The teacher chaperoning us was livid. I had never been in any of his classes, and we’d in fact had limited interaction over the years, so when he snarled at me, “It’s about time someone took you down a peg or two,” I was shocked. Not shocked enough to wipe that smirk off my face but definitely surprised.
Here was a teacher who, believe it or not, didn’t like me.
I was not beloved by all.
And the way he said it made me realize that there were possibly others who likewise thought I was too big for my britches. But, come on, I was first clarinet.
Even though my punishment was to spend afternoons sweeping the school’s student smoking lobby – an area known as the Mud Room – I didn’t feel much remorse. I was a teenager, and it was my mission to try to get away with as much jerky behaviour as possible. And that teacher? Well, he just wasn’t cool.
A few years later, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off became a generational celebration of bucking the system, a system that had the audacity to try to educate us. Ferris and all he got away with – that was living the dream. And what instrument did Ferris play? The clarinet! Exactly.
And Principal Rooney? Oh, that patsy, that square, that Wile E. Coyote in a cheap, blue suit. I bet he busted kids for water balloons all day long.
All very well and good, as a Rooney might say, but now I work at a high school, and I recently spent far too much energy trying to bust a kid I felt sure was trying to pull a fast one. That’s right, I said “pull a fast one.”
Did it really matter that the boy, who we’ll call “Fueller,” appeared to have taken advantage of a change in routine to skip a mandatory lunch? Did I later need to trot across campus so I could catch him – “A-HA!” – coming out of his last class, only to learn that (the plot thickens) he hadn’t show up? Did I have to go sneaking around the gym looking (to no avail) for Fueller after school?
Of course I did! The kid was up to no good! I just knew it!
Did I think about this through the weekend? I did. “Don’t forget to grab him at morning assembly,” I told myself. Was he at morning assembly? He wasn’t.
Did I rat him out for not showing up at morning assembly? Darn straight I did! This was getting big. A pattern was emerging, a blatant disregard for rules, a slippery slope.
After further skulking, I finally found Fueller. He saw me coming and whipped out a signed note from the health centre, stating that he had been there last Friday from 12:30 to 4:30.
Did I let it go? Of course not. I contacted the nurse. She couldn’t confirm when Fueller arrived because she had been away, but he was definitely there from 2:30 to 4:30.
Ahhhh, don’t you see? Fueller could easily have turned a “2:30” into a “12:30.” See? See? Are we really going to let him get away with this?
That’s when I realized the truth: the hero of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is Principal Rooney.
A tragic hero, really, brought low by his obsession for an entitled, chronic truant. Ferris is a rebel, sure, but is he breaking the rules for the good of mankind, to fight for the downtrodden, for love? No, he breaks the rules to do all the things he could easily do on the weekend. And what kind of parade happens on a school day anyway?
Ferris is a jerk, not to mention a bit of a bully (poor Cameron…). Ferris grows up to be the guy who drives up the shoulder in stalled traffic and noses into the lane at the merge. He’s the guy who says, “Absolutely I’ll call you…” He’s the guy who eats a co-worker’s yogurt from the staff room fridge.
Rooney’s noble quest, for the good of society, is to keep little Ferris Buellers from turning into big Ferris Buellers.
Where would I be today if some cliché-spouting teacher hadn’t taken me down a peg or two? No doubt I would still be throwing actual balloons out of third-story windows instead of these metaphorical balloons I lob today.
God bless you, Principal Rooney. And I’ll get you next time, Fueller!