What's In A Name? Lockers This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   While society associates several unusual items with school, such as green blackboards, combination desk/chairs, and letter evaluations, the locker is the object most synonymous with high school. While the locker may have originally been invented in ancient times to lock up books, its importance transcends that mundane function.

The word "locker" is unusual because its connotations carry more weight than its literal meaning. A locker supposedly is to be used to lock up its contents. A quick stroll through school hallways, however, will verify that only a handful of lockers actually have a lock. Some schools discourage students from using locks, preferring to rely on an honor system, meaning thieves were undetered when most lockers remained un-locked. In most schools, despite a few scattered pleas over the intercom to use a locker for its implied purpose, students' desire for a secure unlocked locker remains unsatisfied. Until most students are willing to appear untrusting or risk looking "uncool" while fumbling with a lock, students must rely on the tried and true method of booby-trapping their lockers.

High school lockers come in two basic varieties: 1) the tall, narrow version, usually beige or grey, complete with a shelf near the top, and one or two hooks inside; standard in school hallways; 2) its short, stubby cousin, without the shelf, is usually found in the gym, where people attempt to slim down, while the slimmer version is in the hallways, where students are not supposedly as physically taxed. (With a stingy time allowance between classes, however, students are often forced into a workout in the halls that rivals many physical education courses.)

The locker, in many ways, is an engineering marvel. The careful design allows debris to pile up easily while restricting books from falling into a horizontal position. And the vent is strategically located next to the shelf where gym clothes are often stored, to avoid any unexpected combustion. Lockers are also designed to withstand the unequaled force of teenagers caving in on its walls in their rush to get their books, often torturing the steel casing if they have any difficulty.

With any innovative design, however, there are a few flaws. In order to conserve space, lockers are so compact that students must often waste precious time, waiting for room to use their locker. But the major flaw of school lockers is the ceiling. In most schools, the hall locker tops are sloped. The engineer not only had no plausible reason for a more aerodynamic design, but also failed to realize how he was ruining the traditional rectangular shape.

Since lockers are essentially storage containers, their contents are important. Though a neat locker is usually associated with a meticulous person, most people are unable, if not unwilling, to maintain a neat locker. A few students manage to keep a neat locker by utilizing cafeteria and library shelves for their books. Usually, however, lockers are filled to capacity, making it slightly difficult to retrieve lost objects. A well-stocked locker, after all, contains many necessities: several broken pencils, extra paper with bent corners, half-finished homework from early September, borrowed inkless pens, melted chocolate bars, pictures with peeling tape, fragrant gym shorts, change (in microscopic cracks), uncovered, missing books, as well as residue.

Lockers are also a social hub for many students. Many friendships are well-maintained because of traditional locker rituals. Homeroom buddies attempt to vigorously converse as they frantically search through their lockers for the right combination of articles. Several private relationships are stimulated in the safe secrecy of a crowd of busy students in front of a locker. The only question to be settled is whether one prefers her locker or his.

Lockers are a living, breathing diary of a school year. Seldom comes a year when the scattered momentos at the bottom of a locker heap fail to arouse nostalgia in June. Thus, an unlocked, compact row of beige lockers is the most treasured of possessions associated with school. n


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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