Posted by: Andrew | April 4, 2010

day ninety-three: the best friday ever

Stoplights are helpful, necessary and mean.

The latter description is probably only applied by myself and other Jacksonville Middle School classmates whose lunches were governed by the all-powerful stoplight.  For some reason, the administration felt our lunches needed to be run with an iron fist by a coach who was the lunchroom boss.  Were Junior High cafeterias supposed to be breeding grounds for youthful rebellions?  Actually, yes.

You didn’t get to sit with your friends; you had to sit at the lunch tables in the order you came out of the various lunch lines.  It was a fine art to time your exit with your friend’s from a different line in order to sit together.  Lunches always started off with the stoplight showing green which meant that the volume was at an acceptable level.  If the coach switched it to yellow, that meant it was getting loud and we needed to be a little more quiet.  If the stoplight reached the dreaded red, that meant we had not been mindful of our warnings and we couldn’t talk for the rest of lunch.

On the Friday before Spring Break of my 8th grade year, things got a little out of control.  Being on the verge of a week-long vacation, students were already a little rowdy.  Our volume quickly moved us past the green and yellow warnings to the silent red.  The coach got on the microphone to let us know that the stoplight was red and that there was to be no talking for the remainder of lunch.  Everyone kept talking.  The coach got back on the microphone to tell us that since we were not following orders, we would have one day of no talking when we returned after Spring Break.  Everyone kept talking.  The coach returned to the microphone to tell us that due to our flagrant disobedience, there would be one week of no talking when we returned.

This is where the story takes a glorious turn.  In the immediate silence of our new punishment, some brave, inspirational student made a single clap.  I’m not sure whether it was because it was an unthinkable thing to do, but that single clap sounded louder than any yellow stoplight lunch.  The echoes of that lone clap were quickly followed by the wonderful phenomenon known as the “slow clap.”  Both joyous to the clappers and humiliating to the recipient, the slow clap packs a mean punch.  It wasn’t long before the coach angrily informed us that there would be two weeks of no talking now.  The slow clap grew to proper applause.  The coach yelled into the microphone that we had three weeks of no talking now!  By this point, there were “whoos!” and “yeahs!” coming from the cafeteria full of newly courageous middle schoolers.  The coach, just as stunned as we were, put the microphone down in defeat and left the cafeteria.  The rest of lunch was spent recalling the details of the unheard of uprising as we ate our food that tasted just a little bit sweeter.

Of course when we returned to school two Mondays later, we had every coach and school officer in the cafeteria ensuring a full lockdown.  It didn’t matter though.  We would always remember that one glorious Friday.

DAY NINETY-THREE isn’t the coach that got schooled.  I couldn’t find him – though it isn’t for lack of searching!  DAY NINETY-THREE is the only coach that seems to have not moved since I graduated.  After a year of high school basketball, I had to complete one more semester of physical education.  I decided to take the general P.E. class because DAY NINETY-THREE agreed to let me use his office in the field house to study during class.  Geeky.  I know.  Bottom line though is that DAY NINETY-THREE was cool and definitely not someone who would have wielded the stoplight power in a way that incited a riot.



  1. I didn’t realize the stoplight was all over… In Indiana (in we’ll say the late 80s) we had the stop light too… Elementry school only. Our school the grouchy librarian was the lunch monitor and she RARELY let it get into the red… lol, but when it did… we missed our after lunch recess. (more immediate consequences…) We were as quiet as we were in the library most days.

  2. The cafeteria stoplight – Was there ever a more perfect MSM topic?!

  3. @Lizz: who knew the stoplight was so widespread??
    @MSM: it provided tons of material!

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