re-written/re-posted 6:51pm, 12/11/07
(note: I wrote this about two years ago, as part of my “Worst Years In Music: 1988” entry. Eventually, I’ll make a podcast, and that’ll be the pilot episode, because it’s seriously the funniest thing I ever wrote. However, this morning, as I sat at the Boston Convention Center registering young professional women for the Massachusetts Conference for Women, my ears perked up as that infamous song wafted o’er the pleasant but sterile architecture through the Muzak, and it reminded me of writing this, and I’m proud enough of it to post it all over again.)
This Is the Story of Why I Suffer A Mild Panic Attack Whenever I Hear “Get Out Of My Dreams, Get Into My Car” by Billy Ocean.”
By Andy Hicks
(originally published on geekusa.wordpress.com)
When I was eight, my parents got kind of fed up with having to come down to Robinson Elementary School every day to remove their child’s head from the loo, so it was decided that I would try Catholic school on for size. I lasted one year – third grade, which is why I write cursive in the Palmer method but couldn’t recite the Apostle’s Creed if my life depended on it.
One fine day, I was sitting in Mrs. M_____’s homeroom at Notre Dame Academy in Tyngsboro one morning. She was running late, which basically meant that you had twenty unsupervised third graders going all Lord Of The Flies all over the damn place. One of those rapscallions was a young gent we’ll call Tim.
Tim was one of those scary hyperactive kids who thrived on making life horrible. His best friend was this absolute asshole named John. Now, before we go on, I should point out that, yes, kids are cruel; no, it’s probably not fair that I’m using such language to describe a nine year old, and; yes, I’m over it.
Seriously, though, John was the sort of third grader you just know is going to turn out to be a date rapist. The sort of kid who, for example, crashes your birthday party at Fun World and hangs out by the Air Hockey table while you’re trying to play with your best friend and grabs the puck whenever it comes on your side of the table and throws it in your goal with one of those “Whatsamatter, gonna cry?” looks on his face while your best friend says absolutely nothing because he’s a dickweed and he knows how the game is played – that one don’t fuck with the cool kids, one encourages them, because of course he’s only “pretending” to like you because he “feels sorry for” you, and you spend the rest of your life wishing you’d just have decked the little proto-Malfoy waste-of-sperm and gotten the hell on with your life. Whatever. I’m over it.
Now, the interesting thing about Notre Dame Academy was that your mother had to drive you to school, because there were no buses that came to my part of the world. This should probably have tipped off my parents that there was something cosmically and geographically wrong with Notre Dame Academy; the lack of yellow bus service would have made lesser grown-ups weep at the thought of having to drive their sullen/hyperactive child several miles out of their way every morning only to sit in a line of cars in the parking lot waiting to drop off said child in the predetermined child-dropping-off zone. But not my parents. Even if it meant listening to my radio station, which, because I was the hippest third grader ever to wear a clip-on tie and loafers, was WZOU, Boston’s #2 Hit Music station. Which meant that the last thing I’d hear before entering the sacred and stuffy halls of Notre Dame Academy was often, you guessed it, “Get Out Of My Dreams, Get Into My Car.”
Oh, I said hey (hey)
Get into my car.
Like one of those ear-sucky things from Star Trek II, it writhed about in my brain, making me shake my blue-dockered booty as I clicked down the hall to a calypso-pop beat. Did I mention that I also fancied myself to be quite the song parodist as a child? That, when presented with a fresh, new slab of three-minute pop-noise, the first thing I’d do was deconstruct it sonically and lyrically? And did I mention that this is exactly what I was doing that morning at Notre Dame Academy, who, I decided, was finally ready to sample my rapier wit?
Anyway, amidst all the other noise and nonsense in the teacher-free classroom that early spring morn, I may very well have blurted out my new and improved version of the aforementioned Billy Ocean song. And, as I was eight years old, it may very well have been about pooping one’s pants. And the crowd, as crowds will do, went wild. It was at this exact moment that Mrs. M, the homeroom teacher, entered the room.
Now, Mrs. _____ was an intimidating woman, with whom I already had a history: on a previous occasion, I may have made an inappropriate comment about her weight. Before you pass judgment on me, however, let me remind you that I was eight years old, a scared, uprooted kid. Uprooted, I should add, from his awful public elementary school where the kids all hated him, and placed in an awful parochial school, where the teachers all hated him on account of his a) coming from a public school, and b) having a Y chromosome. None of which excuses the fact that an unplanned and tactless comment about her bum tumbled out of my mouth sometime just before Christmas, but let’s just say that I was never anybody’s idea of a behavior problem until they made me wear a uniform to school. Suck on that, dress code Nazis.
