I started smoking cigarettes when I was sixteen. (I quit in 1992.) A bunch of us kids, and kids we were, would sneak a smoke in school. There was one bathroom that we favored because it was along the route between two classes and was out of the way of most other classrooms and therefore out of the way of most teachers. We would slip in quickly and someone would light up a smoke and then pass it around the circle. You’d get two or three puffs off it and the in the toilet it would go. Out came the breath mints and spray as you hurried to your next class to beat the bell.
One day I slipped into the bathroom and there was at least five other guys in there. Right behind me came three or four more. The place was packed and there were at least three or four smokes going all at once, maybe more. Just as we were finishing up, the door opens and in walks the vice principle. Now we considered our vice principle with what was a mix of awe, hatred and fear. He was a short guy who had acquired the nickname of “Stubby” by most of us and of course this name was never used to his face. I remember on my first day of high school as I was walking down the hallway past the principles office, Stubby comes out and points a finger at me. “You,” he says. And as I looked his way he motions toward himself. “Come here.” I walked over and stood looking down at him, myself only being five foot nine. “Is your name Armstrong?” he asked, knowing full well the answer to his own question.
“Yes,” I answered.
“Do you have a brother named Steve?” (Not my brothers real name.)
“Yes,” I answered again.
“Well,” he said with a grin. “I guess I’m going to have some with you, aren’t I?”
Thank you Steve, for your legacy.
As Stubby opened the bathroom door, a massive cloud of cigarette smoke rolled out at him. He stood holding the door open as we watched the smoke hit him in the face. The earth stood still, time ceased to exist. He stared at us. We stared at him. We stayed like that for what seemed like a long time. Back in those days you got detention for smoking. After school. A lot of extra work for the vice principle. After what seemed like an eternity Stubby turned and walked out of the bathroom. Not a word was spoken. None of us said anything to each other. We were so shocked by what just happened that we had no idea what to think. The cigarettes went in the toilet and we went to our classes. None of us got into any trouble. To this day, I still don’t know what went through his mind. Stubby continued to be relentless at catching us doing stuff as we continued to be relentless at doing stuff for him to catch us at. We all whispered about it later but none of us knew what happened. I guess it was just too much for him to deal with all at once. It was our only victory over him that I remember but a great one at the time.