This one was sort of my fault. The year before in shop we had a cute girl in class and most of the guys tried to hit on her but she swatted them down with ease. I never hit on her (too shy plus I didn’t think I’d have a shot so what would’ve been the point?) so she kind of liked being around me. Never talked down to her, never took work out of her hands to show her how it should be done, only helped if she asked for help and only did the things she asked me to do. One of the guys in class wouldn’t stop bugging her and would constantly try to get her attention. She was too polite to tell him off, and I had no right to tell him off, but what I could and did do was mock him in my quiet unassuming way. I’d use words he didn’t know, sentence constructions he didn’t understand, basically just made him look like an idiot.

She’d laugh, and he’d look confused, and she’d laugh some more. Harmless fun for me but obviously he wasn’t a big fan of mine.

The next year she didn’t take Shop with us so he got his revenge by making dumb jokes at my expense and I’d conspicuously ignore them. He hated that I clearly thought he didn’t matter so one day he decided to escalate by throwing things at my head.

I was sitting at the front of the class waiting for the teacher to come in and drawing in my sketch book and suddenly rubber stoppers started flying past my head. This went on for a few minutes and irritated me. They didn’t hit me but I stopped drawing and laid my pencil down and waited. Then another came whistling by, then another, and I told myself if one more came flying I’d have to go take care of it. This wasn’t to fight one guy, all ten other guys in the class were laughing and sitting in a cluster at the back of the room. This was me against ten. Not a fight I could have won but a fight I had to fight.

Another stopper went by, I stood up and calmly walked to the back. A guy I’d been friendly with since grade one was laughing at me so I put my hand around his neck and was told he had nothing to do with it by one of the others. I nodded, said I knew, then pushed him out of the way. A couple of guys were sitting on the drafting tables to either side of the row and were pretty astonished when I pushed them out of the way as if they were nothing, heavy desks, two or three guys per desk, but I was… kind of angry.

The guy who I knew had been throwing the stoppers saw the look on my face and spun into the aisle and tried to run away. Unfortunately for him he was into a weird style choice wherein you kept your shoelaces loose and tucked into the shoes. He tripped over his own feet and fell on his back.

I wanted to punch him, too angry not to punch him, I was reaching for his face but his feet were against my chest pushing me away. Legs are longer than arms and I couldn’t get at him so I concentrated on wrestling his legs out of the way. That didn’t work, but what happened was one of his shoes came off in my hands.

The next moment I was pushing his legs forward with one hand while the other hand used his shoe to spank his butt and I said: “You’ve been a very bad boy.”

The teacher came in right about then and we both got sent down to the office.

I thought for sure I’d get in trouble (starting a brawl with ten guys in class seems like it would lead to punishment, right?) but we both told the truth and I got nothing and he got a few days of detention.

What did I learn? Did I learn not to fight multiple people at once? No, I did that a couple more times in the next couple years. Did I learn discretion is the better part of valor? No, I’d probably still lose my temper and go take on ten guys if the same situation cropped up today.

Honestly, I would have said I learned nothing until my younger brother asked me if I’d really spanked the guy with his own shoe.

Twelve years later.

I could have mashed that kid, could have hit him, could have made him bleed, but no matter what I did to him it would not have been talked about twelve years later. But spanking him with his own shoe? Not likely to be forgotten.

That’s a story that your Best Man tells at your wedding. And someone else tells when they’re shooting the crap around a fire pit at fifty. Something he can’t live down. Heck, could even be told at the bar after his funeral. So, something he can’t even die down.

The biggest geek in school (both in terms of geekiness and terms of biggieness relative to the other geeks) tossing you to the ground and spanking you with your own shoe? Too good a story to not tell.

The lesson I learned? Humiliation can be even more satisfying than a right cross to the jaw.

Even though delivering the right cross would have felt pretty good in the moment.

Thanks for reading,

Steve