It brought up quite a few memories of some high school days as well. When I was a freshman or a sophomore in the mid-80s, I remember two upperclassmen groups bringing toy guns to school. Toy armalites, toy Uzis, toy grenades, stuff like that. I don't think they were even pellet guns; they'd make these cheesy-sounding rat-a-tat-a-tat sounds. The even cheesier ones would make laser gun-like sound effects. Come recess or lunch hour or immediately after the last bell had rung, and bang! Guns were drawn and woe to those who were caught in the crossfire. Bearing firearms that made videogame-like sound effects, these two groups of teenage boys and girls sneaked along the stairwells, barged into toilets, and tiptoed around corners to take down the greatest number of casualties that they could.
It seemed like everybody else joined in by not joining in. That is, any non-armed person was fair game, to be brought down as casualties. So the rest of us, once we realized the game was afoot, would lurk behind doors and corners to avoid being "shot." Remember, there was no ammo; the only sounds of gunfire we'd hear were the toy guns' sound effects. And if the guns weren't battery-operated, we'd hear the shooter shout something like "Bang!" or "Boom!" to indicate they had pulled the trigger. Once in a while they'd "shoot" a teacher, who would gamely clutch his or her chest and emit a dying groan. Such fun!
One of my girlfriends had a big crush on a certain shooter. One day, we had just finished our snack when we saw people running past us, screaming in a giggly sort of way. Woo hoo, game time! We snuck under the table, waiting for the shooter to go by. A few seconds later, we spied a pair of feet in tasseled leather shoes amble past us. "Oh, my God!" my friend whispered. "It's X!" (X being her crush.) She started to scramble out from under the table. "What are you doing?" I hissed. "He'll see you!"
The silly fool shrugged my hand off and actually giggled. I didn't really see her do it, but knowing her, I bet she smoothed back her hair and the skirt of her school uniform before taking a few loud steps ostensibly to go somewhere. Sure enough, a second later I heard a male voice shout "bang!" before seeing my friend sink gracefully to the floor like a falling leaf in autumn, an idiotic smile on her face. She died with that rapturous expression almost every day for the next two weeks. I don't know about you, but if someone had just shot me to death, you can bet your ass I wouldn't be grinning as if I had just won the lottery.
These memories make me smile a bittersweet smile. About 20 years ago, no one batted an eyelash at high school kids bringing toy guns to school, holding make-believe shoot-outs (at least here in my country). Heck, even some of the teachers shared in the fun. Innocent fun that brought gales of laughter. Innocent games (with weapons that stood for violence notwithstanding) where the casualties would get up a few seconds after being shot to resume their business or to advise shooters on strategy. But most of all, there was the feeling of fun, of camaraderie, during and after each game.
Kids can't play this game anymore these days -- at least not in their schools, because of real-life school tragedies that we've all heard about. Appalling tragedies. Kids shooting other kids for real...it boggles the mind. Sure, there are other games to play, other games perhaps waiting to be discovered. But the loss of innocence, the narrowing of its parameters, the fact that make-believe now has limitations, is saddening somehow. What the hell went wrong?