So, in the past, I may have alluded to my morals taking a little while to develop.
It is fair to say that, as a young teenager, living on RAF bases around the world and being lucky enough to have access to amazing facilities, I was your fairly typical privileged git. I don’t think I was a bad person, but I did take a lot of stuff for granted that I most definitely wouldn’t today.
Anyhoo, when you are of that age and at a good level of privilege, you tend to think of yourself as 1) Invincible and 2) The center of the known universe. This can lead to behavioural “quirks”, shall we say.
My quirk was to be something of a “prankster” I suppose. Although I didn’t prank for the yuks, I pranked for personal gain. Namely, getting out of school early (with yuks along the way of course).
Now, these things happened a very very long time ago, I am not this person now and, more importantly, I sincerely hope the statute of limitations has expired…so, here we go.
I’ll start off a little light. Some of you will be content to read this, and then ignore the rest of the post. “That’s not too bad” you might say, “We still like you”. Ahh, hope springs eternal.
Early Leadership Skills Demonstration
I think this is still pretty standard but, before you get to choose your “options” (the lessons you intend to take exams in”, you are forced to live through years and years of lessons that have been forced upon you. Maths and English were clear along with Sports and Science. Unfortunately for me, Religious Studies was also thrust upon me like a Catholic Priest with a packet of Smarties.
Now, to suggest I am not religious is an understatement akin to “Donald Trump is not always respectful to women”, so imagine my joy at having an hour of my life taken from me, multiple times per week.
I should point out that, from my perspective, this all started when I told the teacher that I disagreed with being in the class on “religious grounds”, seeing as I had none. Her reaction did not leave me with the feeling that I was being taken seriously.
I decided to take action. To begin with, a subversive action. I started to get the rest of my scholarly colleagues riled up about being forced to go to this class and, after a few more lessons, I made my move.
I staged a walk-out in the middle of the lesson. Everybody followed. It was perfect and I managed to reign in the desire to just walk off the school premises and into the victorious sunset. Instead, I got everyone to sit on the steps just outside the classroom window.
The teachers response, after she collected herself, was fairly predictable. “Detention” she cried. I must confess that at this point, my colleagues were nervous. Detention was during breaks for us, and none of us wanted to miss out on those. So, grasping the momentum, I decided that we wouldn’t do detention either. Nor the next detention that was set for us and we would all enjoy ourselves in the quad when the lesson was supposed to take place. In the end, I was “invited” to the headmasters office for, what felt like, negotiations. These talks ended in an accord. I would ensure that the class would be full of attentive students, the religious studies teacher would allow the lesson to be a discussion of religion in general and the headmaster would not suspend me and/or involve my parents.
I probably should have gone into politics.
An “Alarming” Turn of Events
So, occasionally, we didn’t want to be in class. This happened a little more frequently when I first got to a new school once. I was never stupid, but I was lazy and, to that end, this meant ensuring that I was in a high enough class level to get decent grades, but not so high that I was expected to do anything spectacular. Back then, when you arrived at a new school, you would take a series of tests that would determine your class level for various subjects and I was always very careful to put myself on the top end of the middle.
This meant that I could sail through most tasks, looking good, with very little effort. Unfortunately, when I arrived at this particular school for my tests, I wasn’t paying attention and did the first test properly. I rallied on the rest but the damage was done…top class for English. I then spent the next 6 months trying to get kicked down a level or two to resume my laziness. I was ultimately successful, but not before I had discovered the remedy to hard work.
It was a pretty old school with, importantly, very old fire alarms. None of this break glass and push a hi-tec button malarkey. No no no, ours were the old school and Frankenstein’esque lever jobbies. Whilst fecking around with one in the hallway, I noticed that there was a balancing point where it would either try and continue it’s journey into the on position, or go back to the safety of the off position. Thing is, it took anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute to decide.
