* * * * *
THE BOYS' ROOM
THE BOYS' ROOM
[Wave. Wave wave. Wave.]
“Charles, put your hand down when I am speaking.”
[2 minutes later. Wave wave. Wave. Wave wave wave. GIGANTIC WAVE!]
“Charles, I told you to put your hand down when I am speaking.”
[2 more minutes later.]
“Alright, Charles, I am finished speaking.”
“Yes, Sister, I'm finished too [squish]. So what page are we on [squish]?”
It was a completely different story when a girl had to go to the bathroom. Wiggle one plump finger for a nanosecond, Sister would nod and smile (even when her back was turned to the room), and it was zooooom, out the door and down the hall to the can.
The girls, you see, had “needs” the boys didn’t have. For heaven’s sake, what “needs” did a bunch of goofy nine-year-old girls have? Mascara re-do? Training bra malfunction? A quick smoke? I suspect that Sister didn’t dare piss them off because every little girl was a candidate for the convent, a possible martyr if she was lucky as hell, and eventual sainthood.
But the boys? Since we were male, we were automatic perverts.
“Charles, are you touching yourself down there?” Sister asked suspiciously, noting that my right hand was not on my desktop devoutly entwined with my left.
Of course I was. When I was a child I suffered from frequent attacks of itchy balls, and the only known cure was (and still is) to scratch them. But try to tell that to Sister Mary Godzillus or any of the dopey girls, all of whom looked at me as if I was both worm innards and a Protestant.
“Charles, go to the cloakroom!”
Going to the cloakroom was my favorite banishment, except in winter when thirty wet coats made it smell like essence of dead water buffalo. But even if it smelled bad, at least I could scratch in . . . blessed . . . peace. And switch all of the girls’ mittens around when I wasn’t scratching, picking, or fumbling with my static-cling underpants.
I spent so much time in various (eight) cloakrooms over (eight) years that I’m surprised I didn’t grow up to be a professional hatcheck girl in some hoity-toity gin mill:
“Ah, good evening, Bishop Torquemada! May I check your staff and sheep? Your bed of nails, perhaps? Your bingo cards for winners? Surely you don’t intend to wear that silly rat-hair rug all evening—Please allow me, your Bishopness, to check it for vermin . . .”
ADDENDUM, 09/09/09: Best comment, from Tiffin:
We had to hold up one finger for a pee, two fingers for a dump. Can you imagine making kids advertise what they were going to do in the bathroom like that? I always used to hold up 3, claiming I didn't know what was going to happen until I got there.