Tuesday, April 23, 2013

the 5th grade bully

At Egalitarian Elementary School, A Public Learning Facility for Gifted Young Minds, the fifth grade has just broken for lunch.  Kids are heading toward the school Dining Hall (formerly, "cafeteria" but that's not hip now even if foreign) at various rates of speed, some stalling to joke with classmates, some stopping to take a piss or have a panic attack in the bathroom.

Young Henry Greenberg is detoured at the pisser when Mean Mike McGillicutty and his two Scrappy-Doo tag-alongs enter the boys' bathroom.

Mean Mike says to his two followers, "Look boys, it's Mister Hankey the Christmas Poo!" and the two followers laugh on cue.  One of the followers grabs a handful of toilet paper, crumples it into a ball, runs it under the tap to get it wet, and throws it at Henry's back on which it SPLATs.

The 3 boys laugh.

Henry begins quivering.

"Mister Hankey, why are you shaking?  Are you afraid we're gonna flush you down the toilet where you belong?"

Henry begins sobbing.

The 3 boys laugh louder.

Then turn and walk out.


Henry's imagination expands this encounter wildly, putting Henry in the middle of a crowd of children the size of the school's entire populace.  It's all of them, vs Henry.  They all have wet toilet paper wads ready to throw.  Henry thinks it's like Shirley Jackson's story The Lottery.

Henry rides the bus home in a vibrating-robot demeanor, the whole time asking himself when the bus driver is simply going to stop the bus so that everyone can beat the living shit out of Henry.  They'll probably beat him unconscious and throw him into a roadside ditch somewhere there's rabid dogs and plague-carrying rats who haven't eaten in a week.

Surprisingly, the bus ride ends without incident, Henry's overworked imagination notwithstanding.  Rather than noting it was all in his mind, Henry sprints off the bus, imagining he's just escaped a group of murderous thugs who intended to chop him into pieces and feed him to the hogs.


At dinner, Henry's mother asks how his day was.  Henry recounts the bathroom scenario with Mean Mike and his pals and describes it not as it happened, but as Henry's fevered imagination wildly exaggerated things.  As the story goes on Henry's situation grows more dire and life-threatening by the sentence.  Instead of Mean Mike and his pals laughing and leaving, Henry says they threatened him with "if you tell anyone, you're a dead man!" and brandished weapons they'd been hiding in their pockets.

Richard Greenberg, Henry's father, has heard enough.  "I will not tolerate this anti-Semitism from the school.  The school has to stop these Little Hitlers now before they become like Ahmadinjhad and try to wipe us off the map of this town."

"I bet that McGillicutty boy's father is a REPUBLICAN.  I bet he belongs to the NRA.  I bet he listens to Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck or Ann Coulter or Bill O'Reilly.  I bet he bashes gays and lesbians.  What a REACTIONARY."

"Now Dick, don't be too judgmental. I bet McGillicutty doesn't like Ann Coulter."

The two of them share a superior, snarky laugh.


The next day, Dick Greenberg calls Porschia Hillweg-Crampton, the school's chief executive officer (formerly: principal) to complain about the bathroom incident.

"Mizz Hillweg,..."


"Mizz Hillweg-Crampton..."


"Mizz Hillweg-hyphen-Crampton, I think you have a problem with anti-Semites in your school, and you need to do something about it." He then proceeds to describe the incident using Henry's exaggerated retelling, but amplifying the terror and danger even further.

"Mister Greenberg, I am Jewish myself. I think I would have experienced this anti-Semitism already since I'm here every day and no student likes the CEO. Have you factored your child's insecurity into the story?"

"My child is NOT INSECURE!" Greenberg's voice now is rising and his face is turning red. "How DARE you say my son is INSECURE?!"

"Mr Greenberg, I'm only observing the shorthand of what you've told me. The encounter made your boy feel unsafe, or, said differently, insecure. You need to examine what his baseline is so you can then determine how the incident affected him. If he was already a ball of nerves, perhaps he misconstrued what the McGillicutty boy was saying."

"That wadded up wet toilet paper was assault and battery and it was deadly force."

"Mr Greenberg, does Henry ever play outside?"

"What does THAT have to do with anything? You said you were JEWISH. You know what it's like. We're geeks, we're brains. We're NOT jocks. PLAY OUTSIDE? YOU WANT ME TO PUT HIS Wii OUTSIDE?"

"Mr Greenberg, I think I've heard enough. Let me investigate this further and I'll get back to you. Thank you for your concern."

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