Thus began English lesson escape gambling. Hands would be held in the air, toilet breaks would be requested, the fire alarm lever would be primed and seats retaken whilst work resumed. If, after 5 minutes, nothing had happened, someone else would request a toilet break and it would begin again.
I am not sure if they ever figured out why the alarm would go off every couple of days in the same hallway, at roughly the same time (you know, give or take 30 minutes).
Now, the next two stories are going to make me sound like a dick…one of them especially…but you really have to understand what we forces kids considered to be normal, daily, life.
I lived on or around airbases from as early as I can remember until I was about 16. Now, as good as the life was, and you will rarely hear me talk badly of it, it did have it’s associated dangers. Growing up, the troubles in Northern Ireland were an ever present mention on the news. Part of that situation that spilt over was the targeting of military personnel, not just in Northern Ireland. For us, that meant that the gate guards had to carry very dangerous weaponry with live and substantially more dangerous ammunition.
Alert levels dictated our lives to a certain extent. My favourite (wrong word) story to tell of the time is when we were living off-base in a housing estate dedicated to service personnel, but about 15 minutes from the actual base. Pretty much in the middle of normal residential areas and, of course, not protected in any way shape or form. Due to this we had, just inside our doorway, a long stick with a car wing mirror attached to it. Every time we wanted to get into the car, Dad got the stick and checked for bombs….under our car…outside our house. You get the point.
The thing is, it would be easy to play that down. You could be forgiven for thinking that this was protocol and that we were under no real danger. Thing is, the British Military in Germany were being quite heavily targeted at the time. Far too many good people had their lives abruptly cut short by bombings and, whilst we didn’t have any where we were, approximately 2 hours down the road definitely did. These were very real issues.
Thing is, it was also perfectly normal. So normal that I would ask my Dad if I could do the mirror check today and then get all stroppy when he wouldn’t let me. We would often be on the school bus, get stopped at the gate, and have armed soldiers with live weaponry walk onto and around the bus, with sniffer dogs, checking for bombs and people that shouldn’t have been there. We would be messing with these guys and moving the barrel out of the way of our faces so that we could keep playing 52 card pickup or raps on some unsuspecting soul. I am not saying we didn’t take these things seriously but you adjust really quickly. Some things that would terrify most people became a part of every day life so, you just get on with it.
Anyway, that disclaimer out of the way, I will give you first a story of my stupidity where I paid for it and then a story of my stupidity, where I probably should have paid for it.
You didn’t think that through did you?
This one isn’t really about getting out of anything early, but it could also be called “You should know better”. We were back in the UK and I was hanging around with good bunch of guys on a base that was almost entirely dedicated to Officer training. This meant we had a few extra facilities that other, nearby, bases did not. The biggest one was a pool. This meant that people of our age group from other bases would be regularly transported to our base to use the pool for a few hours.
As is fairly normal from 2 bases, rivalry was often quite intense and it was so in this case. This meant that they had issue with us and we with them. Their technique was to try and hit us with something (often a fight) just as their bus was due to arrive, leaving them to leg it to their bus and us to get in the shite. After a reasonable amount of getting us in trouble, enough was enough, so a plan was hatched. We would allow them to kick off and run, but would not engage. Instead, we would all head to cars and chase them back to their base. We had assumed, wrongly as it turned out, that they would all live in accessible parts of their base like we did.
So they kick off, we let it happen, we all run to the cars and follow their bus, waiting for them to start dropping people off outside of the base. Unfortunately, their bus pulled up to the gates as we pulled in across the road from the gates. The guards got on the bus and we could see a lot of gesticulation in our general area, so we legged it back home. I pointed my fingers in a gun like pose and pulled the non-existent trigger in the general direction of the bus.
As we all get back to our base, and are standing around the cars having a laugh and a joke, we are surrounded by both military and civilian police cars. I am grabbed and slung in the back of a police car and so are a number of my friends.
