The Tales of the Geek Underclass The Pathetic Circle of the Dance Class Damned: Part 2

Chapter 7: The Pathetic Circle of the Dance Class Damned: Part 2

Compulsory Socialism - The Stalinist Staff of St Francis's

The culmination of the vast choreatic effort expended upon the student body each year in third term were the school socials. There were two of these, the Junior for years eight, nine and ten, and the Senior for years ten, eleven and twelve. These events were designed to showcase our dancing skills, and to pacify those pathetic members of the school community who equated the words "school dance" with the word "fun". There was also probably something buried somewhere in the school rules talking about "responsible and mature social interaction between students outside of class", but it's not as if anyone apart from Administration ever read further than the first few pages (defining dress codes, prohibited language and other miscellania) of that musty tome.

So, once a year the Leeroy Mulder memorial gym was fitted out with a few pathetic bunches of balloons and tired looking construction paper posters, manufactured in the art room when Mr Feverson ran out of anything educational for the year eights to do. The school's single set of coloured gel stage lights would be hung from the rafters, and a few more borrowed from nearby Catholic schools who had a reciprocal arrangement to lend each other equipment for such events (given the general quantity and quality of the school's equipment St Francis's was undoubtedly getting the best of the deal). Music would be arranged, and tickets would go on sale for the Junior Social.

Now it may be thought that the School Socials would not present a problem for the Geek Underclass. Sure, a night of flashing lights, blasting inane top 40 music and several hundred young people in casual clothes packed into a gymnasium, many of them girls and many of them intoxicated on a variety of interesting chemicals, with the added trauma of no computer terminals in sight, is a pretty accurate dramatisation of a Geek's idea of purgatory. But it wasn't like we had to attend, was it?

Unfortunately yes, we had to attend.

About paragraph number five in the school rules book stated that all students were required to attend School Socials, unless they could provide a medical certificate stating that they were gravely ill, or clinically dead for at least part of the evening. Failure to attend was a disciplinary offence, punishable with a white card, or even suspension if combined with enough of a independently-thinking attitude. The exact reason for this requirement was never made clear, although it may well have had something to do with the fact that no self respecting young Social would be seen dead at a Catholic school dance if they had any say in the matter. Add in the Rebel classes, who would similarly stay away in droves, and the Geek Underclass who looked at any dance as an incursion from the underworld, and the only people turning up would be the two dozen or so most enthusiastic "Go School!" types.

With this kind of potential attendance it would seem that the logical thing to do would be to call off the school socials altogether, but logic never held much sway at St Francis's. The usual bullheaded "we're a proper school, and proper schools have [dances] [sports teams] [enthusiastic students] [art shows] [school spirit] [corporal punishment]" attitude prevailed, and the full weight of the school rules was brought to bear upon the poor student body, who already had to spend close on thirty five hours a week at the place without losing their Saturday evening as well.

So as Geeks and hence slavish followers of the school rules, we had no choice but to react to the gun toting "Dance!" BANG "Dance!" BANG attitude of Administration and show up.

Your Guide to Fun and Games with Tickets

At this point you may well be asking, if attendance was compulsory, why the tickets? This question was often posed amongst ourselves, and even to some of the less prochoreatic staff members. No satisfactory answer was ever forthcoming, apart from a vague supposition (influenced no doubt by years of American teen dramas) that if you were holding a school dance, you had to sell tickets.

The ticket distribution system was insane. Tickets were generally sold by the student council during the first half of lunch at the MPA on days with an 's' in their name but not an 'r'. As such there was always a major queue, and it wasn't unusual to waste several lunch breaks standing in line for tickets you didn't even want. And if you did make it to the ticketing table before they closed shop, it wasn't a nice simple matter of handing over your money and getting your ticket, your name had to be looked up on the school roll, and ticked off to prove that you had done your scholastic duty and paid.

And woe to anyone who was trying to buy a ticket for a date. Taking a date to the social was generally frowned upon, despite the whole "responsible and mature social interaction between students outside of class" thing. The general feeling from Administration seemed to be that if not carefully watched such social interaction might very quickly become irresponsible and very mature indeed. But there was nothing in the rules to ban it (the rules presumably composed in the days were jealous fathers kept their daughters locked up at night and stood guard with pitchforks), so not much could be done. If your date was from the school, then there'd be much cross checking and consulting of lists to ensure that they hadn't already purchased a ticket, there presumably being some kind of black market in extra Social tickets the staff were keen to stamp out. If they were from outside the school things became even more complicated. Your extra ticket was put on a provisional status, and a meeting had to be arranged between the date and school representatives, no doubt to ensure they were of 'fit moral character' to attend.

