If you’ve ever read the story of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, you will know that in the book the golden ticket is a ticket found in the wrapper of a chocolate bar. This ticket (which you’d think would get chocolatey, staying in a chocolate bar wrapper for so long) lets you in to the magical, mystical ‘Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory’. The ticket I am talking about is not golden, you don’t get a free snack with it, and it doesn’t let you in to the best chocolate factory in the world, but it’s just as valuable. The ticket I am talking about LETS YOU SKIP THE LUNCH QUEUE. I’m not joking. It really does that. I know, it’s brilliant. I mean, only for a day, but still.
I will tell you about the time I got one of these.
It was Tuesday, and we were in French, the last lesson of the day. There was a challenge on the board, but no one was paying any attention to it.
“So, who’ll volunteer for the challenge?” Says my french teacher.
Silence echoed through the room. Someone dropped a pencil on the floor.
“The winner will receive tens merits or a lunch pa-“
There were squeaks and squeals as people shot up their hands, including me. Lunch passes were rare things, as valuable as solid gold to us, as we had all been tortured by the misery of waiting in The Queue of Infinity (read my latest post). Only the packed-lunchers carried on as normal. A lunch pass was useless to them. They had never suffered through The Queue.
The teacher smiled, and looked around. She knew we were all desperate to win the challenge, but only two or three of us would get to try it. I reached my hand up higher, til I felt like my arm would pop out of its socket any second.
My eyes widened as the french teacher nodded at a boy in the back row.
“Come up to the front.”
I slumped back in my chair, my face in my hands, and prayed that he was terrible at french.
The lucky, lucky boy swaggered up to the front of the class, and the teacher began to list colours.
“Orange.” Said the teacher.
“Orange.” Said the boy. Bother, he had already got one right. But I convinced myself he’d get the next one wrong. Orange was the easiest colour, anyway.
“Black.” Said the teacher.
Ah, this one was hard.
“Noir.” Said the boy, without a hesitation.
I dug my nails into my palms.
“Yellow.” Said the teacher.
I stared at the boy. The boy looked at his shoes.
“Vert?” He said carefully.
I grinned. “No!” I wanted to shout. “Jaune! It’s jaune!” But I kept quiet.
“Not quite,” Said the teacher. “Yellow is jaune.”
The boy paled.
“One more,” the teacher said. “Blue.”
The boy looked relieved. He obviously knew this one. “Bleu.”
The teacher nodded. “Please return to your seat.”
As soon as the teacher finished speaking, my hand shot up like an arrow. He had got 3/4. So what? I’d get 4/4. The teacher’s eyes came to rest on me. “You. Come up here.” I did. My heart was beating like a hummingbird’s. French colours were whizzing round my brain.
“Purple.” Said the teacher.
I took a deep breath. “Violet.”
“Red.” Said the teacher.
“Rouge.” I said.
“Rouge.” I said again. (Incase the teacher hadn’t heard).
The teacher nodded. I breathed a sigh of relief.
“White.” Said the teacher.
“OK, one more. Pink.”
I opened my mouth to speak but no sound came out. What was pink?!
I searched my brain. What was it? What was it?
And then I saw it. Scribbled in the margin of somebody’s french book.
Pink = rose
It was The Boy Who Had Gone Before Me’s french book. How ironic.
“Rose.” I said.
The teacher’s mouth was opening. This was the moment that could change my life. (OK, my week.) She was about to speak.
Everyone in the classroom gasped. I gasped. The teacher raised her eyebrows.
“So, will it be ten merits or a lunch pass?”
I disguised my scoff as a sneeze. The answer was obvious. I mean, who would choose ten merits over a lunch pass? No one even knew what merits did.
“A lunch pass, please.” I said. The teacher nodded and handed me the lunch pass. My eyes widened to the size of 2p coins. As I walked slowly back to my seat, I stared, entranced, at the white plastic rectangle. It could just as well be made of gold.
The next day at lunch break, I started to grin, whipping out the lunch pass. I swaggered to the front of the queue, envy emanating from the miserable frozen starving students lining up behind me.
That was the time I got a lunch pass.