High school kids get a certain amount of leeway in regard to what’s considered “vandalism” versus what’s considered “good teenage fun,” and as a teacher I hear all kinds of stories about students running around on homecoming weekend, targeting community homes with enough toilet paper to wipe the rear ends of Bahrain for three months. They stake plastic forks in front yards, soap windows, and even occasionally throw raw eggs at things. And you know what? I can’t fault them for doing these things. Because I did them too.
My buddy Lee had a car, so he and me and my long-time good friend Gates hit the dark country roads after the Homecoming bonfire, our trunk filled to brim with two-ply. If you think this is just some story about giggling like school girls while we toss pretty ribbons of toilet tissue through the nighttime silhouettes of trees, you’re wrong. This night ended with a dent in Lee’s hood about two feet long.
It all started innocently enough, us picking out the houses of girls we thought were cute and bombarding them with Quilted Northern (the houses, not the girls). At one house, painted in the blackness of a cold October night, things almost went awry for the first time that evening. We felt the chill of the air wafting in through our t-shirt sleeves, freezing our armpits and chests, but with each draft another train of paper flipped through the branches overhead, and eventually the exertion prickled our foreheads in sweat. There was a lot of “Shhh” and laughing at things that probably weren’t particularly funny, when a light shot in the living room’s front bay window.
We mumbled some curse words and darted between backyards for the car, which was parked inconspicuously a block or two away. With the heat of the little automobile’s interior reenergizing us, we exploded in laughter the way only pranking teenagers can do. We knew police cars were making their rounds that night, but in our community at least they weren’t particularly strict about this particular night. In small communities like ours, the cops are people who stuck around, which means that they’d all done what we were doing at some point and probably had no intention of ruining our fun. We were vandalizing with impunity.
But just because Johnny Law probably wouldn’t punish us didn’t mean we wouldn’t take on a barrage of civilian backlash. One of my friends, for example, stayed at home with his brothers instead of heading out like the rest of us. They’d set up law chairs on their roofs and hold a dozen eggs in each of their laps. If anybody came by to taint their property, they’d be doing it with sticky yoke dripping down their noggins.
In a way, that made his house even more desirable for potential TPers. Adolescents laugh in the face of people who think they’re smarter than them. Usually, they actually are smarter than them, but the adolescents still laugh because they’re sort of stupid like that.
It would take a certain kind of stupid teen to brave the home of Mr. H., our gigantic biology teacher closely resembling Vader of WWE fame, known for protecting his home from us damn meddling kids. Only he wasn’t the kind of guy who sat idly on his roof with eggs. Let’s just say Mr. H. took a little more active role in dissuading students from fouling up his beloved trees.
Rolling up the long country road to H’s house, I literally couldn’t believe the scene that had laid itself out in front of me. There must have been 12 cars parked along the road, each of them emptied of their pubescent occupants, who were running around the premises with the determined fervor of Civil War reenactors. There had to have been at least thirty kids in the man’s yard, and toilet paper rained down from the sky like white, papery fireworks. Some of the attackers were soaping tags on the windows, and an occasional egg or two would fly through the dark, seemingly for effect.
Stunned, the three of us sat in Lee’s car wondering what exactly we could do here to leave our own mark. Shutting off the ignition once he’d found a place to park with reasonable access to a hasty getaway, everything suddenly grew eerily silent. The hum of the engine and the radio cut off, leaving only the muffled shouts and exultations of our classmates through the car windows.
We all craned our heads warily in the quiet and safety of Lee’s car, when Lee, in the midst of a wry smile, asked, “Where’s Mr. H?”
“I don’t know,” Gates responded.
And that’s when, as if out of a movie, Mr. H. dropped from the sky like a skydiver, crashing the brunt of his massive frame into the hood of the car with the deep sound of folding metal. Pressing his round, red-bearded face to the windshield he unleashed an animalistic growl, prompting the three of us to scream like little girls. In vain, Lee flicked on his windshield wipers—clearly a futile attempt at removing a three-hundred pound man from the front of one’s vehicle.
Keys still in the ignition, Lee hit reverse and H slid triumphantly from the car to his feet, standing like Jason Voorhees and smiling puckishly as we drove away, not even having set foot on the man’s sidewalks. If Lee were a trained stunt driver he would’ve executed one of those awesome skidding auto moves to point us in the direction of home, but with his limited experience driving a car our escape was complete only after he clumsily maneuvered a three-point turnabout while Gates and I feared for our lives. Had Mr. H. actually been a serial killer, he’d have caught up to us by then, shattered the windows with his bare fists and dragged us each out of there one by one to eat our souls. Even knowing that H wasn’t a serial killer didn’t guarantee us that this wouldn’t happen.
We didn’t have much toilet paper left in the trunk, anyway, so we thought with that particular exciting development we’d call it a night. Our hands were shaking the whole drive home—not because we’d done something illegal, but because we’d almost been devoured by the man who taught us about ions and Bunsen burner safety.
Regardless, I was given permission to misbehave for the first time in my life, and I took full advantage. Since then, I’ve only been arrested twice, but both hookers said they were eighteen. I’m kidding, obviously. Only one of the hookers said she was eighteen.
As far as I know Lee’s hood still has that dent—a trophy from our evening of debauchery. What a trophy it is. Ah, “good teenage fun.” Or “vandalism.” Whatever. I’m not one to judge.