Personally I never had to worry about the intricacies of purchasing extra tickets, as I was too much of a Geek to ever have a date. I was asked to the junior social by a girl one year, but the whole thing turned out to be a Lower Middle Class / Rebel practical joke, with the aim of humiliating the King Geek in front of as many people as possible (at which it was remarkably successful). Sean may have had to purchase an extra ticket while he was dating Peta Smith in '91 or '92, or he may have just done the sensible (if unchivalrous) thing and let her buy her own.

The attendance roll was obviously a quite effective way to keep tabs on which students might be planning to skip the evening, and was perused by the more predatory staff at regular intervals. Anyone who consistently "forgot to bring their money" or "didn't get in line in time" would find themselves being trailed around by these staff members, who probably had a roster worked out up on a board in the staff room. Comments such as "I hear you haven't brought a ticket yet hmmm?" would be made in innocently menacing voices. Under this kind of pressure all but the most resilient Rebels cracked.

As if the compulsory attendance rule wasn't enough, there was another bit of bureaucratic ridiculousness associated with the socials. In a quixotic attempt at giving the evening a sense of style and class far above the economic means of St Francis Xavier's a strict dress code applied. Girls were forbidden to wear jeans or trousers, they had to wear skirts or dresses with hemlines below the knee. Boys were forbidden jeans and t-shirts, proper trousers and button up shirts were de-rigueur. Both sexes had to wear good shoes, no sneakers, trainers or basketball boots were permitted. This curious reversal of the normal gym footwear policy was the cause of much speculation, the only eventual conclusion being that some nebulous idea of "status" was more important to Administration than the clean state of the gym floor. Either that or Administration were irredeemably stupid.

I always took it upon myself to find loopholes in the dress code policy. I managed to procure a pair of light grey "icewashed" jeans, which were trousers made of a strange, gridworked corduroy type material, cut in a jeans pattern. Since they weren't made out of denim, a strong argument can be made that they weren't real jeans, but I was nonetheless always proudly smug at getting them past the clothing inspectors at the door.

The other way I short-circuited the dress policy was with the wearing of the Sacred Geek Camel Hat. There was nothing in the rules regarding baseball caps, presumably because their originators had never thought anyone would be geeky enough to wear one to a school dance. The clothing inspectors would always halt me and challenge it, but after a fair bit of scratching their heads, and flicking through their list of prohibited attire would have to shrug and reluctantly let me through. I even pulled this stunt at the '93 Graduation Ball, although I was too smart to put my graduation at jeopardy by actually wearing it while walking up to the podium for my handshake and certificate.

The final requirement of attendance at the junior socials was that everyone had to "bring a plate". This traditional Australianism that has caused much grief to new immigrants over the years when they turn up to a social function with a full table setting, simply means that participants are expected to bring a plate of snack or finger food, which is then shared out amongst all. In a situation where close on 450 students are required to attend it is also a very good way to avoid having to pay for any form of catering, which of course raises the point of where (apart from the pockets of the organising staff) did all the ticket proceeds go?

Oh what a night, Late September back in '89 to '91

The Junior Social officially began at 6:30. Parents being parents, a good number of students were dropped off at the school anywhere from 5:00 onwards. Unable to enter school grounds until the appointed time (probably for reasons of liability insurance) they hung around the front in clusters, waiting for their friends, and (in the case of the Rebels) smoking behind the bushes and casually throwing stones at passing cars.

I'd usually be the first of the Geeks to arrive, being dropped off around 6:15. I'd find an unobtrusive place to wait that gave me a good view of the carpark and any approaching Rebels and wait for the rest of the Geeks to turn up. Shawn or Seth was usually next, followed by Giulliano. With time wearing on (and staff members starting to burst out of the shrubbery yelling at people to get inside) we would judge that we had sufficient numbers to make an entrance, and start the slow, desultory walk down to the Gym end of St Francis's Avenue.

