Why Life Isn’t Fair (an Occasional Series)
In the autumn of my 4th grade year, my buddy Rory and I became obsessed with constructing miniature villages. The result, under one particular twig-shedding tree, was a hamlet of remarkable charm. We worked on it during school recesses and quickly garnered rave reviews from multiple cute girls. In fact, our little town, populated by disoriented ants and roly-polies, was dubbed “Adoraville” by none other than Melinda Aardman, the most beautiful nine year old in the universe.
Unfortunately, we also attracted a nemesis: the formerly benign Mrs. Gibbons. I’d been in her class the year before and had been one of her favorites. What changed? I’ll never know.
On an unusually warm late fall day, she decided to punish her 3rd graders by making them stay inside and eat their lunches in torturous silence. Before long, outsiders began to whisper in ghostly voices through the cracked-open doorway, make squeaky noises with their lips, and engage in other equally sophisticated activities. Mrs. Gibbons raced out the door, but the five delinquents ran in six directions, and she missed them all. So she sturm-und-dranged her way into Principal Booker’s office, grabbed him by the lapels, and dragged him out onto the campus.
Here’s the mysterious part: she headed straight for the idyllic little village Rory and I had built and stomped on it, instantly reducing it to an archeological site. Then she pointed at me and said, “That Teemley boy! He’s their ringleader!”
I don’t think Principal Booker believed her. But she was one of his teachers, and he had to stand behind her (safer there). Even after several perps came forward, confessed their crimes against humanity, and swore I had not been with them, Mrs. Gibbons stuck to her story, insisting I was not only one of them, but was, in fact, the chief wise guy, the Don himself!
So I spent the next month in recess purgatory: sitting on the sidewalk, disallowed even the most basic freedoms that great Americans like Thomas Jefferson and Mahatma Gandhi had fought and died for.
That was when I discovered two devastating truths:
- The Law of Fairness gets broken more and more often as you get older
- Sometimes people, especially grownups, break it on purpose!
I sat there day after day, stewing in my righteousness, slowly evolving into Mitch the Martyr. And then I had an epiphany: I liked being a martyr! Kids walked by, nodding in admiration, covertly raising solidarity fists. And best of all, whenever Melinda Aardman passed (am I just imagining this?), her eyes moistened in adoring empathy!
But I didn’t just like being a martyr, I liked standing for something important. And what could be more important than Fairness? I’d always been in favor of it, but now I redoubled my efforts. Hey, I did plenty dopey things as a kid, but one thing I’m proud of is that I stood for fairness whenever I could. Seriously. I got beat up more than once for standing between a bully and some poor, perpetual “cootie bug.” And my rallying cry was always: “That’s not fair!”
Ah, I love the smell of Fairness in the morning!
To read more of Why Life Isn’t Fair, click here.