I asked myself that question quite a few times when I got older and was beyond elementary school. I had no friends, so one would logically think that there would be no danger of me talking during class… who would I talk to? Myself? Thankfully I had not developed the fine art of talking to oneself as yet, so what was the deal. In later years, I believe I had figured it out.
During my elementary school years, there was a reasonable amount of discipline in class, even in the public school system. From third grade on, I clearly remember that one of the rules was: “no talking during class” unless you were called on by the teacher. If you were caught talking to “your neighbor”, as the kids sitting on either side of you were referred to, you were called out and received a “demerit”. If behavior didn’t improve, you would be required to “stay after school” as a punishment and a note would be sent home to your parents. This was the kiss of death. Staying after school was bad enough,
( In retrospect, I believe I logged as many “after school” hours as I did regular school hours), but the note to the parents… well, that was the killer in our family. As I have discussed in other entries, our parents were “old school”, especially Dad. As a child, you were always expected to respect adults. Add to that equation an adult who happened to be a teacher? Well, any sign of disrespect there was a sign of demon possession. The punishments I received at home whenever a “note from the teacher” was received were far worse than staying after school. Staying after school consisted of nothing other than sitting at your desk quietly for an extra hour or two after the other kids went home. Punishment at home was cruel and unusual, such as losing television privileges for a week or more. I know I have relayed in other posts how much I looked forward to “my shows”, different ones every night of the week that I was basically addicted too. Taking away television was Mom and Dad’s most effective tool in disciplining me. It was horrible for me. First-time offense would mean a week without television. I honestly believe I would have preferred a week without food. When my shows were to come on, I was relegated to my room. What made this all the more unbearable for me was that I knew that just down the Hall (see blog on The Hall), mom and dad and, most of the time, that “evil elf” brother of mine, were enjoying the shows. I pleaded, I cried, I promised it would never happen again…… all to no avail. A note home from the teacher was serious business. As many times as I promised not to talk during school, I would inevitably do it again. Second offense was two weeks of no television. TWO Weeks! It might as well have been a lifetime! In addition, the television restriction was not the only repercussion of getting a note sent home from the teacher. I also had to listen to the disappointment in the voice of Mom, anger in Dads and relentless ridicule with the “evil elf”!
Here is an example of what I am speaking of:
Mom: “Now Donny, you know how much it hurts me when I hear from your teacher that you have been bad!! I thought that I had taught you to always be a good boy? Why would you hurt me like this? Do you want me to get sick? (a traditional tactic of Italian moms everywhere) I’m VERY disappointed! You know better!”
Dad: “Again? Again, with this kid? Again, a note from the teacher? What the hell is the matter with you? (followed by a fairly lengthy tirade of Italian cuss words which I didn’t quite understand. At one point I believe he was asking God why I was such a “Stunad”) What am I going to do with you? Is it so hard to keep your mouth shut in class and pay attention? You need an education so you don’t have to work in a factory like me!! Why don’t you ever listen? You’re going to mess up your whole life!”
My little Brother (Evil Elf) saying this in the background, of course, while voicing his normal taunting giggle: “ hahahahahaha….. what a dufus!!! You got caught again??? Hahahahahaha. No television for a week!! And Maverick is gonna’ be great this week? Remember the previews.? what a dufus… you don’t have any friends….. who are you talking too?”
……. And Evil Elf had hit on the daunting question. Who was I talking too when I really did not have any friends? I have shared this in many other posts. I was “that kid” … the one picked on, the one that was made fun of….. the one with no friends. So how was I constantly getting I trouble for talking in class? Who was I talking too? I never really thought much about it at the time, as my time was consumed with worrying about Mom getting sick because I brought disgrace to the family while trying to make sure Dad didn’t totally lose it one night toss me into the Hudson River. I also had to make sure I kept in good graces with my brother so he would at least tell me what I had missed on Maverick.
Years later it dawned on me…. I was set up by the other kids in the class!!! Besides being the dufus that evil elf referred to, I was also the most gullible kid under the sun. You could “punk me” as easy as you could blink an eye. I believed anything and everything. (I believe I was 17 before I realized the Easter Bunny may not be real). The kids that liked to pick on me and make fun of me knew this! They also know that I was not a very suspicious kid, I trusted everyone. So, they would purposely engage me in a conversation in class. I was so excited that another kid was talking to me that I jumped into the conversation with both feet. All they had to do was ask me a simple question; “ hey, did you see Maverick last week?” ….. and off I would go….. running off at the mouth with no concept that the teacher was there watching me. After asking their simple, one-line question, they would sit there as innocent little angels while Dufass Don gave long and extended answers. The teacher obviously sees ”Dufass Don” talking away to a poor, innocent child who is trying to pay attention….. and there you have it. Note home to parents while the others walk away laughing. I can only imagine how they laughed at how gullible I was.
When I say it was years later before I figured this out, it was a lot of years later. High School to be exact. One of my nemeses from the early years in school went to a rival High School. We actually became casual friends. One day while playing basketball at the park he said: “Boy, it was so fun to see you getting into trouble for talking in class when you had no friends!” Wait…. WHAT?
And there, my readers, is the answer to the question that is the title to this entry.