Here the side gate, usually locked fast and double bolted to prevent the escape of those students able to withstand the noxious miasma rising from the canteen bins just to it's left, would be open, decorated with a few pathetic balloons and streamers, as if to suggest that a whole world of entertainment awaited inside. Also festooning the gate (though not as decoratively) would be a number of Rebels, hanging from the bars not unlike the orang-utans on their steel pipe climbing frames at the city zoo. Too cool to proceed inside, but not brave enough to bail on the whole event, these primitive knuckle walkers did the next best thing, and hung around at the entrance harassing passers by. Their attacks on most students were limited to generic verbal abuse, but on our arrival they would spring into life, blocking our path, waving their fists and generally displaying the territorial behaviour typical of any primitive hominid.

A few of the more active members would make attempts to steal the Sacred Geek Camel Hat. This was a particular favourite trick of theirs, their stated aim being to throw it up onto the roof so I could never get it back. Their actual aim was just to see me grovel and beg for it's return, knowing full well that if they had thrown it onto the roof we would have gone straight to Vice Principal Gardner, who, whatever his faults could be relied upon to exact swift vengeance on the rare occasions that the satisfaction of seeing our foes punished outweighed the social stigma of running to a teacher. If the primates' attempts to whip the Sacred Hat off my head had been successful we would spend an entertaining few minutes running back and forward playing "keep away" until they grew bored, and we grew mad enough to actually physically threaten them. Not looking for a fight (not even one they would decisively win within fifteen seconds) they'd throw the hat into a convenient puddle or pile of dirt, and wander back to the gate hurling a few insults in their wake. We'd continue on our journey.

Once past the primate enclosure we would stumble down the short, dark tunnel formed by the lockers that lined either side of the gym veranda, holding our breath and gagging all the way due to the fascinating array of organic stenches emanating from the bins. We'd emerge, gasping, into the relatively fresh air and light of the canteen courtyard. Access to the rest of the school through the science undercroft would be symbolically blocked by a few benches dragged into place, and more realistically by a few bored staff members just looking for an excuse to yell at someone. The gym doors would be wide open, spilling bright light and loud pop into the air, and we had little choice but to go in, however there were a few more gauntlets to run first.

Hanging around in the canteen courtyard for more than about the two minutes it took Socials to pull out their mirrors and make sure they looked suitably cool before making their grand entrance was prohibited. Students, delirious with joy at the prospect of the social delights to be had inside were supposed to leap enthusiastically through the gym doors at the first opportunity. The staff in the courtyard, in addition to closely watching the guardian benches, were supposed to ensure that this happened, by force if necessary. However there were always a small group of members of the Social Overclass clustered around the doors, dressed to the nines and visually inspecting the arrivals. They managed to get away with this clear violation of policy by being friends of the Student Council members collecting tickets and inspecting clothes just inside the foyer. The Student Council, usually a group of running dog Administration lackeys bickering over what colour scrunchies the dress code should be amended to allow next year actually had some small measure of power and responsibility on the night of a social, and enough of this rubbed off on their friends to allow them to flout the rules and sit around outside, so long as they didn't cause too much of a disturbance or laugh too loud at the fashion sense of the arrivals.

As we approached the doors these dedicated followers of fashionistic fascism would look us up and down, assessing every aspect of our clothes, grooming and bearing. Their reactions to other students may have been more subdued, but when the Geek contingent arrived they would stare in a mixture of horror and amusement before making muttered comments to each other, stifling giggles. This muttering would continue as we squeezed past them, sometimes loud enough to overhear their incredulity that you would be seen dead in that jacket or those shoes, or trousers that were clearly purchased for under $50, probably at a department store.

Once inside the door this arbitrary judgement by clothes would continue as we were checked over by the staff dress code inspectors. These were typically Mr Gardner the Vice Principal, for his in-depth knowledge of the intricacies of the school rules, and Mr Donaldson the PE Teacher, for his sheer intimidating physical presence. Never having risked wearing non-approved clothing to a social I'm not sure what happened if you failed this inspection, but I suspect it may have involved rubber hoses, the Candyman, and the PE office storeroom, which was neatly accessible just around the corner.

