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Memories and Musings: A note-passing parade

by Gene Gallelli

Note-passing in today’s busy electronic and automated classrooms is just not as much fun as it was in bygone, chalkboard days. Oh sure, it takes dexterity and knowledge of the miniscule cellphone keyboard to ask the pretty blonde in the first row for a movie date; but, heck, anyone can do that.

Back in the 50s, note passing was an honored rite-of-passage for the fearless few who dared to risk principal’s-office exile for a history test answer or a date with a cute cheerleader.

The deception skills began in fifth or sixth grade with Note Taking 101, usually taught by class sweetheart, Mary, or future bathroom smoker, Dominic. You had to be a preordained cheerleader or athlete to be in Mary’s class, or doomed to matriculate in Dominic’s. The former’s perfectly-folded prose were often illustrated and scented, while the latter’s were punctuation and spelling nightmares. (Dominic wrote “hat” for hate, “fiend” for friend, and “lov” for loathe, often causing obvious and serious miscommunications that resulted in brawls during recess or after school.)

Note Taking 202 in junior high school was considered boring: Mary’s friends did become the expected cheerleaders and athletes, perfecting the basic note-passing skills, while Dominic’s followers continued to misspell friend, hate, and loathe, and giving black eyes to their listed enemies.

High school, however, is where Note Taking 303 allowed the favored few to achieve stardom and the recognition they deserved. While appearing to pay attention in class, Mary and her apprentices would wait until the teacher turned to write on the board, then tap the person in front the required number of times — taps were allocated based on note content — then execute a left- or right-handed pass until the message reached the intended recipient. Dominic, on the other hand, would wrap his messages and a marble into a sheet of note book paper and throw it at your head.

Other note-passing variations like the Book Drop, Aisle Slide, and Bathroom Exchange were innovative additions to the basic techniques. Unfortunately, when applying the Bathroom Exchange, Dominic would scratch his notes directly on the bathroom stall with a jack knife. He was usually caught because of his spelling.

Note passing in today’s classrooms only requires having a cellphone and a memorized list of phone numbers. Back-in-the-day, it required slight-of-hand, true timing, and fairy-like finesse.

Of course for a few, it only required a jack knife and a bag of marbles.

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