No matter how the message was delivered, it had another significant effect. Where before a young perpetrator had been slouching, there was an instant correction in posture when the fire fell. Like that, he or she would shoot up, spine ramrod straight, tears streaming from eyes that burned. To nearby congregants, it looked like you’d gotten religion, that conviction had fallen. At least, that’s how my brother tells it.
It was strategic, of course, putting the youth up there. With the preacher in front and the parents behind, it was the church version of the “cruiser sandwich.” This, after all, was God’s house, and one already felt more keenly the presence of the Eye in the Sky. That, along with the two in the pulpit and the four watching assiduously in the back.
As a youth enjoying the freedom of those front rows, out of reach of parental fingers, your thighs and shoulders were safe, but there was Something Even Worse. And that was Being Retrieved. On the scale of Most Humiliating Punishments Imaginable, this was number one.
It could happen several ways. First, your mother could pass you a note, which everyone would see. Second, your dad could arise from his seat, come up there and march you back, executioner like, before God and all those witnesses. Lastly, you could make the mistake of turning around in the middle of all your giggling, whispering and general mayhem with your girlfriends and make eye contact with your mother. Who would crook a finger in the universal sign language for, “You. Come. Here.” Which is just what happened to someone I know and love.
To this day, whenever the story is told, there is a great deal of hooting and hollering over what happened next. With her signature dramatic flair, that young girl put on an Oscar-worthy performance replete with facial expressions and hand gestures, using her own universal sign language for, “Huh? What? I don’t know what you mean.”
I wonder if this would work with the men in blue. I wonder if I’d be convincing. I wonder if Mr. Schrock would bail me out if it’s not.