Being Geeks our clothes always passed muster, (although the Sacred Geek Camel Hat caused regular consternation) and we were allowed through to the ticket table, where we'd have to hand over our tickets, and ransom of foodstuffs. While our names were being cross referenced and ticked off on the lengthy computer printed attendance roll (both to record that we actually attended and prevent the entry of gatecrashers who, realistically, probably had far better gates available to crash), the food was whisked upstairs by one of the Student Council running dogs and placed on a rickety trestle table in the strangely shaped area called the lobby. Here it was picked over by the rapacious staff prior to any of the student body getting a look in.

The whole roll procedure always rankled with us Geeks, as the Student Council members doing the checking seemed to know and recognise every student by sight, except for us. Even in year ten, when the roll checkers were our contemporaries, the most obscure year eight would be swept right through at a glance, while we would have to stand around for a good five minutes while they checked, and double checked. What made matters worse was their inherent suspicion, manifested in hesitating voices and strange intense stares, that you might be some kind of impostor or spy. After all if they didn't know us, how could we be students?

Finally however, after repeated undignifying questions about our names and year, we would be located on the roll. Our names would be ticked off and we were judged to be fully prepared for the indignities of the night to come. So with heavy heart and no other choice we entered the body of the gym.

At this early point in the evening the place was typically fairly empty. Many of the cooler students hadn't even shown up outside yet, and most of those who had were doing their best to make a fashionably late arrival, around 7:15 or so. So we had ample opportunity to scurry across the deserted dance floor and into a safe corner before proceedings really got underway.

For the Geek in a demanding social situation a corner is a refuge, a safe haven from the madness that surrounds. You have a wall to put your back against, you only have to monitor ninety degrees for approaching threats, and if the lighting arrangements are suitable and you sit really still you can become virtually invisible. The corner of choice for the discerning Geek at St Francis Xavier's Junior Socials was the north-east one. This was about as far away from the entrance as possible, and was safely hidden from it by perspective and the speaker stacks. This meant that we were out of view of both the gaggle of staff who congregated, sipping soft drinks, around the sports office, and from entering Rebels who would have made a beeline straight towards us otherwise. We were also hidden from the DJ, who had an annoying tendency at certain points during the night to demand that everybody get up and dance, and to verbally harass those who didn't. Finally it was right next to one of the emergency exits, should sudden evacuation due to fire, gas leaks or MC Hammer become necessary.

This early part of the night was almost enjoyable, compared to what was to come later. The gym was pleasantly uncrowded, the music was at a reasonable level, allowing conversation without shouting, and the DJ was yet to take whatever stimulants he used to turn himself into an annoying, loudmouthed pratt. It was a time for kicking back in a tilted chair and watching the new arrivals wander in while keeping an eye out for the rest of the Geek brigade.

This state of quiet contemplation never lasted long however. Once enough students had been herded in the DJ would turn off whatever music had been playing, bounce up to the mike and grunt in his best (ie: rather pathetic) rock-god voice "ARE YOU READY TO ROCK??"

Our cries of "No! Piss off!" were drowned out by the huge affirmative roar of the crowd. He'd bounce back to the decks and slap on "Livin' on a Prayer" (or similar bandanna rock song) amplified to levels that threatened to shake the rather shoddy construction of the gym roof to pieces. A seething mass of arms and legs, looking under the flashing gel lights like a creature out of H.P.Lovecraft would take to the dance floor, the single strobe in the middle of the stage would fire up and I'd break out the Air Force Surplus ear plugs.

The DJ was the same each year, the school's typical cheapness overcoming any desire for variety. He was actually an ex-student and apparently felt some kind of obligation to St Francis's, keeping his rates low for school events. Or he was being blackmailed. Motivation regardless, his debt to the school completely failed to extend to playing anything but the most mindlessly banal top forty hits and 'golden oldies' from the sixties and seventies. Even in 1989 his appalling lack of taste was sufficient to exclude all the music that in later years would be regarded as "classic 80's", with the notable exception of Toni Basil's "Mickey" which he drained of all enjoyment by playing a good six times in a row halfway through the evening. By repetition three you felt like punching the next person who danced by yelling "OH MICKEY YOU'RE SO FINE YOU'RE SO FINE YOU BLOW MY MIND! HEY MICKEY!"

Once the night really started going and the dancing began, there were a number of things to watch out for. Members of staff would prowl around collaring students who didn't seem to be enjoying themselves, and ruthlessly questioning them. Packs of Rebels would cruise past, looking to find some entertainment in between their periodic trips outside to smoke. Socials would drop by to mock. To counter these and sundry other threats, we constructed the Geek Bunker.

