1987 - 1988
Seemed like such a blur.
I didn't have much interest in sports or school elections."
I figure I'll stick with high school stories for a moment, there are some pretty good ones, and they do give a bit of background to the more recent ones.
By my senior year at Bayside, I had a steady girlfriend, and a group of crazy friends that I hung around with constantly. I was decently well liked by both students and faculty. I was president of the Choir, on the A/V squad, the yearbook committee, played Conrad Birdie in the school's production of "Bye, Bye, Birdie," and was the undisputed champ of the school at getting into and then back out of trouble. Here for your reading pleasure are a few stories of some of the crazy things that I did in my high school years that my parents never knew about. (Whatever you do, don't tell 'em!)
In late November 1987 I got my first car. A 1986 Buick Century. (For those of you paying attention to these stories, it's the same kind of car I drive now, but not the same car.)
In order to get it on the road, I had to pick up the plates for it from my dad's shop in Brooklyn. It was a Friday night and cold as I remember. My friend Jason and I took the train out there right after school and needed to get to the shop before it closed or I would have to wait until Monday to get the plates.
We ran through the streets of Greenpoint for about twenty minutes before we got to the shop. My sense of direction has never been great. I get lost easy.
We got to the shop with about two minutes to spare.
My car was parked in the lot outside the shop, so we threw the plates on and off we went.
We went back to our high school to see who was hanging around. There was a meeting that night for the school battle of the classes, or Sing as we called it. Basically, each grade writes and choreographs a play, and then they compete to see whose is best. Jason and I were supposed to be there. They were giving out parts for the play that night, but we decided to get the car instead.
We got there at about 7:30, and all our friends were hanging out in front laughing about who did or didn't get what part in the play.
When we pulled up, everyone was smiling as they informed me that I actually did get a part. I was nominated for it, and it was a part that only I could play. They wouldn't tell me what it was for a while, but they finally spilled it. There was a part up for grabs to play Belinda, the ugly girl. Obviously, no girl wanted that part, so they volunteered me. Great.
Whatever, it didn't matter, no small parts and all that. I asked my friend Will for the cassettes of mine I had lent him. Now that I had a car, I wanted some cool tunes to listen to in it.
He ignored me and asked if I was going to Super Amusements, a big arcade not too far away. I told him no, I had to go home. I promised my Dad that I would pick up the car and come right back.
Will told me that in that case, I didn't get the tapes, they'd be with him at the arcade, and he drove away.
Okay, so I'm seventeen; I've got a car, and now my only goal in life is to catch Will and get my tapes back. Jason and I jump in my car, and I floor it. Behind me, I can see a few other of our friends getting into their cars and following suit.
I'm doing about 60 or 70 mph on a service road and easily catching up to Will's piece of junk pick-up truck, when a car blows the stop sign at an intersection to my right. I see this blue car coming right at me at what must have been at least 50 mph.
I was really close to the right side of the road, so when I cut the wheel to the left, my car continued straight for about a second or two, and my right tire hit the curb.
Next thing I know, my car is driving down the street on two wheels. I haven't hit the brakes yet. In fact, I've still got the gas pedal to the floor. Jason and I were leaning all the way to the right to balance the car out. The car started pulling to the left, and when I looked that way, I could see the guard rail, and beyond that, a twenty foot drop to the highway. So, I pulled the wheel to the right, but that side is the side where all the houses are, so I pulled the wheel to the left again.
A few seconds later, the car leveled out. We were probably on two wheels for all of five seconds, but it seemed like an hour to me.
Neither Jason nor I was fazed in any way by what just happened. It was as if it were a normal way to drive a car for us.
We came to a red light, and Will ran it. I decided to stop. It wasn't worth it.
When my car was finally stopped, Jason and I had a small heart attack each. The whole experience finally caught up with us, and we were suddenly scared to death.
The blue car that almost killed us pulled up on our right side, and when I looked over I saw my friend Bob behind the wheel white as a ghost. He looked over and asked if I knew what I just did and asked how I did it.
I tried to strangle him, but the damned seat belt was in the way so I couldn't reach. The light turned green, and I floored it.
I jumped onto the highway and saw Will's truck up ahead. Try as I might, I could not catch up. There was too much traffic, and it would have been too dangerous to try it.
In the parking lot at Super Amusements, he gave me back my tapes and made fun of me for not being able to catch him. I drove Jason home and went home myself.
A few days later I was sitting in lunch by myself (all my friends had cut for the day, but I had a test I couldn't miss) and overheard some Freshman talking about "That Spat Guy." One of them was talking about how someone told him that Spat had driven his car on two wheels last week. I was completely perplexed. I always knew how rumors went around school quickly, but who tells Freshman anything?
