I went to Jackson Park Junior High School. It was seventh through ninth grades. It was a nice, safe, newer, little school in a nice, safe middle class city. The Grand Rapids area in the 70’s was quite the party town, but I did not yet know that. I was in eighth grade.
Bullying is not new. The breadth of information we are exposed to is. There was a kid named Tim in my class. He was a giant of a kid, even of a man. He didn’t belong to a group, didn’t play sports, or interact much with anyone. No one had ever been to his house. He never had a sleep over at anyone else’s house. He was just there. Quiet, and under the radar.
What Tim did do was walk the wrong way in the hallway between class. We didn’t carry backpacks then. We went to our locker between every class. A very important social six minute interlude, six or seven time a day. Tim walked the wrong way every break. If you didn’t move out of the way you were simply moved out of the way.
I have always had a problem with what I perceive as unfairness, or injustice. I am really a coward also, so there is internal conflict as a result. But I fixated on this bullying behavior, and I decided to take action. Remember, he is six feet tall and over 200 pounds. I am 5′ 8″ and 135 pounds.
It was not long before the opportunity arose to act on my plan. Here he was, coming toward me. And everyone was moving out of his way. But today, I did not.
I walked straight into him. That seemed to surprise him quite a bit. While he was dealing with his surprise, I grabbed him by the T shirt with my left hand, and started pounding his face with my right fist. I had to reach up, but I went to work. I beat the crap out of his face while I explained why I was doing it, really loud. He really didn’t fight back. His T shirt was so worn and thread bare, it came apart in my hand. The guy was 13 and covered with hair. I guess he had never considered the possibility than someone would stand up to him.
Of course, it didn’t last long. Some teacher broke things up, and on to class we all went. Tim was crying. I was feeling pretty noble and manly. Made my bones. Proved my manhood. Built on the legend. You know. Well, half of you know.
It was not long into the next class before the intercom summoned me to the principal’s office. Off my proud self went, to take my medicine. I thought I might even get an award instead. I had stood up for the smaller and the weaker. A hero of the masses. A knight in skinny armor.
What I got was 3 days suspension. As I was waiting for my mom to come get me, or for them to figure out what to do with me since she worked, I noticed Tim was still in the office area too. And he was still crying. I am now thinking I am a total bad ass.
I made some comment about the giant bully crying. The vice-principal quietly explained that Tim was distraught because he feared his grandmother was going to be very upset, and probably punish him for ruining his T shirt.
I don’t think I ever talked to him again after that day, nor him to me. We didn’t become “besties” as so often happens after one on one conflict at that age. But I was never able to look him in the eye either. And I never talked about it to anyone. I just pretended it didn’t happen. I wish I would have bought him a new T shirt now. I had a paper route then. I could have. But I didn’t.