I remember in Elementary School having to take a bus to the middle school, transfer to another bus that would take me to my neighborhood. I also remember one particular middle school student by the name of Rex.
I wish I was joking with this photo, but it’s a pretty good replica of him.
Back in the day, I wasn’t good with the whole quick wit thing. I just wanted to get along with everyone, go to school, learn, come home, and play with my friends. But on the school bus, I was a loner (none of my friends lived close or they went to a different school) so I guess I was a decent target for this guy.
He’d sit down next to me and threaten me to “scoot over” despite the fact I was firmly against the window. Every day this little game of his would escalate to the point where he threatened to kill me. It was the late 70s, folks. There was no “go tell an adult” message being spread around. This was my own personal hell for two years. Every day, praying Rex was sick, transferred, hit by a car, ANYTHING to prevent me from dealing with yet another threat on my life.
The other students just turned a deaf ear like it was a New York alley. Despite my love for the Superheroes, there was no Dark Knight, White Knight or Knight in shinning armor coming to protect me from what I swore was going to by my last day. Being a loner, I figured that it would be quite awhile before anybody even noticed that I was just slunked up against the window, never to awake again.
I don’t know when or how I came up with the idea, and it certainly wasn’t used against Rex, but since then, every altercation where I was perceived to be outmatched in a school altercation lead to my making a whole lot of noise, screaming, returning threats with witty responses, and even a last resort “YOU GOT A (F’N) PROBLEM?” I stepped in to help other victims of the bullies. The ones who were too scared to draw attention. Maybe not the smartest move, but I did what I felt was right.
It has served me well, provided I KNEW that there was someone there that would intervene on my behalf. Except one time….
I was a Senior in High School when one of the jocks decided it was my day to receive his welcome wagon. He and I jawed back and forth and he got up to leave threatening me with “I’ll see you after school”. The last thing that a football player looks for is a fair fight, so I figured I wouldn’t be facing a one-on-one… after school. So I followed him in the Cafeteria (during a study hall) said “Let’s go.”
What happened next was up for debate, depending on who you talked to. What I know is that he hit me in the jaw, my glasses flew off, and when I brought my head back down to look at him again, a teacher had him pinned to the wall and a second one stood in front of me saying “To the office”.
Long story short, we both received three days off. He had a history of fights and the office staff only knew who I was because they attended Kiwanis with my Dad. So when I went home, I figured I was in for it from my parents. To my surprise I was met with a “You can’t get along with everybody.” With those six words, my reaction was vindicated. I did the right thing by standing up for myself. (Although, letting him use my face as a punching bag wasn’t plan A!)
So now, 20+ years after that altercation, I have followed this mantra as it pertains to bullying:
Fight if you must, scream if you can, walk away if at all possible.