My last post about how us timid types got our revenge on the more aggressive campers because the more aggressive ones were foolish enough to try an experiment on themselves reminds me of another occasion of what I might call Passive Revenge.
It was a couple of years after the camping experience. If I was eleven then, I was about fourteen this time, and off on a student exchange in New York City. What a weekend we chose for the exchange: the night we got there Martin Luther King was assassinated, and the city suddenly became a dangerous place.
But that’s not what this story’s about. I played the violin in the school orchestra, which made me feel a bit dorky because only girls did that; there was only one other boy violinist in the school. The other boys played manly instruments like trombones. The result, though, was that I got to go on the exchange at a younger age than most of the other boys: only the senior trombonists went, but there weren’t that many violinists, so the younger ones went too.
(Did I mention that this was a musical exchange? Our school orchestra was to join forces with one in Bedford, New York, in fancy Westchester County. And being musical, the trip included a visit to the Metropolitan Opera, where I saw Carmen for the first time and thought it was wonderful. But the story’s not about that either.)
So I was billeted in the house of one of the Bedford school members. He was cool; he drove a red sports car. And he was older, as were the two other Montreal schoolboys I was billeted with. Let’s call them Howard and Jason. Howard and Jason didn’t exactly bully me; it was more that they were the two versus my one. Jason did, however, decide that I deserved a nickname. “Pineapple,” he started calling me, for no reason I could tell. Did I have an acne problem?
Anyway, not being one to object, I put up with the Pineapple nickname throughout the trip, which included rehearsals and of course the final concert, at which I scraped my bow across the violin and hoped no one would hear my wrong notes.
There was also a party one night. Now, at this point I didn’t get invited to parties. The cool kids back home went to them, but I wasn’t one of the cool kids. Here, though, I was staying with a cool kid, and he was going to a party, and he took all of us along: Howard and Jason and Pineapple. In his red sports car.
Feeling totally out of place among the partying teens, most of whom were older (and cooler), I wandered outside and killed time by walking around the block. On the way I met three girls. “Who are you?” they said. “Sheldon Goldfarb,” I said, and felt dorky immediately. They laughed and hurried away.
Eventually I made it back to the party, where it seemed some people had been going upstairs for, I forget what: it may only have been spiked punch. Anyway, the result was that some of the kids, most notably Jason, were showing signs of inebriation.
“Take care of Jason,” said my host, the cool sportscar driver, and I wondered a bit because I had never seen anyone drunk before and didn’t realize that was the problem. “Pineapple, Pineapple,” said Jason.
I stayed with him, waiting beside the red sports car.
Eventually, our host returned with Howard and a girl, who apparently was of interest to Jason. Or maybe she’d been waiting with us. In any case, we all piled into the sports car. I got the front seat next to our host; the others crammed into the back.
Jason, it seemed clear, was trying to impress the girl despite his drunkenness. It may even have been working. But then he caught sight of me in front of him.
“There’s Pineapple,” he said.
“What?” said the girl.
“There’s Pineapple in the front seat,” he said.
“There’s no pineapple in the front seat.”
“Yes, there is. It’s Pineapple.”
Now I could have helped him out by turning around and saying, “That’s the nickname he’s given me.” But I didn’t. I let him make a fool of himself in front of the girl. Passive revenge, as I said. Like being safely on the dry porch while the foolish campers drenched themselves.
Is this a sin? Should I confess? Well, perhaps I have.