I listened in for a while as they talked about some other things I had done, and it was actually amusing how blown out of proportion things had gotten. My first thought was to correct them, but I quickly decided against it.
I moved in closer to them and said, "Oh, yeah, well I heard..." and began blowing things even further out of proportion. Instead of driving my car on two wheels for five seconds (true story), or even driving on two wheels most of the way down the service road (their version), I told them that I heard he had also driven through someone's back yard and jumped over another car in the process. They were in awe and they didn't even know whom they were talking to. I got up, went to the bathroom and laughed myself silly. Rumors were being spread about me....and by me. THAT was funny.
In mid December, we were rehearsing for Sing. I was to play Belinda the ugly girl. Oh, joy. The basic story of the play was that high school students go to college, lots of changes, and some sleazy college senior (Bob) tries to pick them up. He gets shot down by them and instead goes for me, the ugly girl. He gets fresh, and I smack him.
Bob and I decided to add to it, and instead of my smacking him, I would grab his wrist and flip him. He knew how to land, and so even though it looked painful, it wasn't.
The weekend before the show, Bob pulled his shoulder out of the socket while skiing, so we decided to go back to just the smack.
The night of the play we came to the part of the show where I'm supposed to smack Bob. I'm in costume as the ugly girl. I'm wearing a yellow knee-high dress, all made up, and wearing a blond wig. I have hairy legs to begin with, so that looked funny and didn't shave my face for the whole week in preparation. I looked the part.
As I was about to smack him, Bob gave me a look (or at least I thought he did). It seemed to me at the time that he meant for me to flip him. I don't know why, it just occurred to me at that moment. So I did. And I pulled his arm right back out of the socket.
He played it off like nothing happened and finished out the scene.
After the curtain fell, I ran backstage and popped his arm back in. I have to say, that's a sound you never get used to.
We won Sing and had a nice party. Everyone wanted me to keep the dress on, although a few people wanted me to take it off, if you know what I mean.
One Friday night I was scheduled to work the spotlights for some production that was going on, and I was running late. As I drove up to the school and made the U-turn to park, I rammed directly into the side of a passing taxi. Didn't even see it coming. I pushed his passenger side door all the way to the driver seat (thankfully, there was no one in it) AND cracked my parking light. Needless to say, I was a little pissed. Parking lights are hard to find for a Buick Century.
We exchanged information, and I went up to the spotlight booth. Three times that night I was supposed to be the only spotlight following someone around the darkened auditorium, and three times the person turned one way, and the spotlight turned the other. My mind just wasn't on my work. One poor girl almost fell off the stage because she couldn't see where she was going. They never asked me to work the spots again.
Now my car was of course owned and paid for by my father, as was just about everything else in my life, and I knew that when he found out what I did, he would flip.
Every Saturday, I worked for my dad in his sheet metal shop to make a little money. He paid me fifty dollars a day, and I was glad to have the extra cash. It was my allowance for the week. When we got in the car to drive to the shop, I broke the news about the accident, fully expecting him to start screaming. He just nodded and continued talking about the work ahead that day.
On the way home later that night out of no where, he starts yelling, "You did what to the car?!?" Eight hour delayed reaction.
He tells me that he will not pay a dime for repairs to the other car and won't let it go to insurance. He gave me my fifty for the days work and dropped the subject.
When I got home, I called the cab company. It happened to be the same company I used to take every Sunday from Bayside to Staten Island when I would visit my father on the weekends before I moved there. I talked to the dispatcher and he told me to call back on Tuesday, that was when the owner would be in.
Tuesday night I called and talked to the dispatcher. I tell him why I'm calling, and he tells me that my voice sounds familiar. We talk a little more, and it turns out that he was one of the regular drivers who drove me almost every Sunday. (For once, being a good tipper paid off.)
He tells me he'll talk to Vito, the owner, to smooth things out, and I should call back in an hour. One hour later, I call back. He tells me Vito wants one hundred dollars by Wednesday, and he'll call the whole thing off. I thank him and hang up.
I'm so relieved. I'm no mechanic, but I know I did an easy thousand dollars worth of damage and just got real lucky.
Then I realize I don't have a hundred dollars. I have fifty and I only have twenty four hours to find another fifty. I know better than to ask my dad; he'll never give it to me. So, I spend the rest of the night thinking over my dilemma, watching TV, and pondering what it would feel like to have my knees broken by a guy named Vito. By dawn, I have a plan.
