My first great social intervention would be carried out on the playground in Wales. The playground was always a very fun place for all of us. I don’t think anyone dislikes the playground. From the swings to the monkey bars, this was the place to be at recess. Everyone seemed to get along. There was always someone or something to play. Then, suddenly, one day, without warning, everything changed unexpectedly.
Sure there were signs. I had noticed that for a few weeks the same group of kids was using the sandbox area. But I didn’t think much of it. Then, a few red flags began popping up each day. For one thing, I noticed the language got more and more aggressive in the sandbox. “I’m using this!” I would hear, and “Get out of here!” I also noticed one kid yelling at another. Still, I didn’t think much of it.
That was all until the verbal aggression turned into physical pushing and shoving. One day, I observed this group of kids that had been lingering in the sandbox begin to get not only loud and obnoxious but physically aggressive with other kids who were interested in using the sandbox area too. That was the moment I began hearing the word: “stingie” being used. “This box belongs to “the stingies” was the next thing I began hearing from one of the bigger kids. “What’s this about?,” I asked another student at recess. We were both looking at the sandbox and close enough to hear and see them pushing and shoving other kids out of the sandpit, justifying their right to do so with simple repetition of the word stingy: “stingies!” Then it all clicked. They were naming themselves, their new faction on the playground. Still very much interested in what was happening and now interested in who this new group was, or proclaimed to be, I approached the sandbox. Not quite close enough to get into pushing range with one of these so-called stingies, I moved close enough to listen to them talking to each othe, and the rest of the kids outside at recess in the sandpit area.
It seemed as if every student who approached the sandpit was asked to either turn around and leave the area or face pushing, shoving, and other physically violent acts from one of these stingies. At first, I was honestly taken aback. You have to understand that I had never seen anything like this before. These behaviors were totally new. This level of aggression had never been displayed before at school or on the playground. “Wow!,” I thought they were taking over.
Inasmuch as I loved power, even back then, I found this behavior disturbing. I didn’t like to cede power or watch another person climb above me socially if I could help it. So I did what any person would do when faced with a potential group of cocky Wales sophomores interested in occupying the sandpit. I determined to raise an army of like-minded people and thwart their bold move on the playground with an even bigger social intervention.
And that is exactly what I did. Every day, I began to rally an army of students, who would be called antistingies. Our goal was simply to retake the playground at whatever the cost: “We must stop at nothing to take back what belongs to everyone!,” I told them. At first, getting new recruits took place in secret and far away from the stingies. I didn’t want them to see me mobilize. This would be done in total secrecy until the day of the great playground insurrection at Wales.
Our numbers grew by the week. From one or two to five or six kids to ultimately two dozen sophomore and freshman middle schoolers. Every day my number two would ask me, “Ready? General?” He was asking point blank if we were ready to attack the stingies on the sand turf and reclaim Wales playground once and for all. Every day, he would ask me, “Ready?,” and I would reply with a resounding, “NO! NOT YET!,” mainly out of concern for what I was about to get myself into but also out of fear of losing.
Then, one fine day, when the playground was ripe for change, my number two asked me one last time: “Ready, General?,” and I looked at him without hesitation, throwing my arm in the air, thereby signaling the biggest charge on a playfield for some time. “Attack!,” I screamed as loud as I could so everyone, including those just eating their lunch outside, could hear the commotion and feel our energy, as we began sprinting toward the play area.
I have to hand it to my great army of playground kids. They truly gave it their all when the time finally came to face the stingies head on, even when it came to hand to hand combat in the sandpit. POW! “Counter-Attack, Stingies!” Don’t get me wrong, the antistingies held their ground for the first few minutes of the offensive, mainly because it was a surprise. And when the surprise element was over, it didn’t seem to matter how many more of us there were than the stingiess or how far outnumbered they were. In the end, it was the sheer size and strength of the stingies that overtook the sheer volume and numbers we had behind us.
I watched my people get beaten up. That’s the irony of all this. As bad as the stingy occupation was, there was never any bloodshed during their short-lived occupation. Sure, it wasn’t peaceful; they were annoying and extremely aggressive, but there were no broken bones as a result of their behavior. On the other hand, my people were so badly beaten that some of them had, in fact, incurred serious injuries, including a broken bone or two, from the beatings they took from the stingies.
As for me, I was unharmed. I watched the entire battl, all half-hour of it, from a safe distance from the sandpit. And when the entire affair was over and broken up by the recess aides and all the aggressors were hauled into guidance, I was only mentioned on paper and nothing could be proven otherwise. Not erven by Counselor Roy, who had now totally lost control of the behavior of the class. I was left, a quasileader, poised for more.