By Stewart Dobson
It could be that cooties experienced some kind of unreported mass extinction since my days in school, but in those days, one of the worst things that could be said about you, generally via a whisper campaign, was that you had cooties.
I never knew exactly what a cootie was, or where they came from, but was fairly sure that they had to live in cootie colonies, since no evidence was ever presented or even suggested that a person could have just one.
It was always, “So-and-So has cooties,” which was enough to scar Soand So for life, or at the very least severely reduce So-and-So’s chances of being invited to many sleepovers.
Curiously, in those early grades, Billy Bob could walk into class and announce, “Hey, I’ve got ringworm!” and earn a response from the other lads, “Cool! Let’s see.”
But were Billy Bob to announce that he had cooties, the classroom would part like the Red Sea before Moses lest one of his little companions somehow take up residence on some innocent bystander.
Cooties were, after all, the bullying thing to do for a few grades, simply because their presence had only to be implied rather than proven. Since no one had ever actually seen a cootie, there also was no way to prove that you didn’t have them. For all we knew, you might just be spilling over with the little blighters, all of them determined to ruin our lives forever.
Today, I suspect that cooties as a bullying tool wouldn’t work. A good amount of bullying, they say, occurs via social media such as Facebook, which is a forum for telling people things they wouldn’t otherwise listen to if you said it in person.
If, for instance, someone were to say via Facebook that another person has cooties, one of two things could happen. 1. Everyone on the planet would know who the accuser was, thus causing that person to risk becoming a cootie carrier him or herself in the eyes of a fickle public. 2. The Center for Disease Control would call for more information.
As it happened, we had our own ways of dealing with school bullies then that would be frowned on in today’s society, including, 1. honing your running skills or, 2. picking up a board and saying, “Oh yeah?”
And, of course, if all else failed, you just never knew where cooties might show up next.