I show up to school carrying a little red cup and wearing a sign that reads, "Save The Spatmobile!" Most people just laughed at me. Those whom I explained the story to told me I would never raise fifty bucks in one day, but here, I'll give you a dime just for looking pitiful. And that was how it started, a dime here, a nickel there, a rare friend or two gave me a dollar, one of my teachers gave me a five. One guy asked me why he should bother saving the Spatmobile at all, and I told him to think what would happen if I ever drive by and see him in the street while he's waiting for a bus in the dead of winter. I'll think back to this day, and wonder if he gave me any money. If so, he'll get a ride; if not, he gets a face full of slush. (Side note: He did give me money and that winter I did see him waiting for a bus, and he still got a face full of slush. I never did like him.)
By the end of the day, I had collected almost seventy five dollars. That night, I gave fifty dollars in loose change to my dad in exchange for a fifty dollar bill. He was a little confused, but didn't ask any questions.
I went to the cab company office (a mobile home in an empty lot), met Vito, paid him his money, and ran as fast as my little legs could carry me (and still had twenty five bucks in my pocket to spare).
From then on my car was known as the fifty dollar car, and I was being called the Ferris Bueller of Bayside High.
A few weeks later, I was in Physics class (don't ask me why I took physics, my advisor screwed me), and as usual had not done my homework. Usually I copied it off someone else, but today my mind was elsewhere.
When everyone passed their papers up to the front, Mr. Sussman was a little pissed. Out of a class of forty some odd students, he got nine homeworks. He threw a fit. He decided that anyone who didn't do their homework was going to write a letter home to their parents explaining why they didn't do it. My dad would KILL me if he got a letter like that. As far as he was concerned, I was a straight A student (at least until my report card showed up). I needed a way out of this, and fast.
He opened his homework book, and started reading off the names of everyone that didn't hand a paper in. If the person was in class, he would give them a blank sheet of paper and mark them down in his book. All my friends that sat around me were in the same boat I was, and were all given a sheet to write their letters on. When he called out my name, I got an uncontrollable urge, and went with it. I figured it was worth a shot.
I yelled, "Absent." In a kind of muffled, hand in front of mouth sort of way.
My friends all looked at me like I was crazy, because it would never work.
Mr. Sussman never even looked up, just marked me absent from class in his homework book.
All the people around me started going nuts. Some of them even raised their hands to turn me in. I begged, bribed and offered sexual favors to all of them in return for not saying anything.
When Mr. Sussman finished going over the homework book, he opened his attendance book and informed the class that anyone absent from class, but not on the attendance sheet (which they circulate to each teacher telling them who is officially absent for the day) is cutting class, and therefore fails immediately.
I obviously am not on the attendance sheet, so I'm about to fail this class.
My friends were all smiles. Spat finally got caught.
So, Mr. Sussman starts calling out names taking attendance. I racked my brain to try and find some way out of this.
He yelled out my name, marked me absent and said, "He's probably out in that fifty dollar car of his."
I lost control again and yelled out, "I'm right here!"
He looked up, saw me and said, "Oh, now you know how we talk about you when we think you're not here."
He marked me present to class and excused from the homework.
After class, my friends beat the crap out of me, but it was worth it. Better them, than my dad.
The next semester, some friends and I were sitting on the marble staircase in the side lobby area of the school waiting for the bell to ring. When it did, and the hallways had cleared out a little, we broke out screwdrivers and hammers and started carving and chiseling our names in the marble. I wrote SPAT in decently large letters; my friend Mike scraped his name in a little smaller, and so did the rest of the group. Mike left before we were finished to get to class, and the rest of us looked at each other and got an evil plan.
We carved in Mike's last name, his address and his phone number. When we finished, we scampered off to class ourselves.
According to Mike, a few hours later, while he was sleeping in Spanish class, a security guard came in and dragged him to the Principal's office.
Mr. Zachter had Polaroid's covering his desk all depicting the marble stairs, and Mike's name carved in it. Mr. Zachter started yelling about how this was it. He finally had a reason to expel Mike, and there was nothing that Mike could do.
Mike was guilty, knew he was caught, and figured it was all over, until he noticed the stuff we had written after his name. He was shocked, but of course, immediately knew who did it. He asked Mr. Zachter what kind of fool he would have to be to carve his full name, address and phone number into the marble, AND to get the street and the last two digits of his phone number wrong?
Mr. Zachter looked at the pictures again, opened Mikes file, and checked the address and phone number. When he was sure that they were indeed wrong (we could never remember his street, and the phone number I still don't know how we screwed up) he let Mike go with a warning. Mr. Zachter always had it out for Mike.
