Nottingham’s Premier Cha-Mobile Enthusiast
Adam Mason was a child with a learning disability. He was taught that the world was a safe and indulgent place, by the girls who’d surround and protect him all playtime. He called himself Cha-Man, and not without reason: for the duration of his break periods, while I was doing handstands and staging daring worm rescues, Adam would say “cha” in a way that pleased him. As his pleasure grew, so too did the length of his chaaa. And as his pleasure and chaaaaaa grew, he would begin to run around, followed by all the girls in the year who weren’t making out with Jeremy Southgate.
The cha-mobile was born. A car for which cha was either the fuel, or the exhaust fumes. We simply didn’t know – all we knew was that Adam was running around the playground, shouting “chaaaaaaaaa”, and changing gears around corners.
This much is in the (stagnant, sorry) Law of the Playground. Adam Mason is the man I’ve always credited as the inspiration for the entire website. And, having found this photo, and thought a little bit more about it, I felt I should admit that I gave that utterly meaningless credit entirely out of guilt.
I wasn’t a benevolent observer, thinking “oho, this anecdote will serve me well from 1999-2008, in case E4.com need a soundbite”. When I wrote, on Law of the Playground, that he was tolerated by 200 other children, I should have said 198. As an irrational, passionate nine-year-old, I hated Adam. I hated the fact he wouldn’t say anything properly. I hated the effortless blanket approval he got from the girls. I felt that – for all my problems, and my inability to pull off a handstand that wasn’t against a wall – I was better than Adam, and deserved to be followed around the playground by a proportionately higher number of girls. Whether they were smelly or not.
Most of all, I hated the fact that in the end-of-year show, his “Mr Puniverse” sketch was more popularly received than “The B-Team”. The B-Team contained loads of proper jokes. We’d changed the names of the characters to Cannibal, Brace, Mr Coffee, and Gaymy. All Adam did for Mr Puniverse was get on stage – neither topless, nor oiled – and flex. The applause was incredible; Adam had stolen the show. We had stolen a dozen jokes from Blackadder, for nothing.
Once, I found a joke I thought was clever. It was presented as graffiti – “if you can’t read this, consult an optician”. Graffiti artists – quite a middle class bunch, they like a good chuckle. I thought this joke through a hundred times, worked out exactly why it was humourous. I realised that it was a joke that would only work in written form, and I realised I couldn’t really write it down and say “look, look at this joke I have wrote down”. So, I copied the graffiti format and defaced a school book with it. The very next day, I was firmly accused of writing it – the only evidence being “well, it’s just the kind of thing you’d say”. It felt obvious at the time, and I still think, that the teacher was calling me a cunt.
“This is the kind of thing a proper snotty cunt would write, and I honestly don’t think there are any other cunts in this school. And don’t try and say someone did it in a previous year – I’ve been at this school for twenty-three years, and you’re the first real cunt we’ve ever had. This is a dark day for Coppice Farm.”
So, I hated Adam. And I found someone else – another sunken man – who weren’t shared my hatred of Mason, and we’d brew and steam at his Impenetrable Convoy of Sympathy. We knew we could never hurt Adam, without looking like monsters. So we’d sit in a room, like a pair of cartoon coyotes, plotting the downfall of Adam. What if we swapped his Cha-Mobile for a real car? He’d drive into a hedge, or something.
He sucked his thumb, hooking his finger over the bridge of his nose. We invented a nail, which Adam could hammer into his face, allow him to hand his forefinger from it. Then we worried about the skin on his thumb, which would be like he’d been in the bath all day. So we put another nail in his temple for when he needed to dry it off. This was our stroke of genius – every invention was to help Adam, and cause him the maximum pain.
When it came to big school, I don’t remember Adam at all. Perhaps his parents realised that the girl’s bitch instinct was about to kick in, and Adam was about to start humping dustbins. But I’ve seen him once since, working in Tesco. Looking cheerful, productive, and slightly better paid than myself.
So, Adam Mason, this is my apology to you; I’m sorry for being the cunt that everyone obviously thought I was. I’m sorry I designed the cha-copter with the express purpose of having you collapse in a hyperventilating mess (although, to be fair, that was Paul’s idea, and he says he’s not sorry at all). And I’m sorry I just put a photo of you on the internet.
But most of all, I’m sorry I hated you. I’ve purged myself of the barbs of spite, and filled the abyss with pity. No longer will I stare at you, imagining a world in which you weren’t somehow beating me at things. Now, I’ll barely be able to glance at you.
That’s better, isn’t it? Nice bit of pity.