The Geek Bunker was a construct (modelled on the best examples of European castle architecture) designed to enhance the defensive properties of our corner. It was constructed out of the orange and grey plastic classroom chairs that were scattered in profuse numbers around the edge of the dance floor by the poor souls press ganged into helping the staff organise the whole event. Enough of these were gathered (by the simple expedient of waiting until the people sitting on them got up to dance) to construct a primary defensive wall about a metre out from where we sat. These chairs faced inwards, to provide additional seating if any other Geeks turned up, and a place to stick our feet. To defend this wall, a secondary curtain wall of outwards facing chairs was placed a further metre out. This was a sacrificial structure, designed to be sat upon, and even stolen by the other students. It's continual attrition was countered by additional chair raids whenever it began to get a bit too thin.

The Geek Bunker was highly effective, neatly encapsulating us away from the rest of the students, and all but the most determined staff. Inside we were free to carry on in our own Geeky manner, holding shouted conversations about TV shows, Star Wars, new developments in science and how we could get out of coming to the social next year. It acted to make the night at least bearable, for some, if not most of the time.

At various intervals during the night the so called DJ would interrupt his near continuous playing of Bon Jovi and Poison to make announcements. These were typically along the lines of "The year eights are now allowed to go up to the lobby and eat", or "The drinks store in the sports locker is now open", but occasionally he'd call "Please come up and write down your requests". This would typically trigger a stampede of students up to the stage all desperate to get their particular favourite piece of insipid pop played. Once there they would clamour loudly for a scrap of paper and one of the about five blunt pencils the staff saw fit to supply for this endeavour.

Eventually the pack would disperse. The DJ would retire to his decks and search through the badly scribbled pieces of confetti while yet another repeat of "Livin' on a Prayer" (which seemed to be his favourite song) rocked away. He'd match requests to the songs on the playlist he'd organised days before, then when the time came to play them, introduce them as if he'd never even considered playing them until the request landed on his lap. The requester and their friends would then cheer and hoot wildly, and dance away content.

Being wise to the system none of us Geeks ever bothered to make requests. Well, except for Satanic Shawn Bettar, and his continual optimistic attempts to get songs by Metallica and Megadeath played were doomed to failure before they even began.

Fuel for the Disco Inferno

There were two sources (not counting the various chemicals available if you knew the right people) of refreshment at the Junior socials, the student supplied food trenchers upstairs in the lobby, and the "The Drink Store" run out of the sports locker in the south-west corner of the gym.

This was a Student Council run facility, and like most Student Council run facilities was badly organised, ineffectually managed, far too expensive and corrupt to the core, the Socials and politically minded Middle-Classers behind it all reserving the best prices and drinks for their friends and associated hangers on. It was entirely possible to walk up, ask for a coke and be told they'd run out, then see an Athletic or Social ask for and receive one twenty seconds later, for half the price you paid for your name brand cola. The solitary staff member meant to be supervising the enterprise was generally too strung out on the pounding music and flashing strobes to even notice or care about such abuse.

I was often quite thirsty at the Junior Socials, but the prospect of fighting my way across the long axis of the dance floor only to end up with a can of "Australia's Choice" was far too depressing to be bothered with. So I did my best to conserve water by sitting very still. This wasn't too effective a policy, as (in addition to the cold-sweat every Geek experiences in a social situation) what little natural air-conditioning the gym had was totally inadequate to cope with the body heat of 500 or so teenagers boogying away to "Sweet Child o' Mine".

The food situation was little better. The plates of finger food extracted as an entry toll from every student were placed upstairs on wobbly trestle tables in the lobby. Then at seemingly random intervals, the DJ would announce that one of the years was allowed to go upstairs and eat. At this signal the entire year (apparently all starving after shaking their collective groove thang), would charge the doors like a herd of stampeding buffalo, and fight their way up the narrow green stairwell, many suffering minor injuries in the process. At the top they'd burst forth and descend on the tables like the locust swarm from The Good Earth.

The order of precedence was year eights first, followed by year nines, then year tens. As each year passed over the tables like a horde of ravenous wolverines, there wasn't a lot left to choose from by the time the last of the year tens were allowed up. A few cold pieces of pizza, some mouldy looking slices of fruitcake and some soggy SAO biscuits spread with vegemite were about the best you could hope for. Possibly the staff were supposed to put some of the food aside and replenish the tables in-between the rapacious hordes, but this never actually seemed to happen. It's more likely they just put some of the food aside for themselves and pigged out in the music rooms in between their infrequent checks of the dance floor.