After school, Mike found me, and beat the crap out of me. Again, it was worth it. It became the cost of getting away with something. I still don't know how I never got in trouble. It's not like there's a lot of Spats running around that they wouldn't know it was me. I guess I got lucky again. Then again, Mr. Zachter did like me. I was one of those people that looked innocent, but was always instigating trouble and getting away with it.
A week or so later, I was in Earth Science class with this guy Mitch. Now Mitch had been one of my first friends when I got to Bayside, but later turned out to be a real asshole. He had a cat named Tom that he loved with all his heart. Now, Mitch had never really done anything outright against me, but had talked bad about me a few times to other people, and that pissed me off.
I noticed that before class he was showing this girl pictures of his cat. He had dozens of them. He was trying to use that sensitive guy ploy to pick her up, and it seemed to be working.
After he walked away, I had an epiphany. Three and a half years of high school had taught me a lot about rumors and how they spread, and it just occurred to me how to get revenge on Mitch, and not soil my name in the process. I explained my plan to a friend of mine, and he agreed that it was sheer genius.
After class, we went up to the girl that Mitch had been talking to and told her we were impressed.
She asked what we were impressed by.
We told her we were impressed by the fact that she could keep such a straight face even while looking at those pictures.
"Why, what was wrong with the pictures?" she asked.
I looked at my friend, turned back to her and said, "Don't you know what Mitch does with his cat?"
She thought about it for a moment, and I can only imagine that she was remembering what the pictures depicted, and what kind of inference she could make of that. Then her eyes lit up as it all made sense.
Technically, I never said that Mitch had sex with his cat. I want to make that point clear. Mitch showed those pictures to a few other girls around school, and I had the same conversation with two of them after Mitch walked away. Again, I never said that Mitch had sex with his cat.
With that said, the rumor spread like wildfire. People started stopping him in the halls and asking how his cat was. At first, Mitch said he was fine. He didn't know about the rumor. Later, he started denying it. By graduation, he had given up. If you asked him how his cat was, he would answer, "Still tight."
Okay, I admit it. It was a pretty lousy thing to do. But please remember, there was no way for me to know that it would spread that fast or that far. And once again, I never actually said that Mitch had sex with his cat. And thankfully, he never found out that I sort of started that rumor.
By the middle of our last semester at Bayside, we were all pretty much involved in the production of our next play, "Bye, Bye Birdie." We spent a lot of time after school on stage, or setting up props, lights, and sound.
Mike had just been informed that he would be returning to Bayside for another semester, and obviously was not too happy with that. It turned out that his advisor had screwed up and forgotten about a few credits that he needed to graduate. Now it was too late. He would be allowed to be in the graduation ceremony, but would then have to go to summer school or come back in September.
Needless to say, he wanted revenge.
While they were rehearsing a scene that none of us were needed for, we made our way to the advisor's office.
It was about 8:00 at night, so the halls were pretty much empty. There were about four advisors in Bayside, and they all shared the same office. My friends went in (I won't name them), while I guarded the door. The plan was: If someone walks by, I'm to knock on the door so my friends can hide, and then run away myself.
While they were in her office, my friends placed a live mouse in her desk drawer, messed up the papers on her desk and took her phone.
While standing outside, I saw a security guard come by, so I knocked on the door and walked a bit down the hall so as not to look suspicious.
I stopped when I was what I thought far enough away and turned around. The security guard was walking right towards me. As he passed the advisor's office, my friends threw the door open and came running out, right into the guard. No one ever said my friends could follow a plan. The guard asked them what they were doing in there, and one of them replied, "We were just using the phone."
The guard shrugged and walked away.
They used the phone all right. That phone ended up being given to me for some reason, and I've had it ever since. Last New Years, it was destroyed when lots and lots of alcohol was spilled into it. It got all sticky, and some of the buttons never worked again, so I threw it out.
When the first really nice day finally arrived, my friends all decided to skip school. Usually, when you tried to leave, the security guards didn't care. If you tried to get back in, that was when they would stop you. If you wanted to miss the first couple of classes and then return, you had to sign in at the front desk. You got a late slip, and a note went home telling your parents you were late.
We rarely ever made it to second period that semester. (There really was no first period, unless you were on the swim team or on track.) We never had a problem with getting back into the building. We would come in for homeroom, and then leave for breakfast, and then come back, or sometimes just go to breakfast, and then go to homeroom. The main rule was not to miss homeroom, or else you were absent for the day.
We learned how to get back in past the security guards by accident. One day as we were leaving the guard said good-bye to us, and we asked if he would let us back in when we came back from breakfast. He said he couldn't do that.
