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I first heard about “Time Out” from a few of my city cousins. They were from an exotic land of concrete and steel, peopled with Rotarians and other creatures who lived in cul de sacs.
“When we do somethin’ we hadn’t oughtta’,” they explained, “Dad sends us to our room, or makes us sit on the bottom stair for a while.”
“Then what?” I asked, puzzled.
“That’s it.” They said. “Well, and we aren’t allowed to play Nintendo.”
But we didn’t have Time Out or Nintendo or stairs. Instead, we had “whoopins.”
My folks may not have been biblical scholars, but they knew Solomon’s counsel on the rod backwards and forwards. They believed that foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction driveth it far from him. And for them, the whoopins would ensure that their boys did not grow up to become mass murderers or successful producers of designer handbags.
Whoopins are not to be confused with “spankings.” Spankings are the kind of things that happen to puppies and kittens. Soft little swats, almost like love taps. Whoopins were loud, whole-body events that usually covered a bit of territory as those involved moved in a circular fashion.
A proper whoopin required a bit of call and response. The one administering the whoopin made inquiries in a sharp staccato fashion as he or she applied a belt or a switch (or, on one occasion, a rolled up Field and Stream magazine) to a subject’s posterior.
“Didn’t. I. Tell. You. Not. To. Set. Your. Brother’s. Hair. On. Fire?” The subject was expected to answer in the affirmative. “Yes sir” was the only acceptable response. “Then. Why. Are. His. Bangs. A. Pile. Of. Ash. On. The. Bathroom. Floor?”
At this stage of the process, the subject was required to provide a logical explanation for his disobedience. This is normally when he is reminded that “I don’t know” is not a valid defense.
Then comes the counting. “If. I’ve. Told. You. Once. I’ve. Told. You. A. Thousand. Times.” The key to an effective whoopin seemed to be punctuating every syllable with a blow.
It is at this point that the subject swears oaths and makes promises–
"Are. You. Gonna. Do. It. Again?"
"No. Sir. Never."
Though everyone involved believed recidivism likely.
These days most think such applications of catechetical violence harsh and ineffectual. But it seems to be that “Time Out” would have proved disastrous for us. If we’d had stairs, or a Nintendo, my brother’s head would likely be as slick as a peeled onion today.