Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Imaginary Elbow Strikes


Scene: Elementary school front doors. A harried mother jogs up to the entrance, her child’s school folder clutched in her hand and a thirst to make photo copies in her heart. A man opens the door before she can hit the intercom button.

Mr. Principal: Is that folder for a student?
Mom: Well, yes, my daughter. But I’m also here to volunteer for Ms. First Grade Teacher.
Mr. Principal: We’re on lock down.
Mom: Hmm, uh-ha. 
Lock down. It means, roughly, “Ain’t nobody gettin’ in here and sure as hell ain’t nobody gettin’ out." Unless you’re the quirky, perpetually late mom who is there to make photocopies and grade spelling tests for your first grader’s teacher. They let her in; I should know, I’m her.

This was the case last week when I arrived slightly out of breath from power-swallowing a fast-food breakfast. There was a lock down at my daughter’s school. Lock down not to contain a harmful person on the interior, but to keep one out.

When I trotted up to buzz the intercom and state my purpose (to avoid paper cuts), I was met by the principal instead of the disembodied voice of the school secretary. I’d thrilled for a moment, dreaming I’d won a prize or, like a visiting dignitary, he was coming to personally deliver a greeting from the grateful students of my daughter's class. “I just can’t tell you how impressed we are with your hole punching and collating skills. Remarkable!”

On the contrary, he was there to announce the lock down, which, during an awkward pause when neither of us spoke, I was sure would be followed by some directions telling me how to proceed. After gazing at my trustworthy face for a bit and recalling that I’m one of the hundreds of nameless moms who talks at him as he passes in the hallway, he let me in.

I wondered if they were having a drill. No, a glance from the secretary was enough to tell me this was, as they kids say, for realz. She held a phone to her ear, listening for important information I presumed was from the National Guard, SWAT, or another vital public safety agency, perhaps animal control. Good Lord, had one of the zoo animals escaped? Tersely, she told me to head to the teacher workroom. Something was decidedly going down.

Ever curious and hopeful to catch a glimpse of an escaped capybara, I trotted out into the halls and had a look around.

Capybara. Its name means "Damn that's a big rat."(source)


“You shouldn’t be in the hall. They don’t want us in the hall.” The only other volunteer had emerged from nowhere to scold me. “What’s happening? Do you know what’s happening?” I asked. Hey howdy, maybe the meerkats had made a run for it. “There was a shooting at one of the other elementary schools.”

When forced, I can be sincere and serious. An armed person shooting up the schools smacked the zoo breakout fantasies from my mind. 

I’m going to jump ahead and let you worriers off the hook. There was not a shooting at one of the schools. There was only a poor soul who’d been shot in his garage and the schools had taken the cautious route and gone into lock down for about an hour.

But for the ten minutes between learning about the shooter and hearing from Mr. Principal that the lock down had been lifted, I entertained the gravest bit of imaginary crime fighting I’ve ever indulged in. My daughter was only a few doors down the way. Only one straight shot from the playground entrance I now doubted the older woman in the orthopedic shoes hovering near the door was capable of securing.

I was scared. I was also motivated.

I saw myself tossing fists in the air with my eyes shut and obscenities tripping off my tongue, aiming for the soft tissue, gouging eyes, cracking skulls. No way was a criminal getting past me and at those kids. My daughter in particular.

I was magnificent. I was the make believe kung fu master of the elementary school. I was Jackie Chan being thrown through the air, javelin-like, by Chuck Norris. I was Wonder Woman wrapped in a suit of kick ass.

What strikes me now, days later, is how many times since I’ve imagined myself in life-saving scenarios. At the little pond feeding reluctant fish I saw myself throwing my body over my clutch of kids, shielding them from a Compton-style gang drive-by. In the car at a stop light, I considered that if a person came up to the car to violate its security, I could use any number of non-lethal door opening attacks. A tailgate to the chin with just the push of a button; my driver’s side door opened with extreme prejudice.

I have no real sense whether I would be a flight person or a fight person if pushed to the limit. I’d like to think I would lay down my life for the protection of my children. I’d like to think I’d at least get off a swift kick to a private area before being taken down. But, like most of us I suspect, I am unlikely to be faced with such violent realities. So I’m left with a bit of lingering adrenaline fueling my make-believe exploits as super mom and crime stopper.   

After the lock down was lifted, after speed-walking down the hall to hug and kiss my girl and fight off tears of relief that we were not in a crisis, I collated 50,000 Scholastic book order forms without a single paper cut. That’s my reality. I think Chuck Norris would be proud.

***

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