Rites of Passage ("It's All The Sixth Formers' Fault")

- Michael "Bongo" Schloss

As we all know, the Sixth Form block--among other areas--was clearly marked "Out of Bounds." In addition, the Upper Sixth Formers wrote on their classroom door "EINTRITT VERBOTEN!" That is German for "Entry Forbidden". It is safe to say that I was born with a curious mind, so one day at lunchtime I casually wandered onto the Sixth Form block. Now, normal protocol dictated that if you had business with someone in one of those classrooms, you knocked on the door and stated your business to whoever answered. You then waited outside for the person you needed to see to come to you. Perhaps it was wishful forward thinking for me, but for reasons unknown I pushed the door to "The Inner Sanctum," Form 6A, opened and entered, quite uninvited.

The immediate effect was just like that cliche Western movie scene, where someone enters a saloon, the gamblers stop playing cards, the piano playing stops and the only sound is the jingling of the cowboy's spurs as he strides confidently up to the bar. Well, my Hush Puppies did not make the same sound as spurs, but had the same effect as in the movie scene. Suddenly, I was standing (all 4' 11" of me) in the midst of these giants. Some of these almost-grown men were finishing lunch, others were studying and others were shooting the breeze.

"What is your name, youngster?" someone asked. "Michael Schloss, sir!" came my respectful reply. "What class are you in, Michael Schloss?" "Form 1B, sir!" I naively retorted. "ONE BEEE!!!" they all shouted in unison and disbelief (much like the salsa commercial). Before I could think, the door was closed and four or six desks were hurriedly pushed together to form a make-shift stage. One of these behemoths then stated: "Gentlemen, young Mr. Schloss has kindly volunteered to be our lunch-time entertainment; tek di stage bway!"

By this time they were armed with either milk or juice boxes or had removed their ties and were cracking them menacingly in the air, like bullwhips. I took the stage and was told to sing the national anthem. "Eternal father..." crack, crack... "Cherry Oh Baby" crack, crack... "Sammy Plant Pieca Corn" crack, crack... and so it went; but music is my life and so I launched into every song they tried to stump me with.

They decided to switch tactics: "Dance bway!" crack, crack ..."Shingaling" crack, crack... "Boogaloo"... crack, crack.... "Watusi"... crack, crack .."Cripple man" crack... "Drap legs" crack .. "Oh Carolina"... I thought about singing the "adult" lyrics but decided not to; luckily.

"Alright gents; let us show this grub what happens to First Formers who enter our domain!" I was unceremoniously grabbed and "bummed" out to the door with the admonition, "Never again darken this doorstep!" amid howling laughter. So, if you ever see me on a stage acting like a fool, "It's all the Sixth Formers' fault"!!

Actually, except for the 'bumming', the whole incident was a lot less horrific than it sounded, and I found it all quite amusing. It was just another 'rite of passage'. If you think about it, you can't really blame the Sixth Formers for 'protecting their turf'. There was a good reason for the Sixth-Form block being off-limits: it was a hard-earned privilege to wear the tie, and inhabit one of those two classrooms. Only the best of the best earned that right. Upper Sixth was populated by the head-boy, deputy head-boy and any number of prefects and monitors, all university-bound. I don't blame them for jumping on any epaulette-wearing interloper.

Later on came the introduction of form "6G"(General), a sort of "Limbo" for the school's athletes. Instead of spending seven years in Fifth Form, athletes could now languish in 6G until about age twenty-five--the whole time representing the school in athletics. I am sure that those students (many of them athletes) who were promoted to Lower Sixth based upon academic achievement, felt somewhat cheapened by the introduction of 6G.

Some of the other rites of passage bordered on cruelty. "Bumming" could easily get out of hand and turn into a mob-beating. "Ducking" (dunking, actually) someone in the swimming pool could just as easily have turned tragic. Then there were the 'extortion' games--like sending a youngster to the tuck-shop with no money, and directing him to bring back a meal fit for a king, AND change. This would go on until the youngster either stood up for himself, reported the offender to a teacher or 'sicked' an older brother, cousin or other protector on the perpetrator.

Reminds me of the time I was in First Form and there was this Second Former named Hosin, affectionately called "Suzy" by his peers. It never occurred to me that perhaps the man didn't like being called "Suzy" so naturally I boldly addressed him as such one day, to which he replied: "Whe yu call mi youth?"

"Suzy! Nuh so yu name?" came my barefaced response. Bredren, di man "chuck-off" pon mi and start strangle mi: "Bway, yu want ah killll yu? Yu fi have respec fi yu elders!" Glendon Burton, who witnessed the attack, took particular delight in pointing him out to me at every opportunity afterwards, "Schloss; si Suzy deh!" That incident still cracks me up. Oh, I never did call him Suzy (to his face) again.

I cannot take responsibility for this next one; as a composer/writer I must accord due proprietry to Imam Douglas Owen-Ali (aka Yum-Pum) the actual creator of the line, "Mi tell di man nuh dweet!" .

For those who don't recall the story, one afternoon in Mr. Ord's Math class (Fourth Form, 1972), the venerable Imam was fast asleep with his head on his desk. My desk being strategically situated between his and Colin Ferguson's, and having been hopelessly clueless to mathematical theory since Second Form, I couldn't resist. Overwhelmed by boredom I used a piece of string, or grass blade (I don't remember exactly which) and tickled his ear and cheek, causing him to slap himself awake .. much to the amusement of everyone nearby. I was so proud of myself that I neglected to discard the offending string or grass blade. Anyone who remembers the Imam, knows about his unpredictable nature. He sat bolt upright, stared at me AND the string almost in disbelief, and uttered the now--famous phrase: "Mi tell di man nuh dweet!"

Let me tell you, to me this was even funnier than what preceded it, so by this time I was almost on the floor laughing; even Fergie was chuckling. Dennis "Hoghead" Forrest and Big John "Rufus" Hopkins were in tears, Paul "Pebbles" Braithwaite and Danny "Mughead" Miles were biting holes in their lips to keep from laughing out. About this time Mr. Ord (Rev. Carey's "favorite" teacher) said: "Right then; Owens, Schloss, take it outside you two!" and threw us both out of class.

This of course led later on to the infamous chase around the campus with the geometry-set divider when, fortuitously, Big Trevor Aarons stepped in and saved my life.

 

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