I was at the high school tutoring in the second floor library on a warm, sunny day so the windows were open. I could hear a commotion coming from outside, and when I looked out, I saw a class full of students in a half-circle yelling at a blindfolded girl who held a stick and stood in front of a piñata hanging from a tree.
I could understand the class being outside and soaking up some rare Oregon rays, but I couldn’t figure out the piñata. What did that have to do with economics or health? Maybe it was Spanish class, but it wasn’t even Cinco de Mayo, which I’ve been told means “put the empty mayonnaise jar in the sink.”
The class was trying to get the girl to hit the piñata, but she was being timid and wouldn’t even give the stick a full swing – she’d go halfway and lose her nerve. I suppose if you are worried about messing up, then you’d have a reason to hold back. However, this crowd was lusting for piñata guts and they got louder by the second.
Soon everyone in the Library was craning their necks to see out of those windows that you only see in schools – the ones with the latch that makes that suction-releasing sound when you undo it. They pull inwardly, so it’s a hindrance to looking down. We all leaned way over, standing on tiptoes.
The crowd below was losing patience with the girl. “TAKE ONE STEP FORWARD! NO IN FRONT OF YOU! NOW SWING! SWING NOW! SWING THE DAMN THING, SWING REALLY HARD!
I couldn’t understand why she was so cautious. Even if the stick would have, by some miracle, made contact with the piñata, she would have been practically petting it with her mousy swing, rather than whacking it. She finally gave in to the mob and swung with all her might, and missed. She turned and faced the crowd with the stick raised high over her head. Kids scattered like cockroaches as she swung down and hit the ground SMACK!
NO TURN TO YOUR RIGHT! NO, YOUR OTHER RIGHT! NOW HIT! HIT HARD RIGHT NOW! YOU CAN’T MISS! They were wrong. She could miss, and did, but she got the scent and was going for blood. Her next slash broke right across the little pink and orange pony’s back. It didn’t break, but it looked like an old grey mare with a U-shaped bow in it’s back.
Giddy with success, she commenced to whack like someone trying to drive a nail with a giant hammer. Even though she made many connections, the pony danced on the string, trying to avoid the assault. She finally delivered a solid deathblow that severed it right in two, and it spewed out cheap hard candy like a waterfall.
The crowd cheered, then these teen-age kids dived onto the grass like they were trying to catch a low-thrown frisbee. They piled up on the girl at ground zero and raked in what they could. Some of the more dignified students waited until the others got up to try to get their fair share, but their delay left them empty handed.
With the show over, we spectators in the Library went back to our seats, shaking our heads. What was the lesson those kids learned? The social dynamics of mob rule? That nice guys finish last? They certainly learned that hard candy, even if it’s ancient and has a squishy, sticky outer layer that causes the wrapper to bind like it’s duct taped, the candy is all that much sweeter when you get it avoiding class.