What began as a joke became a small act of defiance.
As we sat in sophomore high school English a classmate, positioned one aisle over and one seat up, discovering his chair squeaked with the slightest of movement serenaded us with its high-pitched squeal.
It was all we could hear as the teacher droned on about grammar, literature or whatever you learn in sophomore English.
The squeak became a battle of wills. Like a true detective the teacher, abandoning the task at hand, isolated the sound and the chair, becoming obsessed with catching the miscreant in the very act of noisemaking. But the movement was indiscernible.
Whoever (or was it whomever) is making that noise, please stop now, the teacher said.
The teacher repeated the phrase several times, until one student, not known for his academic skill, seized the day by exiting the class — saying the noise was driving him crazy.
Despite being unable to catch him in the act, the teacher asked the prankster to leave, restoring the class to its squeak-free state.
My cousin and I, teenagers filled with more energy than intelligence, decided the most logical way to rid ourselves of our surplus fireworks, left over from a week-long series of setting them off in obscure places during church camp, was to ignite the whole brick at once – about 2,000 firecrackers – on my enclosed back porch.
Building on our previous experience of lighting them, and then casually walking away, they were exploding as I sat comfortably on the living room couch. My cousin, though, did not make it to relative safety of the living room. He was walking through the hallway when my father arrived on the scene – angry after being rudely jarred from his Sunday afternoon nap.
It was one of the few times I saw my father angry — not irritated, but truly angry.
As a Korean War veteran, the sound of the firecrackers, sounding like machine gun fire in his sleep-like state, meant the joke had gone too far. It forced my father to reenter and relive a dark time in his life.
But, in his rage, new knowledge was instilled in me: Humor is best understood through the eyes of the victim.