The cafeteria at R.P. Dawkins Middle School had a stage on one end. Unfortunately, its purpose was not to enliven our lunch period with musical dinner theater, but to make the room multi-functional for orchestra concerts, spelling bees, and for school administrators to make outlandish promises about high school to gullible 8th graders that high school could not keep. This raises a logistical problem. What are you going to do if a room is supposed to house dozens of cafeteria tables during the day but at night needs rows of chairs for a concert in which kids on the cusp of puberty sing Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All”? Hypothetically.
Well, the fine folks at Rudolph Periwinkle Dawkins Middle School made a reasonable and—I am sure—a very common choice: You purchase cafeteria tables that can fold up and easily be rolled into storage. Problem solved. Except…there was one problem these reasonable administrators did not anticipate. You see, it was a little too easy to fold up those tables. And middle schoolers have an uncanny ability to discover those kind of bugs in the system.
One day in the 7th grade—just as we were being dismissed from lunch—a band of juvenile ruffians stood up around their lunch table. Their ringleader pulled and turned the latch, the group folded the table up, and then—as if caught by flashing blue lights on some street corner in West Side Story—they scattered in every direction. A surprised giggle rippled through the hallway as we spilled out of the cafeteria. Suddenly storming out after us…well, we had this assistant principal who looked like Judge Judy. And we called her Judge Judy. She did not suffer fools. And she was upset. She came tearing out of the cafeteria seeking vengeance on the gang of pre-pubescent suburban scoundrels that dared to bring chaos to her ordered cafeteria. And when one rattles the unrattle-able Judge Judy, it turns what would have been an isolated incident into a lunch time crime spree unlike any I had seen in my young life.