BY NORBERT RUG
As a redhead, I was bullied when I was a child. Even today I can still hear the chants “Redhead, redhead fire in the woodshed”. This is the only one that was yelled at me that can be printed in a family newspaper. One involved the anatomy of a male dog and another involved my parents and a rusty pipe.
No wonder I was a loner.
While I was growing up in Buffalo, there was a family across the street that had 4 or 5 bazillion kids, or so it seemed. I remember them jumping me, punching me and sitting on me so they could pound my hands into the dirt. It always concluded with the threat that if I told anyone the next time it would be worse.
I was constantly tripped, pushed and kicked by the bullies in school but I suffered in silence because I knew if I reported them, retaliation was going to be quick and harsh.
In elementary school, I did manage to retaliate against one bully and gain some respect though. When we were sitting at our desks, he would reach across the aisle with his leg when the teacher wasn’t looking and kick me. This would cause the classroom to laugh.
One day I had enough and waited until he extended his leg, ready to torment me again when I grabbed his foot and gave it a yank. He ended up sitting on the floor. When the teacher turned around and asked him what had happened, he stood up and said he just fell out of his seat. The laughter was the loudest I had ever heard. It seems he was bullying many of my classmates and they appreciated someone getting even. He never did it again and he and his “bully buddies” left me alone. Elementary school went pretty good after that.
We moved to the north towns in time for junior high school where I developed a small circle of friends. By the time I got to high school, the bullying reached its apex. My books would get knocked out of my arms and I would get body checked into the lockers. I started carrying my books in a duffle bag so my stuff would not get scattered all over the place. The school administrators would always look the other way because the perpetrators were primarily members of the football team. They were untouchable and they didn’t want to have to discipline them with suspensions. I was the victim and that, like designated seating, seemed to be my place in the school pecking order.”
I rode the bus to school. Seeing as I lived so far from the school the bus was virtually empty when I got on it so I would sit in the back. One day, on the way to school, I was “pantsed” by a couple of the motor-heads to the delight of all the other riders. On my way off the bus, the driver told me I had to sit in the front seat from now on. I now realize he was trying to protect me but back then I felt like I was the one being punished. Nothing ever happened to them.
One of my major tormenters was the son of Russian parents (or so he said). Finally, enough was enough. One day we happened to be in study hall together in the school auditorium where he was messing with me. The person in charge saw this and moved them to the front row, but I knew that after the study hall the bullying would continue. Time to devise a plan.
I got the restroom pass and headed to my locker. Once there, I grabbed an old notebook and filled it with a bunch of loose papers. When I came back, I walked in front of him and “tripped” throwing the notebook in the air. Of course, the notebook and papers flew everywhere. The teacher looked at him and me and asked what happened. He replied he didn’t know and I said I didn’t know, I tripped over something. The teacher made him pick up all the papers and I had no more problems with him.
I had started to work at a local company and once again I was the brunt of abuse. One day I was in the bathroom and a person started lobbing balls of wet paper towels over the wall at me. Time to make a statement again. There was a spray can of germicidal spray so I grabbed it. I sprayed it under the patrician and lit it with my lighter. A three-foot flame came out towards him. No more problems. I had gained the respect I deserved.
Today’s lesson is this. You never want to be the type of person that gets yanked out of their chair, gets blamed for tripping someone or has fire coming towards them. Let’s make sure nobody has to remember that October is Anti-Bullying Month.
Norb is an independent journalist from Lockport.