Where only first names appear, names have been changed to protect the identities of the sources.
Silly String is everywhere at lunchtime on Oct 7: on the floors, on the walls and entangled in the ponytails of a gaggle of squealing girls. Uttering an expletive, a surprised boy dodges another squirt of the sticky stuff, and the crowd that has formed to watch the spectacle quickly scatters. Less than ten feet away, a game of freeze tag has begun, and from what I can see, the winner will be whoever is last to slip and fall on one of the gooey pink snakes on the floor. There is running, kicking, laughing and just about every other component of a typical kindergarten recess.
Sadly, this isn't recess, these aren't kindergartners, and the scene of all this chaos is not an elementary school playground. And while I'd like to stay and find out who will reign victorious, I have enough to worry about just trying to navigate my way through the mob and stay alive until seventh period.
I reach my class unharmed seconds before the bell rings, but many of my fellow Blazers have been less fortunate. In an informal Silver Chips survey of 100 Blazers conducted on Oct 9 and 10, 72 percent reported having run into problems with hallway horseplay at Blair, and 23 percent have been injured from rowdiness at school. All were affected by the postponement of the year's first pep rally, which was delayed because of this unruliness.
"Every man for himself"
High schoolers who behave like kindergartners are by no means unusual. This becomes evident when, a week after the Silly String incident, I witness something that makes my jaw drop and my heart stop. Aided by nothing but a pair of air-soled sneakers, Kevin, a junior, leaps over the banister of the stairwell leading to the third floor and lands on both feet and one hand on the stairs below. The logic behind this act: "I was chasing this girl, and I thought it would be faster," he explains matter-of-factly.
I now avoid using the main stairwell if I can help it, and senior Selam Wubu does the same, for a similar reason. While ascending to the second floor one day, Wubu was almost knocked down the flight of stairs by two freshmen racing from the third floor to the first. By pinwheeling her arms "like crazy," Wubu was able to avoid a nasty spill but caused herself considerable embarrassment in the process. "The entire school got to see me look like an idiot just trying to stay alive," she recalls.
The fact that he could have killed the innocent students he nearly landed on is of little consequence to Kevin, who views Blair as an "every man for himself" environment. "I don't feel like I should have to watch out for other people," he says. "I'm not invisible, so it's their responsibility to watch out for me." He regrets his rambunctious act only because it didn't achieve its intended purpose. "I didn't catch her," he says.
Kevin's sentiment is echoed by freshman Qadiyyah Harris, who also says avoiding injury in the halls is one's own responsibility. "It doesn't bother me when people act crazy in the halls," she says. "I just don't let them push me around, and it's okay."
This is, of course, easier said than done for an underweight female of questionable physical stability, like myself. Unlike Harris, my typical response to be jostled around by my overactive schoolmates is to curl into fetal position with my hands clenched into tiny, pathetically unthreatening fists. There are, however, variations on this response. When, during a routine trip to my locker at lunchtime, a soccer ball rolled unexpectedly in my direction at an estimated 70 miles per hour, I chose instead to topple over.
"Back to the sandbox"
If any doubt remained in my mind about Blazers' collective ability to pull off an impressive imitation of 3,300 five-year-olds, the events of Oct 11 were what finally convinced me. Before the first pep rally of the year, the student body, through two hours' worth of noisy rowdiness, was able to cause its cancellation.
It began with a series of seemingly unrelated fights that broke out outside the SAC during 5A lunch and ended with the ceremonious cutting-down of the freshman class poster from the second-floor balcony. In between, Blair's interior was subjected to physical chaos of every kind: more running, more jumping, more scaling of lockers, more Silly String. Despite staff members' attempts to disband the knots of people that formed around each event, the craziness continued until the end of lunch. During sixth period, Principal Phillip Gainous announced that the pep rally had been canceled due to "a great deal of rowdiness at lunch."
Security guard Henry Wacke believes that the chaos was caused by nothing other than Blair students' inability to recognize the inappropriateness of their acts. "Basically, it was just kids who forgot they were in high school for a little while," says Wacke.
He feels this phenomenon is particularly a problem with underclassmen, who may not yet have adjusted to the level of maturity required to function in high school. "When you have ninth graders who still have eighth grade minds, you're going to have problems," he says. "But if you want to act like you're five years old, if you want to act like you're in kindergarten, then go. Go back to the sandbox."
No arguments from this battered and weary traveler, who would love the chance to walk from one end of the building to the other just once without getting pummeled. For now, though, it might be in my best interest to look into reasonably priced helmets, body pads and, perhaps, soccer cleats.
Shannon Sanders. Shannon is stumbling through life as a Magnet senior. She's an aspiring obstetrician, who hopes to live in NYC and somehow blend seamlessly into the masses of chicness after graduating from Columbia University. She's a sort-of member of Blair's Model UN club, takes dance lessons, ... More »