I was alone when the food started to fly.

Rainy days seem louder, a science teacher once told me. This is due to better sonic transmission in denser air. Today the air was dense, the sounds loud, but for more reasons than just the rain. As I said before I was by myself.

Cafeteria duty is never fun, or easy, but it is especially dull and difficult when attempted alone. Generally there are 4 teachers, one administrator, and two police officers to oversee the expanse that is our caf., as it is affectionately termed. Today I was the lone sentinel. Making my rounds, I noticed a lively discussion between two girls of opposite races. By lively discussion I mean they were yelling, which quickened my step as I neared to intervene.

At this point, I engaged Student A and calmly asked her to sit down, positioning myself between her and Student B. This tactic usually assuages the situation by breaking line of sight. Also the symbolic presence of authority tends to knock some sense into adrenaline-filled teenagers. Looking into Student A’s eyes, however, I could see that my intervention was not registering in her ears or brain. She made a quick move toward Student B, whereupon they exchanged words, and locked arms like professional wrestlers.

Enter Slow Motion: I will attempt to tell the following events as I remember them; the whole event exists to me now in a few high-speed mental snapshots. Of the three major fights I have broken up, this is a reoccurring feature of my recollections.

Snapshot 1: Student A pulling out Student B’s hair. I can’t exactly place it in temporal context, but I remember being very close to both students and seeing a handful of hair removed from Student A. I must have been two feet away. As I write this now, I remember A’s face twisting in pain as her blonde locks were uprooted. It might have been pain and fear on her face now that I think about it.

Snapshot 2: Some time before, after, or during snapshot 1, I have a memory of looking up and being surrounded by a mass of students watching the brawl. Helplessly I waived to the one staff member near the cafeteria, but gave up trying to be heard over the ruckus.

Snapshot 3: My mind then shows me a picture of Student A being thrown to the ground. Loud Noises. Pandemonium.

Snapshot 4: A mass brawl involving friends and friends of friends jumping in to “protect” friends of friends of friends.

Snapshot 5: I am very alone

Snapshot 6: Food goes flying; french fries, pizza, random white stuff flying in all directions.

Snapshot 7: After some chaotic eternity, an administrator runs to my rescue & radios for help.

Snapshot 8: Six police officers arrive. I have to waive to them to get them to take action.

Snapshot 9: Students are lead away with hands behind their backs.

Enter Real Time (but only barely). Imagine having to quiet down an entire lunch room after the biggest melee in school history. It was a very long lunch.

At some later, calmer time a kind co-worker helped me pick french fry out of my hair and clean off my sports coat

After several rounds of police interviews, I sit here now writing this as clearly as I can. To be honest, I remember it as I have written it, in rapid-fire bursts, not exactly sure how they all fit together.

Well, I mention this story to stir your sympathies as I beg forgiveness for having not written in a month. I am very bad for this, but have certainly paid my penance with a day like today:)