When I was 15-1/2 I used to walk or ride my bicycle to work at a large buffet restaurant. One day as I neared the back door of the restaurant a bully started taunting me and yelled that he was going to run me over with his bicycle.
I froze as he raced toward me.
A moment before he would have hit me, I took a step sideways and briefly grabbed his handle bar. What happened next surprised and scared both of us, but I’m quite sure him more than me.
I’d only meant to scare him and make his bike wobble a bit so he’d leave me alone, but neither he nor I had considered the large and thick pool of congealed grease that had leaked out of a nearby garbage bin and was immediately under us.
He flew straight over his handle bars and skidded, slid, bounced, and rolled in one direction as his bike did the same in another.
I waited until he got up so I was sure he hadn’t broken anything, and then walked into the restaurant.
I never saw that kid again.
When I was in junior high school (also known as middle school) I was in a class with a bully that mercilessly picked on me.
I wasn’t afraid of him. He was one of the few kids in school who was even smaller than me.
What I was afraid of however was the gang of kids that he hung out with. I was certain that if I ever got into a fight with him the whole gang would jump me. And as the Ron White joke goes, I wasn’t sure how many of them it would take to whoop me, but I knew how many of them there were, and that’s mighty handy information to have.
So day after day, week after week, I took his verbal abuse , until I finally couldn’t take it anymore. I told our teacher and she said there was nothing she could do about it (which of course meant that there was nothing she WOULD do about it).
I was ashamed to tell my father, but eventually broke down and told him. He gave to me the advice I’d been dreading:
“Bullies will keep picking on you until you stand up to them. They don’t want to be hurt so they only pick on kids who they think won’t fight back. Next time he picks a fight with you, accept the challenge. Then be sure to get in at least one good punch. Even if you lose the fight, he’ll probably never pick on you again.”
Oh, great. But I was so desperate for the bullying to end I decided to take his advice.
I tossed and turned for much of that night with very ugly visions of violence and pain dancing in my head.
Sure enough, the next day in class the bully came up to me and said “I call you out!” (For those unfamiliar with the term, it means I want to fight you—-though I suspect you could figure that out regardless of whatever term was used where you grew up.)
I looked him in the eyes and said, “Ok”. I could tell I’d surprised him with that response but he quickly recovered and said, “OK!” He then demanded that I meet him behind one of the school buildings about one half hour after school ended. “And you BETTER be there” , he added with a raised fist and threatening tone.
That was the longest school day of my life. I would have done almost anything to have time stop, but to my dismay the clock betrayed me. When the last school bell of the day rang and I knew I was 30 minutes away from a terrible beating.
I figured he wanted to have the half hour after school to gather up his buddies so they could all pounce on me.
Back then, I had no friends I could count on to back me up, so it would be just me against his gang.
I knew this was the moment of truth. If I backed down now I’d be backing down for the rest of my life. But I also was terrified of getting a broken nose and having some teeth knocked out.
I know what that Gary Cooper marshal character in the movie High Noon felt when he walked out onto the street as the clock struck 12.
And it was now time for my showdown. I kept muttering as I walked to the place of my destruction, “Please, oh please, let me land just one solid punch.”
I got to the appointed place, looked at my watch and was right on time. No bully.
My mind raced. At first I cheered inwardly, then thought maybe he and his gang were just running a little late. I was tempted to leave but knew that if he and his buddies showed up a few minutes later, my problem would be even worse the next day for “Chickening out.”
So I stayed. And waited. Then waited some more. I began to wonder how long I should wait, and decided that 30 minutes would be long enough.
A half hour after I’d arrived, I walked away, feeling proud of myself and greatly relieved.
The next day in class, before I could ask him where he’d been, he walked up to me and started talking to me as though we were best friends. But he couldn’t look me in the eyes.
I never mentioned his absence, and not surprisingly neither did he. Nor did I ever find out why he didn’t show up, but I suspect that was the day that he found out that those thugs he thought were his “friends” weren’t.
All I know for sure is that he never picked on me again, and began to always treat me with respect.