It is alleged that Mark Twain’s novel Huckleberry Finn influenced a few generations of kids to be more mischievous than they otherwise would have been. I don’t know about that, but I do know that some of my friends in yeshiva came up with some pretty harebrained schemes all on their own.
I wrote about my basement movie-watching activities here (very ineloquently I might add, but don’t you dare say so or I’ll bash you). But there was more. A lot more, I should say.
There are a few sets of activities that simultaneously clamor for my attention whenever I think about the illicit things my friends and I did in yeshiva and because I have a hard time giving them each attention they usually sulk off before I can savor any one of them to its fullest. So I’ll try my best to do what I’ve tried to do until now in this blog; I’ll focus on one single event or series of events.
So, which one shall it be?
I think I’ll do a gorel ha’Gra and see what I come up with. Please bear with me while I climb out of my basement, go upstairs for a tanach (not the Artscroll version which I’ve heard a rosh yeshiva call “the green bible“, no I don’t chas v’shalom have that one in my home), do the gorel, come back and start reporting on the events that the Gra commands me to report on.
Alright, I’m back. The Gra paskened for me that I should tell y’all the story of how I went online (yeah, I’m that young) in two different yeshivos; one in 11th grade and the other in 12th grade.
Once there were Palm Pilots, now they are no more, but once they were and you could do a lot with them with a tiny bit of know-how.
There were also phone lines for the bochurim, mostly they were used by lonely bochurim calling home to be reminded that there is a normal life outside the daled amos shel halacha but late at night when one bochur or another who hadn’t heard his mother’s voice in too many days was up past his bedtime and had learned too much that day would finally snap, he would call the suicide prevention hotline and pretend to be a girl whose boyfriend had just broken up with her, they would string along the well-meaning volunteers who would eventually catch onto the fact that their goyishe legs were being pulled when they heard laughing in the background and they’d promptly hang up.
But there was another use for the phone lines; you could take those early Palm Pilots which had big fat phone jacks and loud fax-machine-sounding modems in them and go online.
I don’t know how it was done with the Palm Pilot with my friend when I was in 11th grade but in my next yeshiva I had a friend who had a full fledged laptop – breaking all kinds of rules of course – and his father an AOL account, which we used.
Now the way of it was this: there were two phone booths that were oblong brick rooms, my friend would sit inside the phone booth and check out the news from his favorite soccer team while I stood with the phone in the hallway outside the phone booth having a lengthy and lively one-sided conversation. We had tons of illicit fun that way and my friend kept good tabs on his soccer team*.
Later, after we had graduated to breaking into the yeshiva’s library, which had been decommissioned years earlier, for the wonderful book collection it contained, we discovered a phone line not far from the furthest window in the library which we could reach without too much difficulty through the window. We did have to find some specialized tools to open the phone box and reach the spare jack inside but that wasn’t too much trouble for resourceful yeshiva bochurim like us. The library was much more comfortable; now instead of talking to myself about my day and the local weather for 45 minutes while my poor friend checked the sports scores all alone, he got to check the sports scores while I breathed down his neck which is much more exciting.
There was another mehalech we found; in the olden days of cellphones, the fancier ones had infrared and in the olden days also, some laptops had infrared which means that you could – – with the tiniest bit of know-how connect the cellphone to the laptop, dial up AOL and presto! You’re online again. But this option was even slower than using the phone lines so we reserved it for the one kid who had a phone with infrared who thought he was so cool because we could go online with his phone, not knowing that while he was checking out the basketball and football scores, we already knew the soccer scores and we weren’t really nispoel from his coolness.
All this talk about soccer reminded me of another incident, it is off topic but I’ll square it up with the Gra later, you don’t worry about a thing and keep reading.
This friend of mine was a foreigner (obviously), but he wasn’t the only one. My yeshiva had a number of foreigners from England, Brazil, Iran, Israel, South Africa and New York, all of whom, minus the New Yorkers, were very into soccer (real football!), which, as you may know, means that they wanted to see the games, especially when the games where part of the World Cup, which, as you may know is contradictory to the yeshiva lifestyle. But as above, resourceful yeshiva bochurim will find a way, and we did. We would go to nearby bars and watch games when they were during the day but when there was a game between England and Brazil scheduled for 3:00 AM EST we had a problem on our hands which demanded a bold response.
We were up to the task though. One of the boys went into a local hotel dressed in a blue shirt that he hadn’t taken out since the zman had started and a backpack slung carelessly over one shoulder with the idea that he looked like a traveling salesman and with his sexy British accent had the clerk swooning over him so she never asked him for ID. We all joined him in the room shortly after his checking in and we started futzing around watching TV, until about two hours later when someone got the idea that we should make sure that ESPN worked; we check, it didn’t! The hotel didn’t have ESPN! What were we gonna do?
We called another hotel in the area and ascertained that they did have ESPN, we bullshited our way out of the hotel we were in, went over to the other one and settled in there.
To make an already long story shorter, after a real nail biting game Brazil won by one point.
When the television anchors in the olden, olden days used to say “it’s 5 o’clock, do you know where your children are?” they could have been talking about us and they could have been referring to 5:00 AM, and, while our parents didn’t have to worry too much about what were doing, it still wasn’t what they wanted us to be doing.