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Gail Earl finished high school under the most trying of circumstances – she was a new student in Santa Monica for her senior year. Anxious and shy, she tried to fit in by not calling attention to herself – until one day. Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles from a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center. Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. Curated by Carol Kearns
My family had just moved to Santa Monica, Calif., from Michigan in 1968, and I had one year of high school left. We loved living right on the beach and spent many hours riding the surf and enjoying the beautiful weather.
I remember the anxiety of starting at a new school filled with strangers. I didn’t know a soul and didn’t really go out of my way to initiate any friendships.
My boyfriend (who is now my husband) had moved out here with my family, so I had no desire to meet new people. He and I were in our own little world. I believe that I tried to be invisible at school because I never did anything to draw attention to myself.
Of course, “being cool” is also important at the age of seventeen, and I always believed that I was cool, but none of these new people knew that yet. There is a fine line between “being cool” and being invisible. As a new girl at school, I tried not to stand out – until one day.
While I was standing in the hall, waiting for a class to end, I put my finger into a little hole in the locker that I was leaning against. I’m not really sure what that hole was for, but some lockers had it punched out, and some did not. So as all of the students gathered in the hall and talked to their friends, I amused myself by hanging my finger in this little hole.
When the classroom door finally opened and students emerged, I moved to enter along with my classmates, but discovered that my finger was stuck. Not a little stuck, but really stuck. My finger was definitely not coming out.
This is not a good thing for an invisible girl!
The teacher came out and tried to help, but had no luck. He called for the janitor who greased-up my hand, and also had no success.
Well, you can imagine – a crowd gathered and everyone watched as I stood there, humiliated. Students laughed and gathered their friends to come and see the girl with her finger stuck inside a locker.
After what seemed like forever, the staff (two security people and a janitor) decided that the only solution was to take the locker off the wall and go to the Nurse’s Office to work on my finger some more.
Of course, one locker would have been too simple. This locker was attached to a row of six lockers. So, off the wall they came, and I had to walk through the History building and down through the center quad where all the students gather and socialize.
Believe me, heads turned when they saw a row of lockers being carried carefully, so as to not injure an already swollen and red finger.
Once in the Nurse’s Office, they iced my hand on the outside of the locker and my finger on the inside of the locker. Eventually they were able to free my finger.
So much for being invisible! From that day on, I’m afraid that everyone in school knew just how “cool” I really was!
Published: June 12, 2014 – Volume 13 – Issue 09