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A Community Through Lockers

by Sophia Z ‘2024

It goes like this: at the start of the year there is a scramble for locker selection. In the middle school, lockers are organized by grade in neat blocks; in the upper school, lines of lockers weave through buildings and wrap around halls. There is much bustle and chatter as we push through to find our locker: our personal pocket of individuality in this sea of unfamiliar faces. 


Like a new resident moving into a previously settled town, I trudged up the stairs clutching a map of the school campus and a backpack of school supplies over a shoulder. It was my first day on a new school, and I wasn’t sure how the whole system worked yet. I strode through the crowds of people, scanning the smooth metal doors for my assigned number. 


Then, there it was: printed on a little plaque. A rectangular compartment, deep enough to shove a textbook into and high enough to roll in a small instrument if necessary. It was chipped on the insides, worn from use by its previous owners. At that moment, however, it was mine. It was my own space, where I could personalize and decorate as I wished, where I could pour my soul onto the metal walls and no one could take them down. There was a sense of individual strength, there, at being able to claim this little corner of campus all to myself. Suddenly, I felt more grounded to this school, despite it being only my first official time on the campus. 


All around me were new residents, some previously settled members of this space I had just joined, some new like me. I watched out of the corner of my eye as people moved into their own little cubbies of space, marking down the faces of my closest neighbors as potential friend targets. I didn’t know them yet, and they didn’t know me, but they would soon. The locker grounds was the central hub of budding social life, and I crouched in front of my locker, half-hidden by the stack of textbooks from my book box, scanning the crowd like a predator, waiting for the moment to be able to insert myself into this close-knit community. These rows of tall metal compartments were the birthplace of the connections I would have as a student. 



A week into my life as a Harvard-Westlake student, I had already snagged my claws on a couple students to my right as friends. We moved as a pack, and that was that; making friends when somewhat forced into a daily proximity with people, it turns out, was startling easy. What shocked me, however, was how big the campus was as compared to my previous schools, and how far I would have to run between class blocks. 


But you have to deal with what you’re dealt, as they say. I marched up the staircases with the determination of a teenager running on the really good teriyaki fried rice they served in the cafeteria for lunch. My friend beside me strode with me, their back hunched over like a shrimp. Both of us had pretty bad posture, but for my friend, it was made worse by the enormously heavy backpack they carried on their back. This was a friend I had met in class; in other words, this was not a friend I met by the lockers, and in fact, this was a friend that didn’t even use their locker. To me, who considered lockers by far the most useful invention in all of high school history, was shocked.


I generally dropped most of my textbooks in my locker and only carried the ones I needed to class in my backpack. After all, who would want to carry more than necessary? It wasn’t like my locker was particularly far, and I enjoyed the atmosphere of the locker halls. My friend, on the other hand, had all their books, for all their classes, crammed into a single backpack, turning the previously oval-like soft bag into one that resembled a hot pink brick. It was a monstrosity. I tried to carry it for my friend, one, and the weight literally toppled me over. Granted, my physical strength was severely below average, but even for a strong person, carrying that weight on your back was crazy bad for your spine. Humans aren’t pack mules.


One of the main concerns of people who don’t use their locker is that it would be too much of a hassle when rushing between classes. However, lockers weren’t located too out of the way from everyday classes, and even if you didn’t have time to make a pit stop in passing periods, you still had the morning break and lunch; that meant carrying books for only one or two classes rather than the whole set, which was still a huge improvement. It took me a month of nagging for my friend to finally try out their nice shiny locker. We agreed on a trial period of one week, and lo and behold: Back aches? Gone. My friend never switched back to brick-backpack mode again. 


To the future generations, I leave you this: for the love of your spine, use your locker.

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Last modified: October 9, 2023