One was a methane molecule. And in retrospect, I now understand that it was also, technically, a bathroom joke our class would have found really funny if any of us had actually understood it.
Yes, our chemistry teacher had been creative and his bathroom pass was one of those Tinkertoy styled molecular models. CH4. One little round thingie surrounded by four other little round thingies on spokes. I remember it to this day. Which was, I suppose, my chemistry teacher's whole point.
Sending out a twenty-years-too-late High Five to him now. Woot!
Other teachers went for the Piece of Wood on a Keychain pass. Or the Piece of Cardboard Hastily Scribbled Upon pass.
Or, if I recall correctly from band, the Metal and Fur Flute Cleaner Pass-- which being a flute player myself, I know to be something no one really should want to touch for long. Thus ensuring a very quick trip to the restroom.
But then at some point-- because when you think about it, half the student body was walking around brandishing items which otherwise should have belonged in a yard sale-- there seemed to be some kind of global switch-over to the Official Pink Signed and Dated Hall Pass Slip.
And it was this that added undue complexity to my days at Edgar Allen Poe High School.
See, as I'd mentioned earlier, I was in band. And for half the year, most of our activities were not, in fact, inside the school-- but far, far out in a weedy, goose-poop-littered field to one side of the school.
There we would march in precision formation. ("Precision" here meaning "a couple of kids will be chewing gum, while some lag to talk about copying math homework, while a few more try to kick the goose poop off our shoes.")
And we rehearsed our tunes with driven dedication. ("Driven dedication" here meaning "paying attention enough so our band director wouldn't single us out and yell.")
But the bell would ring, to signal the switch of classes, and we had a few scant minutes to do this before we would be labeled "Tardy."
("Tardy" here meaning "old people came up with this term for being late and didn't really understand how we would enjoy inappropriately using the phrase.")
So I had to go from Goose Poop Central, put away my flute, grab my stuff, and head to the gymnasium at the opposite end of the school.
We were supposed to be across a certain line in the hallway by the time the second bell rang. We knew, because Mr. O'Neill would watch for it like he was timing the New York Marathon. And every day for a year I had managed to just slip over that line in time...
"You! You're tardy! Detention!"
Well, I had never had detention in my life. There was a reason for this, too. Detention meant being detained. Which meant my mother, who would be picking me up after school, would have to wait for me. And my mother did not so much wait. I would call it more of a slow boil.
I believe I mentioned this before, I was an only child and Mom didn't exactly have what you'd call perspective in child rearing. ("Perspective" here meaning "any sort of concept that children weren't just lovely quiet plants that you could put in window, water occasionally, watch them bud into something breath-taking, and which never, ever would inconvenience you by dropping leaves on your carpeting.")
So I had done all I could do to avoid this. My own significant lack of perspective knew it would be The End of the World as We Know It.
Detention meant that not only would this go on my clean School Record, it would trigger the Wrath of Mom.
Which almost guaranteed my having to explain and apologize for the error of my ways, AND a loss of TV and/or phone privileges. This meant missing vital 21 Jump Street time.
(For my younger readers, there was no TiVo or TV series videos in the 80s. If you missed an episode, it was lost forever. Weep for us.)
Well, I spent the better part of this day in a panic. I wondered at the various punishments I would receive at home, and in what combination. I pondered whether my detention would prevent me from getting into a good college. And I worried that Detective Tom Hanson of Jump Street and I would be separated from each other for the rest of my young life.
So after school, I ran to Mr. O'Neill's office as fast as my pink high-top sneakers could take me. And there, Mr. O'Neill saw a girl who he'd never, ever seen even speak before. The one who sucked at almost every sport he trotted out, but had an unnaturally wicked volleyball serve.
And she began to speak in tongues. She said something about goose poop and running marathons... And the unreasonable expecations of academia... And logic and imaginary lines... And impending doom and tardiness...
And she concluded with a phrase rife with rage and exasperation and all of the injustices of youth, "And I've never had a detention and I'm not going to have one now."
Well, poor Mr. O'Neill. He didn't know what to say. And really, what was there to say? I had said it all.
I avoided detention that day, and every other day, as I think Mr. O'Neill was a little afraid of me after that. Plus, I eventually got ahold of the most prized items of all items in the school...
On pure accident, I ended up with an undated, un-time-stamped Official Pink Hall Pass.
And that's when I knew, nothing could stop me now.