How to Get in Trouble in Preschool
THE REQUEST: Write about a time you got into trouble for something
Want to know the most trouble I have ever been in in my
life? Well it happened when I was five years old, and it happened in
preschool. And, um, I really should have apologized to my parents for
this one. Because this little incident actually cost them hundreds of
The look you get when you cost your parents money for the first time
I get into this story, I have to familiarize you with one of
my mom's favorite words first. This is a word that, as far as I can
tell, DOES NOT ACTUALLY EXIST IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE.
In fact, I don't believe it has ever existed anywhere except in
the head of my mom. It's entirely possible it's a word she just sort of
invented one day. But it's a word I DEFINITELY heard a lot
when I was a kid, because it usually applied to me.
That word, that you need to be familiar with for this story, is "nixnox."
See, told you it's not real
"nixnox", for those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, would be
defined by my mom as "a kid who is a bit of a handful." Or "a kid who
is a bit of troublemaker." Or, as my mom used to always say, "A kid who
just has that gleam in his eye. You know that gleam. That one that lets
you know that he's up to something."
And, well, I'm not
especially proud of this. But basically, when I was five years old,
when my mom said "nixnox", she generally meant me.
Me with my cousins in 1979. See if you can pick out the nixnox.
Me with my brother in 1978. See if you can pick out the nixnox. I'm not proud of the pants, but I am proud of the spirit
will probably surprise the people who knew me in middle
school and high school, when I was one of the quietest kids in the
school. But when I was five years old I was not quiet at all. I was a
NOTORIOUS nixnox. To the extent that my mom literally wrote this about
me, word for word, in my baby book.
is a happy-go-lucky, mellow child, and he is content to just sit in a
room with you and listen to you sing. Mario, on the other hand, he can
be a handful. Mario will challenge you."
That's right, mufugga. This one would challenge you.
yeah, even though "nixnox" isn't a real word, it's a word that
definitely applied to me when I was a kid. My mom used to say it about
me all the time. In fact, if you want to hear it used in context,
here you go. Here is an actual quote that once came out of the mouth of
my mother: "Mario, you little nixnox! Stop bathing the cat in the toilet! He doesn't like that!"
That sentence alone should give you a pretty good idea of what I was like as a five year old.
Although in my defense, we always did have a pretty clean cat
And with that, let's get back to the story of how I got in big trouble one day in preschool.
obviously, when I was five years old, I was a bit of a handful. In
fact, I know this will surprise the people who only knew me later in
life, and know how zen I am now, but I actually got detention
seven different times when I was in first grade. SEVEN DIFFERENT TIMES IN FIRST GRADE.
Try to beat THAT, you pansy little twenty-first century first
graders now, I bet you can't. But yeah, when I was little, I was a wee bit out
of control. I was a young wannabe comedian. I was mischievous.
I was super hyper just by being around other kids. And most
importantly, as my mom could have told you, I was a nixnox.
But my WORST offense at school came when I was five years old, and I was in preschool.
Because that was the year I popped our school's giant innertube.
A giant innertube (left), with friend
anyway, it's 1979 in this story, and my family is living in Spokane.
And at this point in my life (this is important to the story), my
family is poor. And I mean, DIRT poor. Between the years 1977 and 1981
my dad was a law school student at Gonzaga, so he didn't really have
any income. The majority of his day was either spent A) at school, B)
studying for school, or C) at the track. And that meant our only family
income for four years was from my mom, who worked maybe a couple of
hours a day part time at Safeway.
In other words, we
literally didn't have a cent to our name during the four years we lived
in Spokane. The only clothes I ever got during those four years in
Spokane were when my mom would take me down to Goodwill, and she'd pick
me out something acceptable from the discount bin. That was always my
school wardrobe. In fact, here's how poor I remember us being when I
was a kid. I remember that we couldn't even afford ornaments
for our Christmas tree. My mom and I literally made all the ornaments for our
Christmas tree out of pieces of old laundry detergent bottles. This was
the reality of my life back when I was a kid. I remember we were always
In fact, here's another memory I have of everyone
around me just being poor when I lived in Spokane. My best friend at school,
Mack? I remember that he and his family LITERALLY LIVED IN A SCHOOL BUS.
The Spokane Hilton, circa 1979. Very low rent.
with the knowledge that everyone I know in the world is underprivileged
and poor, let's get back to the whole innertube story.
it's 1979, and my family is dirt poor. And I'm this out of control
mischievous little five year old. And for whatever reason, one day at
preschool, I decide, "You know what
would be funny? What if I took a pin, and I started popping holes in
the giant innertube we always play with at recess? Wouldn't that be
funny if it just slowly deflated on everyone?"
Giant innertubes were a common thing on school playgrounds back in the
day. They were the big stretchy inner part of a tire, and if your
school was cool they would often have one that was like eight feet
wide, or more. These things could be HUGE. And at recess you could jump
around on it, like it was a trampoline. Or you could throw a tennis
ball against it, and watch the ball come flying back at you at weird
angles. They were ALWAYS the centerpiece of any playground I was ever
on in Spokane. And for whatever reason, yeah, when I was five, I
decided... you know what would be funny? What if I destroyed ours?
"Mario, on the other hand, he can be a handful. Mario will challenge you."-Gloria Lanza, 1976
And so anyway, yeah. I hang my head in shame over this one, but that's exactly what I did.
found a pin in our house one day, in my mom's sewing box, and I brought
it to school. And I just started poking holes in our big giant
innertube. Not a lot of them at first. I mean, I didn't want it to be
obvious. I just wanted to poke a few small ones each day, just to see
what would happen. You know, in the name of... uh... science. Yeah,
that's right, it was a science experiment. :)
And that's why I know it takes exactly four days to completely deflate a giant ten foot innertube.
"Wherever work is done, victory is attained."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
here's the thing about this story. I really didn't think I was going to
get caught. I mean, I had SPECIFICALLY poked only a few small holes
every day, just so no one would catch me. I had deliberately gone out of my way to only be very subtle. But I guess my preschool
teacher was Sherlock Fucking Holmes or whatever, because for some
reason, she figured out I was the culprit right away. And that's when she
called my parents up on the phone, and she told them what I had
done. And she mentioned what a destructive little nixnox I was. And
she pointed out that my parents were going to have to buy the school a new giant
And man, I'll tell you... even though I wasn't really capable
of feeling guilt at that age, as a kid who knew our family couldn't
afford things... I felt absolutely TERRIBLE about that.
I felt worse, of course, after
my mom spanked the shit out of my butt later that night. But I would have felt bad just over the money thing, too. I
The look you don't want to see when you're a five year old kid
That's the look that tells you... you shouldn't have challenged her
this is one of my most distinct memories of growing up in Spokane. And
of me just being an annoying little nixnox who got into trouble all the time.
fact, I can still picture in my head my dad rolling in this
big giant innertube that he had bought for the school as a replacement.
Although I have NO idea
where he found such a thing in 1979. In fact, thinking back on it now,
I have no idea where my dad found one of those things, HOW he found one of
those things, how he afforded it, how he managed to
transport it to my school. I don't remember ANY of that. I just
remember him rolling this big giant innertube into the front door
of my school. And him just glaring at me the entire way. And me feeling
about two feet tall. Just feeling absolutely terrible about the whole
thing. Vowing I was never going to do anything bad again in my
I was going to be a changed kid after this. I was going to reform and be good.
"Never again", said the defendant. "Never again."
still got detention seven times two years later, in first grade. So
it's not like I changed THAT much. But still, I'd like to think the
innertube incident made me a better person at least in some small way.
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