a good ole fashioned ass whooping and even in nursery school, they’re taught how to dial child support and abuse emergency help lines.

I vividly remember my first day as a rabble. Yeah – the exciting shopping for your first boarding school experience, the laughter at all them folks carrying buckets and colorful metal coffins on their heads disguised as suitcases trying to board all manner of public transport, and the excitement of meeting new faces and a whole new experience that means you don’t have to answer to the parents at home.

That naive excitement clearly clouded any sense of reality that I had, and even threw the small pockets of advice that I had right out of the window of the car as we turned into the main gates.

It was customary that all rabbles spent their first year in a rabble only house before joining their main dormitory for the rest of their school life. I had all this worked out like clockwork, and the reason for this was that my elder brother was a senior at this school – and I figured that if life was as good as he portrayed, then what’s all the fuss – I can pull this off.

It was only while touring the house that I bumped into the two most senior prefects of the house, one of whom recognized me as I had been to the same primary school as him. So in saying hello to me by name, it totally caught the attention of the head honcho who turned around with the sort of glee you’d only see from a starving man who has just been served a platter of freeze-dried survival food.

Students were always referred to by surname – and the mention of my name evoking such reaction unnerved me to say the least.

“Is this Stone’s brother”, the head honcho asked his fellow prefect?

“Yeah! It is” the answer came with laughter.

And so the head honcho swiftly directed me to wait for him outside his study – to which I made a monumental mistake of asking why the hell I would want to do that. I had other things to sort out and I figured those were more important than sharing niceties with someone who knew my elder brother. I suppose the arrogance in the manner I expressed this didn’t earn me any friends.

I was very quickly brought back down to earth with a monumental slap that made me lose my senses for a split second. I don’t know if the slap would have had a lesser impact if I was prepared for or if I had anticipated it, but there was that split second where a shot of tears was gagging to chuck out of my eyes and I could have sworn I saw or heard the entire Vienna boys choir sing Handel’s Hallelujah.

My very brief moment of confused amazement was mercilessly interrupted by a hail of knuckle busters aka ngotos – and of course, it didn’t help that I had just had a crew cut. Though the assault on my bald head relieved me of the dilemma of finding out whether it was Hallelujah that I was just listening to – I did what any other person in my position would do and went into automatic defense mode throwing punches at anything or anyone that would take them.

Let’s just say that was the worst mistake I could have done on my first few minutes (let alone the first day) as a rabble.

After being quickly shepherded to the head honcho’s study by other “concerned” bystanders, I quickly realized the odds were stacked against me. There was a chap called MK already kneeling down outside the said study in full games kits – and if I didn’t know what colors he was wearing, it was easy to surmise that MK was dressed as any prisoner would during work time.

“You’re new, huh?” MK asked with a smile.

“There’s a guy who has just slapped and ngotoed me and I punched back – he wanted me to wait for him here”, I responded.

“Jesus” was the exclaimed response from MK while shifting aside to make space for me.

“Who the hell is he”, I asked as I assumed the position.

“He’s the head honcho. Even though he’s a student, he’s more powerful than even the teachers”.

…Did I mention that MK and I got to become very good friends?

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