Irrational Encounters With The Modern World


When The Punishment Fits The Crime.

I was reminded today of a punishment exercise (or “punny”) that I was given when I was at school.

There was a wee guy in my year who used to needle me relentlessly, but I’m not particularly violent – except in my use of language – and so I put up with it for a long time. One day, for reasons I now forget, as we were all waiting outside a classroom for the teacher to show up and let us in, I finally cracked and lashed out at him. I connected my fist with his cheek, and he tried to retaliate but a combination of his short height and the arrival of said teacher meant the “fight” was over almost before it had begun. We were made to wait outside, to be dealt with once the class was settled.

We’d known each other for a few years, and he was pretty bipolar looking back – he’d be your cheeky wee pal one minute, then he’d try and pick a fight the next. We were never close friends, but for the most part we got on okay – which is why it took years of his digging for me to finally punch him. The upshot of this being, that by the time the teacher reappeared we were laughing and joking and had already mutually apologised. But we still had to be seen to be punished, not least because his eye was already blackening from my sole punch.

Mr Haggarty, I think I’ve got the spelling right because he was quite particular about it, was a firm but funny (witty) figure of authority – he taught us Tech Drawing and Craft and Daft, later taught me Computing, and spent enough time talking about the boat he was building from scratch that I still remember it. As this was about 1994, I presume he’s finished it by now. He issued us both with our 250 or 500 lines, whatever it was, and the line he made us repeat was: I will not resort to the ancient method of fisticuffs to settle my disputes.

It’s stuck with me all these years and, for the most part, I’ve used logic, wit, and words instead.