Punk Rock Academy Fight Song – Kick It Over

August 29, 2009

I once kicked the school janitor square in the ass and got away with it! Now I’m not an advocate of random violence and I’m sure as hell not a spoiled brat who gets off on tormenting blue collar working guys. But I must say that I can write this with a mix of pride and disbelief. Pride because I stood up for myself and disbelief because after 20 odd years I can look back at this incident which could have landed me in a ton of hot water and use it to illustrate something positive.

The incident took place way back in 1984 as I was beginning the fourth grade at my new elementary school. In the interest of brevity I’ll spare the details of why I was at a new elementary school (besides that’s a whole ‘nother column) and cut to the chase. I was in the tiny school library looking through the card catalog (look it up kids) when the whole thing went down. The janitor -who had a reputation for being ornery to put it lightly- appeared with his monstrous vacuum and sunny disposition. Apparently I was standing in his path and he couldn’t spare the millisecond it took to utter a simple excuse me or even a “hey kid move” so he shoved me out of the way. Stunned and incredulous I knew I had to respond but how? Then as he bent down to plug the machine into the wall I launched my counter attack and delivered the afore mentioned kick. Nowadays if such an incident occurred the janitor would have been fired and I probably would have been labeled as some kind of troubled youth and sent to therapy or juvenile hall. But all I got back then was a quick meeting with the principal, where I explained that an adult needs to be able to respect kids or something to that affect, and the principal gave me the “lets not have this happen again’” speech. Not even a phone call home or detention. Maybe I got off because the janitor really was a jerk and someone, even a kid needed to put him in his place or maybe my eloquent defense had charmed the principal into overlooking the incident, who knows?

So why does this whole ridiculous incident merit any attention and where the hell is the positively in my ill advised response. Well because it serves to represent a couple of values that I always hold dear and maybe it’s also a metaphor for the way I view the world. It s always been the little kid versus the big angry janitor. Now on to the values, First of all always stand up for yourself and do not tolerate injustice in any way. I knew I was being wronged by someone more powerful than me and I knew that something had to be done. Now this in no way compares to Nelson Mandela fighting against apartheid or any other greats who have rallied against oppression, but the same principle applies. Besides I’m sure they were shaped by similar incidents of their youth. You can’t be complacent or apathetic. You have to be an agent of change and you have to be willing to deal with the consequences. The other half to this equation is that adults aren’t always right. This is something I try to impress on all my students. Just because someone has been sucking oxygen longer than you doesn’t give them the right to treat you badly or discount your feelings and opinions. Adults make errors in judgment, teachers sometimes get their own questions wrong and counselors sometimes put you in the wrong class only its a lot harder for us to admit were wrong but it shouldn’t. As grown ups we should be big enough to say we fucked up and smart enough to realize we don’t have all the answers.

Maybe I’m over analyzing a hazy memory from grade school. Putting too much stock in a fleeting moment in time or maybe it stuck with me because it did have such a huge impact on my view of right and wrong. Maybe that janitor learned you can’t disrespect kids just cause you are in a hurry. All I do know is that I listen to what kids have to say and I haven’t had to kick anyone in the ass in a very longtime.


-Daniel N-