One curiosity is that although the lobby overlooked the dance floor, and provided ample opportunity for hurling food at the revellers below, this never seemed to happen. Possibly everyone was far too desperate to grab a morsel of something edible for themselves amongst the rush to think about such entertainments. Or alternatively the glowering bulk of Mr Donaldson lurking menacingly in the shadows put them off. Or maybe it happened, and I (in my Geeky isolation) just never heard about it.

The Great Geek Catastrophe of 1991

The greatest disaster to ever befall the Geek Bunker occurred in 1991 at our third, and (thankfully) last, Junior Social. All things (the awful music, the threatening atmosphere and inattentive staff) considered, the evening was going pretty well. We'd established the bunker, all the Geek Underclass were present (with the exception of Satanic Shawn who'd hooked up with some other heavy metal fans doing their best to slam dance to Sinead O'Connor), we'd had some good discussions about Bobba Fett and the night seemed likely to continue in it's standard banal manner until they stopped the music around 10:30 and herded us out into the cold night to make our ways home as best we could.

The bunker of course had been constructed in the optimum north-east corner, hard up against the wooden emergency exit door leading out to the gym veranda. This door was always kept locked, in our entire three years at St Francis's we'd never seen or even heard of it being opened. There was some speculation that it wasn't an actual door at all, just a cunning blind to fool the occasional safety inspector. So it is perhaps understandable that it had never occurred to us that only a few metres beyond it was the side-gate - the favoured hang out of the rebel crew.

We were just embarking on our usual devastatingly sarcastic critique of the whole school social system when there came a loud thump on the other side of this door. Our conversation halted in sudden confusion. There was another thump, pushing the door open a few inches, then a final cataclysmic shove, hurling Seth (who's chair had been leaning against it) to the floor. There in the newly opened portal stood Patrick Smiley.

It was like the fall of Singapore.

It is a sad fact of being a Geek, that not only are you consistently picked upon by people in your own and higher years, but you can often count upon trouble from students in the years below you. The reason for this is simple - up and coming Rebels have no better way to prove their dominance within the tribe than harassing those supposed to be their superiors. And what better superiors to molest than pathetic Geeks who are completely unable to fight back? As such there was a group of about seven students from the year below us who spent most of their leisure time tormenting us, under the leadership of the aforementioned Patrick.

Patrick Smiley was frankly nothing special. He was of middling height, middling muscle mass and middling to low intelligence. The cleverest thing he ever did was to come up with the allegation that we Geeks "got horny over calculators" (the fact that he used this taunt repeatedly for his entire time at St Francis's shows that he thought it was a masterpiece of wit). His face was pudgy and squashed up with a flattened nose that made him look like a pug smelling something unpleasant, and he had roughly cut sandy hair that at times looked even worse than ours. Despite these flaws however he had the ability to generate a real sense of belligerent menace, sufficient to intimidate Geeks, and to keep his gaggle of beta-males well in check.

So, it was this Neanderthal (as we called him and his followers, both to assert our intellectual superiority and because long words he didn't understand hurt his brain) that now stood within the previously inviolate fortress of the Geek Bunker.

He stared at us in surprise. Then, as his slow primate brain ticked over, his expression of annoyance at finding the door blocked turned to one of sadistic delight as he realised exactly who had been causing the obstruction. He let out a joyous whoop, and lept through the doorway, scattering chairs and Geeks in his path. Answering his simang-like call the rest of the troop immediately came barrelling in, hooting like baboons and compromising in mere seconds the impregnable fortifications of our refuge.

This was bad. Very bad. We looked around in horror for a teacher, however our isolated location for once was working against us. The pulsating mass of the dance floor shielded us from the few teachers who weren't smoking outside, or chatting up the more attractive students at the drink store. Patrick had free reign to do as he liked.

He glanced around to be sure that all his cronies were present, then opened up proceedings. "NEEEERRRDS!" he sneered stepping forwards in his best intimidatory manner. "Getting horny over calculators!"

"Heheheh! Calculators! Calculators!" guffawed his followers, sounding remarkably like Beavis and Butthead.

