by Arna Delle-Vergini
Bloody Mondays is a three-part series describing how our regular blogger, Arna Delle-Vergini, came to be a lawyer. Come with Arna on this journey; unpacking some of the experiences and events that led her to choose a career in the Law over any other.
It was summertime, 1979. I was eight years of age. Somehow my brothers and I had got our hands on a vinyl – Boomtown Rats “Tell me why I don’t like Mondays”. We probably got it for Christmas. My brothers were older than me so it no doubt belonged to them, though I felt a certain ownership over it. It was me that played it every day that summer. It was me who memorised all of the words.
Was it they who told me what the song was actually about? It was the sort of thing they would gleefully do. Then they would get into terrific trouble because I was fearful and sensitive and I never missed an opportunity to tell my mother if I felt gravely abused by them. I imagine it happening this way: them telling me that the song was really about a young girl who shot at a crowd of children and me running to my mother in tears because “the boys are trying to scare me again!”
But of course I cannot remember how I found out. I just remember being fascinated by the song, and about the story behind it for that entire summer.
To me, by far the most fascinating aspect of the song was how no-one could possibly have known that this girl was going to shoot the whole day down. Not even her father! Probably not even herself! Was it truly possible? Could a silicone chip inside one’s head just switch to overload, just like that? With no prior warning? With no provocation even?
I decided to test it out myself.
We lived in the same street as our school, about half a dozen houses away from the back entrance. While this was not really quite “living right across the road” from a school, I reasoned that the situations were similar enough for me to put my silicone chip to the test.
My methodology was simple – I would put on the ’45 roughly at the time children were walking to school. Then I would climb up onto the couch, part the curtains, and I would stare out of the window at the passing children intently. The curtains could only be parted slightly because I wanted to be able to see them but I certainly did not want them noticing me. It was quite a covert operation and I was proud of myself at the time for coming up with it.
I remember one morning only. There could have been more but I doubt it. Like most experiments, the actual experience of it was a little tedious. This was is in the days of vinyl and, if you wanted to listen to a song more than once, you had to crouch down by the stereo, lift the arm of the needle and take it back to the start yourself. This meant that just as I was getting into the swing of the experiment I would have to stop, hop off the couch, re-start the song, hop back on the couch again, and ensure the exact amount of curtain parting before I could start the experiment again. Fortunately, I was a determined child once I had set my mind to something. And I had certainly set my mind to this.
The first child – a boy – walked by. I couldn’t immediately find anything to fault him but I tried very hard and then noticed – unforgiveable – that he had pigeon-toes. “HOW ANNOYING!!!” I screamed inwardly. The next child – a boy again – HUGE PROBLEM!!! His pants were way too baggy. Next there was a girl wearing glasses. FOUR EYES! And another kid had an old, tatty bag. TATTY!!!! Goodness knows what words I used back then but I certainly somehow managed to find a fault with every single child passing by my window that day. Every one.
My silicone chip did not switch to overload. It lay dormant and bored stiff and, before too long, I tired of the experiment and went to school myself. As I was walking to school that day I had to wonder if my neighbours were sitting by their windows with their guns looking at me and thinking -“nobody’s gonna go to school today.”
I didn’t solve the mystery of what makes a person want to shoot a whole day down. But I didn’t stop looking for answers for a long time though either. Sure, Bob had said that “We can see no reasons because there are no reasons. What reasons do we need to be shown?” But as a child I felt that there had to be a reason.
A world where random, inexplicable and unexpected events could happen was not a world that I could belong to emotionally at that time. I needed to believe that there were answers. And I did believe that there were answers, even if those answers weren’t available to me. Adults were always saying: “you will understand when you get older” – and I was content with that – at least for one more year of my life. That all changed when I was nine though. Everything changed when I was nine.
On Monday, January 29, 1979 Brenda Ann Spencer, a 16 year old girl, picked up a .22 calibre rifle and shot randomly at children waiting at the gate at their school in San Diego, California. She killed the Principal of the school and another custodian. She wounded eight children and also a police officer who attended the scene. When asked why she had committed the massacre she shrugged her shoulders and said “I don’t like Mondays.” Which, of course, made no sense at all…
Image from: Crime Magazine: Brenda Ann Spencer