When I was in high school,
my teacher caught me texting in class and demanded that I hand over my cell phone. If I complied, the only way I could get it back was if my mom or dad came after school to pick it up for me. This was my high school’s anti-texting policy back in the mid-2000s.
I refused to allow the teacher to confiscate my cell phone. So he “wrote me up”, submitting a disciplinary referral documenting my transgressions to the school administrators.
A few days later I was sitting in class and suddenly heard the sound of static crackling from above. The intercom speaker that was lodged in the ceiling sprang to life.
“Brock Robinson to the vice principal’s office please,” the machine croaked.
I was sentenced to 3 days of In-School Suspension for refusal to hand over my cell phone.
In-School Suspension was a punishment where from 8AM to 3PM, the misbehaved student was to spend the entire school day sitting in a black wooden cubicle, completing “busy-work” that was assigned by the teacher.
If high school was a prison, In-School Suspension was the solitary confinement.
The isolated nature of In-School Suspension caused both teacher and student alike to refer to this punishment as, The Box.
Walking the halls of my high school, threats could be heard from teachers to poorly behaved students. Do you want to spend all next week in The Box? You better do as I say!
My first day in The Box,
I showed up to the designated room number, but instead of finding desks, I saw a classroom lined with cubicles across 2 sides of the wall. Students sat facing forward so that they couldn’t interact with anyone else nearby.
At the front of the room was a desk where various P.E. coaches would rotate shifts and supervise us throughout the day, barking out commands anytime a student would turn their head around without permission.
You! Red shirt! Turn back around.
Hey! Black shirt! No sleeping – Get your head off the desk and do your work!
The coach showed me to my box and I took my seat. I read the various obscenities carved into the wooden desk.
“Call 882-3932 for a bj”
“Mrs. Jackson sucked my dick in this box”
I tried to think of something to add. I had plenty of time to kill.
I didn’t think The Box would be so bad at first. But in less than an hour, the extreme boredom started setting in. We were under constant supervision so playing on my cell phone or sleeping was impossible. The only thing to pass the time was the busy-work provided by the teacher.
When we were students, we used to complain that high school wasn’t preparing us for the real world.
When am I ever going to need to know the quadratic formula in real life? Why do I need to know geometry? Or chemistry? We’re never going to actually use this shit.
Those were the grievances often heard from my fellow high school students. And they had a point. A lot of what we learned in high school was never used in the real world.
But if there was one thing about high school that prepared us for adulting more than anything else – it was The Box.
The Box provided me with a glimpse into what it looks like to be a “productive member of society”.
You see, if you do everything right in life, get good grades, get a good degree, and get a good job, you end up back in The Box.
I am no longer the rebellious adolescent who sends text messages under the desk hoping the teacher doesn’t see. I don’t talk back to authority anymore. I obey my orders. People say that’s because I’ve grown up. I’ve matured.
And now I spend my days back in The Box, doing busy-work for my superiors.
It’s funny how when we reach adulthood, The Box stops being a punishment to avoid.
It becomes the reward we actually go and seek out.
The Box is my life. For now.