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How Slave Day Builds Character

Ken Arnold

Yale Avenue at 24th Street was the scene of a death-defying Slave Day event, as Shea Quinn and I caught high-speed air Starsky-and-Hutch-style in our Chevy station wagons, reveling in the universal feeling of invincibility and lack of judgment that only a senior in high school knows. Unfortunately, the temporary flight also confirmed Newton’s Third Law of Motion, that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction: in this case, the skull-versus-roof impact of one of the kids packed into the cargo area of the Quinn-mobile. Or was it Newton’s Second Law, an object in motion (skull) will remain in motion unless acted upon by an external and unbalanced force (inside of car roof)? I was awake in Phil Schmelzle’s Physics classes, but none of that seemed to matter much when--in the name of creating excitement for our masters by reenacting a TV chase scene from the “Streets of San Francisco”—another Harvard (or Yale) education was stunted by a brief concussion.

Slave Day was that curious Senior fundraising tribal rite passed down from year to year without repercussion or regret. Seniors were auctioned off to underclassmen, who owned them for a day of random silliness. Shea, Dave Hershey and I were a package deal, purchased by a consortium of seventh or eighth graders who had pooled their funds. I must admit that Shea and I looked particularly alluring in our miniskirts and wigs, as ordered up by our masters, although we were actually frightened when we picked up Dave at 7am. He had eerily morphed into his mom Pat.

Slave Day wasn’t all bad. One task gave me experience in suppressing fear. Early in the morning, our masters commanded us to walk into the Dunkin’ Donuts on the Camp Hill Bypass. I don’t remember who went first, but I do remember the visceral fear I felt as I sauntered through the parking lot in my high-heeled sandals, somewhat like the feeling striking your bowel on a long ski resort chair lift when winter diarrhea decides it wants to see the crystal blue sky. So, likewise, I tried to hold in the fear as I pulled open the heavy glass door.

I distinctly remember focusing on the back of a man parked at a stool at the counter. Somebody said something to alert him, and as he rotated his vinyl perch to face me, a half-eaten donut hidden in his great paw, I noted that he didn’t seem to miss too many meals. His bemused expression had a sort of rabid tinge, probably because of the “Angel Kreme” foaming from the corner of his mouth. He then started laughing, his belly vibrating like a giant flab piston. I held my hands up, and said the magic words dictated by my masters: “Does anybody want a date?”

My most vivid memory, however, is from the end of the day. That memory was the feeling of freedom. Not just freedom from fear, or freedom from worry about what other people think about you—but the freedom felt upon removing panty hose from hairy teen legs.

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