Turns out, and unbeknownst to me, the moment I chose to pull my little finger gun maneuver, was the precise moment that one of the (heavily armed) soldiers was walking over to have a word with us. Accordingly, I was actually lucky to only be arrested as opposed to being shot.
My Dad was given no small amount of embarrassment and I was in considerable trouble for threatening a member of the military.
So, karma won that one….
You reeeaaaallly wanted to get out of class didn’t you?
Going to military schools means that you have a lot of friends that don’t always live around the corner. So, sleepovers tend to involve packing bags, getting on a different buses and travelling quite a distance. So, an excited Dave was happy to be spending the weekend at a friends some hours away from home and had taken his bag to school with him.
Obviously I had packed (or mum had packed for me) some clothes for the weekend, my toothbrush, a towel and, as you do when you know you are going to have to get up on Monday morning a lot earlier than normal…your alarm clock. So imagine my joy when, during our break, the alarms start going off in the school and we are all told to gather at the evacuation point. You see, it had happened before and it meant that we were going to be asked to go home early. Previously, they keep us in the evacuation point until they can get the buses to turn up and then we are all shuffled off.
Unfortunately, this time, that was not to be. We were all kept for a very fidgety hour while something was brought out and exploded in a controlled manner. Just before they covered it, and blew it up, a mate of mine pointed out that it looked remarkably like my bag.
Turns out, a teacher had seen my bag under a desk, heard the alarm clock ticking, panicked and called the Bomb Squad.
Fast forward a couple of years and the winter days are dragging. On a Thursday, a few of us are talking about how great it would be to get home early. I hatched a plan so cunning you could stick a tail on it and call it a weasel.
When I got home, I packed a bag, complete with alarm clock..
I figured a repeat of my accidental bomb evacuation was called for. So, I took the bag and left it under a desk before morning break and waited. Nothing happened. Noone noticed anything untoward and we were all, quite blatantly still in lessons.
It get’s to the lunch break with nothing having happened and so I decide to act. I found a teacher near where the bag was placed and simply asked if they knew whose bag it was. The teacher, very calmly, shooed me out of the building and initiated the alarm. 15 minutes later and we are all at the evacuation point. I was feeling more than a little smug at this point.
A few of the lads were happy with me. Sure it was fecking freezing, but it was only a matter of time before we were sent home.
An hour later, the smiles had pretty much gone, we were all freezing our tits off and a van arrived. The Bomb Squad proceeded to take something out of the van. It appeared to be a half-assembled Robot Wars reject. They then spent the next 40 minutes finishing the assembly. The smiles had now completely gone and some of them had turned into sneers. I was starting to feel pretty uncomfortable as well as freezing fucking cold.
Once assembled and tested (another 15 minutes) and the guy with a giant remote control steps up and throws the thing into high gear and things are starting to look up again. Sure, when the alert was triggered we were looking to be out of there 4 hours early and when the robot started moving, we were still looking at 2 hours early, so not bad.
Unfortunately, there then began the worlds longest waiting game. One of the things about remote controlled bomb disposal robots, one of the MOST IMPORTANT things, is that they are designed to be able to pickup packages in a safe and steady manner. This means that they do not shake about, lurch about or…….MOVE QUICKLY. 30 minutes after it started moving, it reached the door to the building. 30 minutes more and it collected the package. Almost an hour after that it had managed to bring the package out and deliver it to a zone full of people in heavy full body armour and carrying controlled explosion stuff.
We were now looking at leaving on-time. Which, considering we had been out of class the whole afternoon, I was still choosing to view as a win. My friends (although it may have been a stretch to call them that at this point) were not so enamoured with spending 4 hours outside if the freezing German winter.
Sadly it was not to be. The controlled explosion took another hour to setup and a further 45 minutes to check the whole thing and clear up before we were allowed to move towards our buses. So, my efforts to leave 4 hours early on a Friday afternoon, led to us leaving 2 hours late on a Friday evening…
Not my finest hour.