"Fuck off Smiley!" spat back Iggy and Seth, always the least intimidated of our group. Patrick ignored them.

"Yeah!" he continued "You get horny over calculators!" the beta-males obligingly guffawed again, oblivious to his lack of new material.

"Yeah!" one of them chimed in suddenly "They jerk off over encyclopaedias!"

His companions almost collapsed with laughter. Patrick glared. He was meant to be making the jokes. He decided to try and regain control with another barb. Leaning back he smirked in disdain then asked, his voice laced with sarcasm, "Why aren't you dancing GEEKS?"

The monkey chorus could hardly contain themselves. "Because they're GAY!!" they chattered in triumph.

By now we were starting to get seriously pissed off with this performance. "Piss off Neanderthals!" I spat out.

"Oooo! Neanderthors! Neanderthors!" chorused the most enthusiastic and stupidest monkeys. The others looked disconcerted. They knew they'd been insulted, but they couldn't quite figure out how.

"Oh yeah?" challenged Patrick, turning his attention on me in particular. "What's a Neanderthor then?"

"It's a science word!" spat one of the obedient monkeys, looking as if just having to say the word left a foul taste in his mouth.

"Yeah? Well if we're neanderthors, then you're GAY!" shouted Patrick, grabbing the Sacred Geek Camel Hat from my head, and hurling it to his followers. They hooted wildly and ran out the door with it, shouting taunts as they fled.

Iggy and Seth immediately lept to the defence of the hat, and raced after them. I would have liked to follow, but my ingrained Geekiness (not to mention dread of Patrick) was too strong to break school rules by leaving the gym. So I remained where I was, seething with resentment and awaiting developments.

I didn't have long to wait. Growing bored with their running around outside, waving the hat and hollering, the Neanderthals soon re-entered, holding up the hat in triumph. They commenced a game of keep-away, throwing it back and forth as we made half hearted attempts at recovery. "Jump Geeks!" they yelled, "C'mon! Jump!". These antics were seemingly ignored by the infrequently passing staff, thinking it was either a new kind of break dancing move, or that we were getting what we deserved for our resolutely anti-conformist attitudes.

Our geekily inept jumps and bounds apparently not proving entertaining enough, the Neanderthals soon decided to ramp things up a level, and started throwing the hat up onto the overhang where the chapel protruded into the gym. As this overhang sloped down at about 45 degrees, there was no way the hat could have stuck up there short of coating it in superglue, but the monkey-boys made a determined effort nonetheless, thus showing why we called them Neanderthals in the first place.

Finally, as the hat was sliding down the slope once again (to the consternation of the hominid-crew who had obviously never read Newton) Seth managed to leap higher than our tormentors and grab it. He quickly passed it to me, and I shoved it into one of my jacket pockets. The nearest Smileyite made an attempt to get into the pocket and grab it, but I was starting to get mad, and fended him off with an animalistic snarl. This was apparently the kind of primitive language the monkey-boys could actually understand, and seeing that the opportunity for easy fun had passed (and the potential for actual fighting back had increased) they decided that discretion was the better part of valour. They retreated, hurling a few more of their wildly creative insults after them. The door shut, and peace reigned once more.

We hastily convened a meeting. It was obvious that we could no longer remain in our compromised position, and would have to move the bunker as soon as possible. Luckily we managed to spot an empty group of chairs about ten metres down the north wall, just next to the stage. This wasn't as optimum a position as the corner had been, but the speakers stacks provided some concealment from the DJ and the sports office, and under the circumstances it was about the best we could hope for. We grabbed it.

Not long afterwards, with the new Geek Bunker constructed, we were gratified to see one of Smiley's Neanderthals burst in through the door again with a look of gleeful mayhem on his face. This quickly turned to one of consternation and embarrassment as the bunch of Socials who'd occupied our place asked him pointedly what the hell he thought he was doing. He grunted some vague apologies, then stood in puzzlement, his brown knitting as he tried to comprehend our mysterious disappearance. His piggy eyes peered into the gym, trying to spot us but, fresh from the darkness outside, they were unable to cope with the spiralling gel lights and dementedly flashing strobe, not to mention the building fog of foul smelling mist trickling off the stage from the school's one ageing smoke machine. Finally he grunted once more, and shut the door. We cheered. Geeks one, Neanderthals nil.

