I was up at the high school tutoring yesterday, in the second floor library. It was sunny and warm outside so the windows were open. I could hear a commotion coming from outside so I got up and went to see what was going on. A classroom full of students were standing around a blindfolded girl holding a stick and standing 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 or French or whatever subject this class and their teacher were avoiding? It wasn’t even Cinco de Mayo, which is Latin for “Pass the Mayonnaise.”

The class was trying to get her to hit the thing, but she was being timid and wouldn’t even give the stick, which looked like a lacrosse stick without the basket, she wouldn’t even give it a full swing – she’d go halfway and lose her nerve. I supposed if you are worried about messing up, then you’d have a reason to hold back. However, the crowd was lusting for piñata guts and they were getting louder by the second.

Soon everyone in the Library was craning their necks to see out of those  windows that you never see anywhere but in schools – the ones with the latch that makes the same sound when you undo it whether the school was built yesterday or in the 1920’s. Then they pull in so it’s really difficult to look down.


I have to admit; 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 more like petting it than whacking it. What is the down side to swinging at a piñata and missing? She finally gave in to the mob and swung with all her might, and missed, so she turned and was facing the crowd with the stick raised high over her head. Kids scattered like cockroaches in a flashlight beam and she swung down and hit the ground SMACK!

NO TURN TO YOUR RIGHT! YOUR OTHER RIGHT! NOW HIT! HIT HARD RIGHT NOW! YOU CAN’T MISS! She could and did, but she had got the scent and she was going for blood – hard candy, that is. Her next slash through the air broke right across the little pink and orange pony’s back. It didn’t break, but it looked like the old grey mare that had carried one average American and ended up 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. She made many connections, but the pony danced on the string, trying to avoid the assault. Unfortunately for it, she delivered a solid deathblow that severed it right in two, and it spewed out cheap hard candy like a hotel fountain.

Cheers erupted, and then kids dived onto the grass like they were trying to catch a low-thrown football. They piled up on the girl, who was at ground zero, and snatched what they could. Some of the more dignified students waited until the others got up to try to get their fair share, but they came up 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? Well, they learned the social dynamics of mob rule. They also learned that nice guys finish last. And they certainly learned that, even though ancient hard candy has a squishy, sticky outer layer that causes the wrappers to stick like they are duct taped, the candy is all that much sweeter when you get it avoiding calculus.