We tried every trick we could think of, but he wouldn't do it. So we left anyway. Before we came back to school, we picked up a dozen doughnuts, and offered them to him when he caught us trying to sneak back in. He took it, and from then on whenever we wanted to cut a class, we would bribe the guards with food.
As I was walking into school that morning, I saw my friends all waiting in the hall for me. They looked at each other, and asked where I thought I was going, and I told them I had a test today and can't miss it. They told me to think again, because this was too nice a day to be stuck in school for. They each grabbed a limb and literally carried me down the hall as I screamed, "NO! I want to go to class!"
I pleaded with the guard as we passed him, and he just waved at me.
They threw me in the back of Will's truck, and off we went to Crocheron Park.
We hung around talking and joking while Mike practiced doing doughnuts in the parking lot in his powder blue Volkswagen Bug.
Jason was in the passenger seat, and as Mike was driving toward the parking slots at high speed, something snapped.
Basically, when Mike stepped on the brakes, we all saw black fluid shoot out from the side of the car. No brakes. He was going pretty fast, too, and heading right for a tree.
We all scattered as Mike hit the curb. The car went up in the air as Mike pulled up the emergency brake a few seconds too late. Hitting the curb changed the angle that the car was traveling a little, and now it looked like he might just miss the tree. There was just enough room between the park bench and the tree to fit his Bug.
Well, he didn't quite fit. He hit the park bench hard enough to actually crack it. (Those wood benches are made of some tough material.) There was no real damage to Mike, Jason, or the Bug, but all three were a little shaken up.
We pushed the car back into the parking lot and tried everything to get it started again. Nothing worked. The last thing Mike wanted to do was tell his dad about this, but the car used to belong to Mike's uncle, and he couldn't very well go home without it.
Mike ended up telling his dad that after school he had gone to the park, and the car just stalled. His father checked the car out, and it turned out that the cellanoid had come loose. If that happens, the car won't start. His father bought the story, and ten minutes later the car was running again, just without brakes.
During the Math Regents, we decided to have some fun. None of us had to take it, so why not?
This one friend of ours, John, was an electrical genius. By his Junior year at Bayside, the school had actually paid him to rewire the entire PA and sound system in the school. He knew every inch of it.
There was a locked sound booth that he had a key for that would allow you to broadcast over the loudspeakers throughout the school, and of course, the Principal had one in his office.
John had also set up an area in a custodial closet that you could plug into and override both systems. I gave him a list of ideas to get him started, but was not in any other way involved!
Okay, so during the Regents testing, he and some of my other friends (but not me!) went into the closet, hooked up a microphone and began talking.
For a while, all they did was, "Testing, 1...2...3...Testing...1...2..." and so on. When they got bored of that, they started playing music. Not elevator music, mind you, really off the wall stuff. I don't know for sure, but I'm pretty positive a lot of people probably failed that test that day just due to the fact that there was no way to concentrate over the noise.
Mike actually ended up skipping summer school and staying at Bayside for a whole nother year. When he was about to graduate from his 5th year of high school, the same advisor told him that she missed a few other credits that he needed, and he would have to come back in the fall for one more class. My girlfriend at the time was a witness to the aftermath. She is a year younger than I am, so in her senior year. She told me that she watched the advisor run out of her office screaming as Mike chased her down the hall screaming bloody murder. Another teacher stopped Mike in the hallway and tried to calm him down, so Mike took a swing at him.
When all was said and done, Mike was asked to finish his 11th semester of high school somewhere else.
I could go on for pages with more of the stuff we did back then. Like our last day of school party, beach day in the middle of the winter, showing up to the last day of school dead (I did makeup on all of us so we looked bloody and gross. We actually dragged my friend Jason to the Nurse with his throat slit and his shirt soaked in blood. She almost fainted). Or about how when we had a blood drive in school, Mike and Jason were helping the Nurses tie me down and gag me while they drew blood from me.
A LOT of blood if you ask me. I've got lots of stories about Mike and his Bug alone. Like the time he blew out the forward gears and had to drive in reverse for a few days, or when all the lug nuts stripped off one tire, and we almost got killed, or when it rained really hard for a few days, and his wipers didn't work, so he had to stick his head out the window wearing a scuba mask to drive to school.
Will and his Blue pick-up truck death trap is another eight pages in itself, as is the way we all became nicknamed "The Breakfast Club."
Literally, they were the best of times. It still seems impossible that we did all this in under two years. At the time, it seemed like a lifetime in and of itself.
If you have any questions, E-Mail me. Spat@spat-nospam-cave.com