The class was, by this point, rolling on the floor laughing at how damn funny I was. Mrs. M_____ asked innocently what all the fuss was about, which causes everyone to become very quiet. There we were, laughing at a poop joke, and in comes a teacher and we’re supposed to be good little Catholic children, and Dominic Savio never did such a thing, now did he?
Dominic Savio, patron saint of unreasonable expectations.
After repeated inquiries, Mrs. M has gone from Nice Teacher Mode to Batshit Crazy Teacher Mode. Her whole class had refused to speak to her. Obviously, we must have been hiding something. Obviously, that something had to do with her. Obviously, this was worth delaying the start of class for a whole hour while she tried various methods of smoking out the truth.
When suddenly, a voice was heard from the back of the room. “Mrs. M______…. I…. I….”
Mrs. M_____’s demeanor immediately changed. “Yes, Timothy, sweet voiced Irish child of God. What is it you want to tell us?”
Tim. Of course it was Tim. The bastard.
“It… it… it was.. A-A-Andrew.” My name was a mere whisper. His buddy John smirked with glee.
It should be noted that it actually took most of an hour for our sweet little Timothy to make this accusation. I mention this not to let the little twerp off the hook, but instead to drive the point home that this woman was batshit crazy. She took sixty minutes out of her teaching day to make sure that no one was making jokes about her behind her back. Then, upon realizing it was me, she proceeded to spend the next half hour trying to force me to speak. And I couldn’t bring myself to say it. The back of my throat was stinging as I tried not to cry, I was so scared. There was no way, no way in hell, I was going to sing, to my teacher’s face, the words “Get out of my butt, get into my toilet.”
So what does a mortally oversensitive teacher do when confronted with such a willful boy, so brazen in his defiance of her supreme authority, who insults the very name of Saint Julie Billiart with his mere presence in this sacred hall of learning? What would you do with such a rapscallion, a hellion, a future Satanist? More to the point, what would Jesus do? Would he, for example, pull a random girl – a sweet, blonde bespectacled wisp of a thing – into the hallway and interrogate her for the next fifteen minutes or so, until she started crying so hard she could hardly breathe?
Apparently, that is exactly what Jesus would do.
Mrs. M and the girl returned from the hallway, the girl visibly shaken and white as a ghost. I was then marched down to the principal’s office. The principal was a cobwebby, cold, hard old woman whose name was – and again I kid you not – Sister Mildred.
The first time I met Sister Mildred, it was when she pushed me down the hallway with one bony finger, screaming at me the whole time. My crime? I jumped.
No, really, that was it. I did a very short flying leap across a very small section of the classroom when Sister happened to be walking past, so she beckoned me out into the hallway and poked at me and yelled as I backed away slowly. Don’t remember why I jumped in the first place; probably boredom. I wasn’t near anybody or anything that I could have possibly broken, and it wasn’t during a class, and I was a pudgy little kid, so the graceful gazelle-like bounce I was probably attempting really only carried me across one foot of floor space. But no matter to Sr. Mildred; a boy was jumping, and that can only mean one thing, and it probably has something to do with either the fifth or sixth commandments, and he must be stopped.
That was the first time I was ever in trouble at school. Back in ol’ Robinson Elementary – you know, “the hood” – if you wanted that kind of reaction out of an authority figure, you had to set fire to a baby while saying the F-word. Suffice it to say, this Principal was nobody’s Pal. Long story short, not only did I have to tell Sister Mildred what I said, but I also had to explain to this 200-year old nun who Billy Ocean was and why he had a song about imaginary people riding around in automobiles.
On the bright side, I was punished no further. I think one of two things must have happened: either Sister Mildred realized that the whole situation was much ado about nothing, or not even Sister Mildred herself could deny the appeal of a good, solid, ca-ca joke.
By that point, it was about lunchtime, and the weak rosehip tea smell of the cafeteria chicken soup was beginning to waft its way through the corridors of Notre Dame Academy. Sometimes all you needed was some watery chicken soup and a carton of chocolate milk, and everything seemed new again.
By the way: the girl that Mrs. M______ screamed at for no particular reason left NDA and came to my alma mater, Westford Academy, for high school. When she reappeared, she had multiple piercings, green hair, and vampire fangs. We’d reminisce about life at old Notre Dame, and shudder, and we eventually became friends. She would eventually go on to date, and destroy, several of my friends, but that’s a story for another time.
One day, she wound up telling me her side of the Billy Ocean St. Patrick’s Day Massacre story and, as it turns out, none of the girls in the class wanted to turn me in, because they all had crushes on me, and thought I was some sort of bad-ass rebel.
The moral of the story is: do not mess with my crew.