The rest of the evening passed fairly uneventfully, although we did all go home rather deaf from the close proximity of the speaker stacks to our new refuge.

The Phantom of the Speaker Stacks

The only other notable occurrence at the junior social took place in 1989. For reasons best known to Administration the rules on bringing in outsiders had been relaxed, and a busload of boys from one of the nearby government schools had turned up, no doubt with the intention of corrupting some innocent young Catholic girls. On arrival however they found themselves seriously out of their depth, the sheer number of (unknown to them compulsory) attendees leaving them feeling completely outnumbered and vulnerable.

Any attempt to blend in and mingle was also foiled, as they were all wearing jeans, instructions on acceptable dress codes getting garbled somewhere between the Catholic and State education systems. So, not unlike a group of white supremacists who decide to crash a black-white friendship rally only to discover it's been organised by the local chapter of the Black Panthers, they just congregated nervously around the edges, twitching and starting whenever spoken to.

About halfway through the night I temporarily emerged from the Geek Bunker in quest of the toilets at the other end of the gym. This was of course a hazardous trip, requiring careful navigation around the seething mass of humanity on the dance floor, and as the toilets were the locale of choice for chemical consumption, the destination wasn't all that reassuring either. After careful consideration I had decided to go for the quick, direct scurry through the narrow gap between the dancefloor and stage rather than the somewhat safer, although circuitous route around the periphery, this choice no doubt influenced by the fact that I really had to go.

So I checked my pockets, pulled the Sacred Geek Camel Hat down low, hunched my shoulders and plunged into the edge of the dance floor, ducking the flailing arms and legs of students doing very good impersonations of dancing zombies to Michael Jackson's "Thriller".

I scuttled between the dancers, keeping low and doing my best to remain invisible. Mercifully, I made it across without incident, emerging next to the sports office, where I took a deep breath and wiped the sweat from my brow. Now I only had to deal with the toilets.

On entering the changeroom I was gladdened to find that someone had managed to jimmy the door onto the oval open, and those Socials and Rebels who were indulging were doing so outside, leaving the toilets free for their actual intended purpose. After relieving myself (and declining several rather ominous Rebel invitations to "come outside") I began the trek back.

I managed to skirt the gaggle of teachers outside the sports office with little difficulty (as they seemed rather intent on their bottles of beer and complaining about the music), and ducking the flailing arms of some moshing year nines, plunged back into the dance floor, rapidly gaining the relative safety of the north wall. Here by the speakers Alice Cooper's "Poison" was pounding out at painful levels. I winced, the DJ was obviously at the start of his rather wimpy "metal" set. I scooted around the first speaker stack and ducked into the dark space in front of the stage.

On reaching the other speaker stack however I found my way blocked by a particularly dense and impenetrable bunch of moshers pressing themselves up against the speaker cone. Knowing that the song was almost over, and the DJ would probably attempt to disperse the crush by throwing on some Elton John before continuing with his hard-rock odyssey, I elected to wait it out, withdrawing into the shadows against the stage.

I had just got myself neatly ensconced, wrapping my jacket around me for increased invisibility when a voice spoke out of the darkness to my left.

"Why aren't you dancing?" it asked.

I looked over. Leaning back against the stage, doing an excellent job of lurking in the gloom was a short, thin guy with black hair. He was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, obviously one of the incomers.

I was taken aback by his question. Didn't he know a Geek when he saw one?

I indicated my geeky attire. My unpolished shoes, my ice-washed "jeans", my ill fitting puke green shirt, my unfashionably padded jacket that looked like the ones the bus conductors wore, and the Sacred Geek Camel Hat. For added impact I whipped off the hat, and displayed my completely untameable dandruff specked hair.

"Who would dance with this?" I challenged.

He looked puzzled. "What?" he asked inanely.

I was incensed. Who did this freak think he was coming to our school social - with no knowledge of our intricate social structures - and going around asking impudent questions, the answers to which should be painfully obvious? I stared at him in disdain.

"What?" he repeated.

That was it. I didn't deserve that kind of disrespectful treatment. The moshers had thankfully dispersed, so I imperiously turned my back, and continued on my way, leaving the t-shirt wearing fool to his refuge between the speakers. If he was too stupid to figure out the social hierachy, I sure wasn't going to explain it to him.

You've got to wonder about some people.

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