An old saying is that “Rules are meant to be broken,” but that’s really not the case. Rules are created to set standards for behavior, whether they be mathematical, physical, legal, sociological, or what have you. Some rules, like our Federal laws against murder, are established because it’s important to prevent any singular infraction of that rule. Other rules, like Speed Limits or Anti-Littering laws, are established, not because one instance of infraction is bad, but because it would be havoc if everyone were constantly walking on the other side of that line (see: Tragedy of the Commons). But whatever the particular motivation behind any given rule may be, the rationale is never that the rule gets broken.
Despite that fact, however, rules are frequently broken, and today, for a certain class of third graders, one particular rule was about to be just that. Broken.
At Bishopdale Elementary School, two third-grade students were planning to throw down. You see, there was bad blood between a boy and a girl (metaphorically, of course, not literally); John, a Venti cup of strikingly-ginger complexion, had taken offense to having his masculinity called into question by Lindsey, a squat, freckled tom-boy, who in turn was merely enacting her vengeance on John for his repeated and public characterization of her in the same fashion in which this story’s supremely-capable narrator just participated.
Even after each side of the feud was fed up with the other’s taunting, it was still awhile before the fisticuffs were agreed upon; male versus female violence is at best a territory into which one needs to tread cautiously, so choosing to move forward is never a rash decision. That being said, some sly and completely-selfish cajoling by the friends of both parties was enough to convince both John and Lindsey that a fight would be in each of their best interests, and so it was settled. The next day, at the start of Recess, the pair would meet by the Tire Swing, and there would be a brawl of mixed-gender proportions.
Rumor immediately traveled to each of the three third-grade classrooms so that the entire grade was in-the-know by the time everyone went home on the penultimate day. By the morning of The Day, excitement was at an all-time high; even Don King couldn’t hype a fight like this. It was all anyone was talking about during snack time.
When lunch rolled around, though, almost nobody was talking. Instead, everyone was too busy trying to wolf down his or her bag of hot fries and 5-cent pretzel rods, or diverting extra concentration toward stabbing thin yellow straws into clear plastic bags of chocolate milk. Even one boy’s attempts to trade away his hologram Pokemon cards were fruitless. On any other day, there would have been more than a dozen takers. Yet today was not any other day.
See, the third-graders at Bishopdale Elementary School were about to experience rule-breaking in the most perfect way. Not only would there be a fight, which was strictly against the school’s rules, but it would be between a boy and a girl, which was definitely not supposed to happen even without considering the school’s mandates. The thrill of deviance was in the air. But for all, save John and Lindsey, there was no onus of responsibility or threat of punishment for said deviance. These students had found the rarest of sweet spots, right between the excitement of doing something wrong and the act of doing it.
When the bell for Recess finally rang, the students flooded out of the cafeteria and out onto the playground, heading immediately for the back corner of the playground to find a seat. The class’ headlining dweeb, Ben, was frantically trying to sell tickets for 25-cents a pop, but kids quickly moved passed him as soon as they realized the “tickets” were just pieces of scrap paper he’d written on. It was really a terrible business model.
The playground was massive, which afforded a number of different seating options. Slides, mazes, bridges, tunnels, swings, seesaws were all quickly occupied by eager eight year olds. Each “toy” typically attracted the same groups of students on a day-to-day basis, but today saw a chaotic scramble to find the best vantage point, and as everyone settled into position, John and Lindsey approached the Tire Swing.
Each had brought a sidekick from his or her camp to act as moral support, but not much was needed from the two cronies. After a few short words, the witnesses fell back and the brawl was on. Jubilant cheers went up from the audience, urging the fighters on, not so much in support for one in particular but more in expression of sheer exultation. The two gladiators immediately started grappling, until they both found themselves wrestling on the dusty ground. Neither combatant seemed to be able to gain an edge.
This scene lasted for roughly half a minute, a full Indian Summer collapsed into thirty glorious seconds. And then one voice, ringing out shrilly over the commotion, brought reality crashing back in. “THE LUNCH LADIES ARE COMINGGGG! RUUUUUUN!”
This was something that nobody had planned for, but should have probably seen coming. The two monitors who chaperoned Recess on a daily basis were apathetic on their good days, and rarely made their way to the back of the playground by the Tire Swing, but today their suspicions gave them reason to do so. On a normal day, kids were running around everywhere; there are boys playing kickball on the blacktop and World Cup on the soccer field, and girls playing hopscotch and jumping rope over on the grass by the Tube Slide. Yet today was a few tumbleweeds short of a ghost town. When the lunch ladies strolled out of the cafeteria 2-3 minutes late, as per usual, and took their place by the front door, as per usual, they noticed that there wasn’t one kid in sight. Even those ogres could figure out something was up.
With that one warning shout announcing the adults’ presence, panic ensued. Like cockroaches when the light turns on, students bolted away from the scene, squirreling their way through the mazes and tunnels they had long since mastered. Boys and girls were running into each other every which way, mirroring each other’s deer-in-the-headlights look before scurrying away again.
As things calmed down, Lindsey and John were dragged off to the Principal’s office and eventually sent home for a few days to reflect on their actions. And reflect on them they did. But reflection did not entail regret, for they both felt, secretly, that if they had to go back, they would do it again.
Even though rules aren’t meant to be broken, some are anyway. John and Lindsey broke the rules. And in this case, in this one particular instance, everyone was glad they did.
“Awww, yea, that golden rule…” – Bunk Moreland