Thursday, November 29, 2018

Digital Faux Pas

The Lutheran school I attended from preschool through eighth grade felt huge. In reality, the entire school probably had no more than 300 students during any given year. Like most schools, it was its own ecosystem, with popular kids, school lore, and notorious teachers who you'd somehow get for third grade, and then later for 7th grade science, followed by 8th grade art.

Ginger and I have frequently documented some of the stranger quirks of our school, including the traffic light mounted on the wall of our cafeteria to indicate our allowable conversation volume (green for talking, yellow for whispering, and red for silence).

The light must have been green the day Linda and a few friends and I were talking and laughing at lunchtime. Linda was tall with a razor sharp ear-length bob. She had a reputation for being a fast runner, and from what I recall, everyone liked her. In fact, one year while on the way to Linda's birthday party, the entire car full of school girls erupted into repeated cheers of "L-I-N-D-A!" over and over on our way to Penny Whistle Park.

That day the girls and I were eating our sack lunches, miniature cartons of milk beside each of us. Linda extracted a single Cheeto from a clear plastic baggie, but instead of eating it, she proceeded to place it in an upright position between her middle and ring fingers.

"Look!" she said with mischievous excitement in her eyes.

I stared at her hand, and at the Cheeto standing in for a middle finger.

"Well, that's not hard," I said, thinking she was unable to lift her middle finger in such a way. Maybe holding up that finger was something akin to being able to roll your tongue, or make one eye move independently from the other (a skill my sister had mastered which I, sadly, had not).

I quickly held up my own hand, middle finger standing at attention. I was eager to impress the girls at my table with my apparently unique ability to single out this particular appendage.

"Valerie!" Linda exclaimed, looking gleeful at my digital faux pas. "You can't do that!"

"Why not?"

"Because! It means I hate God!"

I don't know the circumstances in which this was explained to her, but I like to imagine a pint-sized Linda spotting "the bird" out in the wild and questioning her parents as to what that meant. Her mother and father probably shared a look, telepathically agreed on their story, and gave Linda an elementary-appropriate explanation for what such an act meant: I hate God.

(The parents of most of the children at my school undoubtedly fed their children similar stories about the worst the world has to offer. They also must have told them religious reasons for why we do certain things. Why else would a boy in my class have told me that spelling the name of our Heavenly Father with a lowercase g is a sin—"god" instead of "God?")

I don't know how long I believed holding up your middle finger meant "I hate God," but the message that it was inappropriate certainly embedded itself in my brain.

We never discussed middle fingers again. I don't recall that explanation being repeated, so it must have left with Linda when her family moved away the following year.

For the record, though, just in case it was true: I do not hate God.


SKMorbys said...

Whew! I was worried there for a minute... ;)

pamorby said...

Such a cute story.