Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Homecoming toilet paper caper

It was a quiet Saturday evening in the Curmudgeon household, quiet, that is, except for my occasional snores.

We were all in the den, at the back of the house. I was in my recliner, watching sports on TV from behind closed eyelids. Youngest Son was passed out on the couch: He'd played football Saturday afternoon (most high school games around here are on Friday nights, but the school where his team played today had no lights). Long Suffering Spouse was in her chair across the room from mine. She may have been grading papers; she may have been dozing, too.

The doorbell woke me up with a startle.

"That's the doorbell," said Long Suffering Spouse. This statement was not simply redundant; it was, rather, a much nicer way of telling me to get up and investigate than giving an express order.

I got up and walked through the house to the front door. We weren't expecting anyone. In our part of the world, people don't just 'drop in' at night to visit.

I opened the door and looked around. I stepped out onto the front stoop to look and listen. It was a group of little kids -- sixth graders perhaps? -- and they were hiding behind the tall hedge west of the house. They apparently did not realize, however, that the hedge, no matter how tall and thick, would only prevent their being seen -- they could still be heard.

"He's coming!" said one in a stage whisper that would have been plainly audible in the second balcony of a very large theater.

"Quiet, will you?" his confederate responded -- equally loudly.

I started walking down the driveway and so could begin to see past the hedge. There was a silver SUV parked in the middle of the street in front of the neighbor's house.

The closer I came to the edge of the hedge, the more alarmed the kids became. "He's going to get us!" screamed one -- and, with that, four of them ran from behind the hedge into the waiting SUV -- and the SUV disappeared into the night.

I went back inside.

"Ding dong ditchers," I reported to my wife. "Little ones." She harrumphed a response. "It's Homecoming tomorrow," she said. "They should be out t-p-ing players' houses; I don't know why they're ringing teachers' doorbells."

Ding dong ditching is mostly harmless mischief, I suppose, trying to provoke a response from the house and giving the kids involved a chance to pretend they are brave when someone appears. Because my wife is a junior high teacher, we've gotten more than our share of ding dong ditchers over the years.

Last year, if I recall correctly, some of Youngest Son's ex-grammar school classmates got bored and ding dong ditched us. Youngest Son went out the side door and waited for them to try again. They did. He grabbed the biggest of the three and punched him out -- while his fellow ditchers ran away.

I didn't see any of this because I went to the front door when I heard the bell and the action took place west of the house, screened by the aforementioned tall hedge. I did hear noise, though. So I called out, "Is everything all right?" The odd part is that it was the kid who'd just taken the smack in the puss who responded, "Yes, everything's fine." I still don't understand that one. I guess that it was OK because getting punched out is a risk one assumes when one engages in the sport of ding dong ditching at the high school level.

But Long Suffering Spouse was right about ding dong ditching not being a usual part of Homecoming festivities. Every football program has a Homecoming game -- hopefully against a lesser opponent -- allegedly a chance for the old grads to come back a relive 'glory days' -- but, more usually, just an excuse to make one game into a big deal for the kids.

In our parish, on the night before Homecoming, the cheerleaders usually go out and throw toilet paper into the trees in front of each player's house (t-p-ing). It's only a problem if it rains. At that point the tp becomes a sodden mess... and a pain to clean up. But, usually, that's not a problem. With three boys who played football in their time for the parish school, I've become used to fishing tp from the tree. Sometimes this happens in high school, too.

I may have reflected on these things on Saturday night, as I returned to my recliner. An indeterminate interval of time passed -- I was asleep again in nanoseconds -- when, again, I was awakened by the doorbell.

Now, I was angry.

I'd already given the kids their thrill -- grumpy old man comes stumbling out of the house, etc. -- and still they have presumed to interrupt my slumber a second time.

I moved with considerably more alacrity to the front door this time. Now there was a silver SUV parked across the street heading east -- and a bunch of little kids ran for it like frightened birds. I was about to make a bull run at the SUV when I noticed that our front tree was festooned with tp.

"Oh, bother," I said, though I didn't actually use the word 'bother.'

See, it's one thing to tp a player's house on the night before the Big Game -- but doing this to a teacher's house was clearly inappropriate.

At this point a group of about five or six older kids -- high school age, I thought -- came ambling down the street heading west.

I think there was something going on at the local high school Saturday night. I'd seen a huge parade of cars coming from that direction earlier. Maybe it was their Homecoming too.

"Sorry about your house, mister," said one of these new arrivals.

"But it wasn't us," added another, quickly.

"Say," said a third, "can we take it with us?"

"Sure," I said, "help yourselves."

They did. They pulled down most of the tp in a matter of a minute or so. "This is great," said one, "now we can put this on someone else's house."

"I can't recommend that," I said, but the group was already resuming it's westbound course.

"You know," said one of the retreating voices, "we should put in for like 10 service hours at school for this."

"Yes," I said -- not that they would listen to me -- "that's something you should do. First thing Tuesday." (Monday being a school holiday.)

The group was gone and Long Suffering Spouse came out to survey the damage.

She was ticked off. We found another roll of the stuff on the roof over the front door. Later, I found a can of shaving cream on the neighbor's lawn.

I told my wife about the kids jumping into a car on both occasions. "Probably someone's big brother or sister," I suggested.

But Long Suffering Spouse came home from school yesterday with a different story. One of the moms whose son plays on the school varsity came up to my wife and asked, "Did you know your house got t-p-ed Saturday?"

"Yes, I did," Long Suffering Spouse replied, and probably frostily, too.

"I'm so sorry," said the mom. "They should only have done players' houses." My wife agreed.

And then the mom dropped the punch line: The kids were driven around the neighborhood by a school mom.

Can you imagine?


katherine. said...


When I was in high school(mid/late 70's) my father drove the get-away car. It was a station wagon...long before SUVs. He would even fund the toilet paper purchase.

It started as a payback because our house had been TPed so often...and then I think it just became a fun thing for him.

We only "decorated" one teacher's home....Mr. Lucich...senior year...he taught biology.

I should write my own post about those times...

thanks for the memories...

Jean-Luc Picard said...

What a story...driven home by the school mom!

Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

well it does make for some good blog fodder, right?

smiles, bee

Shelby said...

you had me at toilet paper caper. the rest I shall now read ..

Shelby said...

oh my goodness. I've done my share of t-p-ing. It's been a while tho. I certainly was not yet a mom when I did that.

sari said...

Wow, I can't believe that!