You’re sitting in class, minding your own business, watching the teacher meticulously write the next algebra equation on the blackboard and feeling pretty good about yourself. That is, until you feel the sharp sting against the back of your neck. Is it an insect bite or have you been shot in the neck by a primitive Amazon warrior’s blowgun? You reach behind your head and feel wetness – but it isn’t blood. Rather it is a sample of one of your classmate’s saliva. You’ve just been pelted by a spitball (or spitwad, if you prefer.)
The weaponry and ammo were easily acquired. Any school cafeteria is well equipped with enough of an arsenal to supply a small army. All you needed was a simple drinking straw, such as the type served with one of those little cartons of milk. The paper wrapper served as your ammo. Should you run short, any piece of paper would do (and there is never a shortage of paper at school.) You merely tore the paper into small pieces, put them in your mouth and formed a spit-soaked ball. You inserted the ball into the end of straw, taking extra care that each pellet was small enough (so as to not clog things up,) and took aim.
Hmm … perhaps that bookworm in the front row, the one that always wished the teacher a cheerful good morning could use a little wake-up call. Or, perhaps your best chum (the one who just so happens to be sweet-talking the girl whom you intend to marry,) needs to be brought down a couple of notches in social status. Whoever your prey happened to be, a little ingenuity and a quick hand ensured that your stealth-like onslaught was virtually undetectable.
Of course, like so many other fun activities, spitballs are now heavily frowned upon in school. All it took was for one kid to actually get his eye shot out (yes, really) and fun time was over for everyone (The injury occurred due to the fact that a kid decided to substitute the foil wrapper from a stick of gum, creating a ball that, it turns out, actually could hurt someone.) Legal action ensued and now a spitball is a suspendable offense in most schools.
But in simpler times, it wasn’t uncommon to have a virtual snowstorm of little spit-laden projectiles zooming in every direction of the classroom, cafeteria or school bus. It was just one of those rights of passage where you started out a victim, then became wise enough to remember to save your straw at lunch the next day.
Now, while we are sure that you were all perfect angels in elementary school, perhaps you have an account of someone else shooting spitballs that might be worth sharing in our comments section? Or, maybe you were the victim of these menacing little wads. Tell us all about it as we remember this childhood tradition of yesteryear, here at Retroland.