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A snapshot of December 4, 2014

Collected observations from lunch period around the Beaver dam

Althea Billings, Michael Cochran, Elliot Bailey, and Ceci Atkins
Originally published December 7, 2014

Photo art by Aiden ShecklerStudents navigate a frantic hallway at the beginning of lunch. The hall is quiet during class, the most hectic just a few moments after the bell, and calm again as lunch ensues.

Photo art by Aiden Sheckler

Students navigate a frantic hallway at the beginning of lunch. The hall is quiet during class, the most hectic just a few moments after the bell, and calm again as lunch ensues.

On December 4, 2014, over a period of about 20 minutes five Talisman staffers collected observations from different locations around Ballard High School. The following are photos, videos and lightly edited transcriptions from their notebooks, a collective depiction of the sort of hallway commerce happening every day at Ballard High.

Upstairs foyer, entrance from back parking lot:

Today is an early release day, which means the misplaced lunch bell will come soon.

At 10:24 a boy settles against a banister overlooking the first floor. He is on the second.

Next to him is a poster with a painting of a mountain and the words “Join Japan Club in S202.” Out the window behind him, past the space needle and Seattle’s skyline, you can see Mount Rainier.

Half a minute passes and students begin to fill the hall from the library. The boy against the banister finds his friend and they leave.

The gold clock hanging above the hall now says 10:25. The bell rings. More students diffuse from classes to empty halls.

The area fills fast.

Someone throws a paper airplane, like a joke about the classic high school experience.

Currents of students flow down the stairs or down the hall or out the door. Some break off from currents and friends form huddles, like river stones.

Some are on their phones or listening to earbuds. Many are wearing coats. It’s cold today and out the window behind me, the Seattle sky is gray enough for students to don their neon rainwear.

10:30, five minutes have passed since the bell rang and the crowd is thinning. The groups who usually eat their lunch here sit down in their place at the periphery.

10:31, a boy walks away from a girl who obviously doesn’t want him to. She blows off exasperated air, then turns for the stairs.

10:32, this hall is mostly empty and 10:33, a student leans against the wall and flutters his skateboard up and down by the tail with his foot. He’s alone with his hands in his pockets.

Waiting 10:33, 34, 35, he looks cool enough leaning against the wall for people to understand why he wastes so much time in this way.

Another skateboarder walks up.


“Hey, man.”

They hold their skateboards at arms length, like confusing maps. They talk about the urethane wheels and why harder wheels are better. They talk about the religious activists, who haven’t come in a while, but hang out on the curb of our school sometimes and yell at track athletes through megaphones.

“Jesus freaks.”

They leave and at 10:39 mostly everyone else has, too. Everyone’s made it elsewhere, except for those who use the hall as a transitory space between destinations.

Mostly empty, except the few passing students and a faculty member, who sips his coffee and leans against the banister, his hip folding the edge back of a sign that says “Join Japan Club in S202.”

Side entrance/bus stop on 15th:

Ceci AtkinsFew kids were at the bus stop for the first 15 minutes of lunch. It was raining. People were bad-mouthing tests and making plans for skipping class.

Ceci Atkins

Few kids were at the bus stop for the first 15 minutes of lunch. It was raining. People were bad-mouthing tests and making plans for skipping class.

Theater entrance hallway:

10:24, My friend Greta sits uncomfortably on the windowsill. A few students amble around earlier than the rest.

10:25, Greta gets down from the window. The bell rings and the first few students trickle out of class. A girl with long hair books it through the two sets of doors. A girl on crutches is greeted amicably by her friends. They gather around the wayward table outside the auditorium. For some, this hallway is a place to pass through, for others, it is a place to stay. Puffy coat girl pretends to look at her phone. Mr. Hyde strides by. Phone girl walks by again, apparently lost.

Girls with and without Santa hats begin to set up shop outside the auditorium doors. Senior Molly Wood-Dorner walks past, surrounded by yelling underclassmen. More students walk through to the gym hallway doors. Some passerby are slowed by the groups growing on the edges of the hallway. Phone girl found her friend. Spotted BYO lunch bags pepper the scene.

A girl plays around on her friend’s crutches. iPhones in hand, another group walks by. Friends sit in a circle of sorts, some with legs outstretched, others with them crossed.

10:32, More friends arrive. A group walks by again. A girl has retrieved a school lunch and returns to her friends. We are unquestioned, but not unnoticed.

More students still amble through, some with more purpose than others. One growing group shifts to fit more members into the tight space, blocking the auditorium doors; a fire hazard, no doubt. They’ve brought their lunches, with thermoses of soup and tupperware full of carrot sticks. Some of them have cold pizza, others sit among the litter of empty sandwich bags.

The noise level rises with friendly chatter and the occasional burst of song. Lots of chewing. A smaller boy walks through, startled by a friend, then hurrying off to the main second floor doors. Phone use has died down.

10:36, We leave in search of our own sustenance.

Downstairs foyer, school front entrance:

Standing in the corner by the elevator, seconds before the lunch bell rings, all that can be heard in the area is the loud barking of a young male student.

The bell rings. Students begin to trickle down the stairs and one tall boy stands in the middle of the open area on his phone. Every few seconds he looks up and strains his neck, looking for his friends.

Two people speed walk into each other’s arms. That couple embraces and walks to a corner to get out of the masses.

A girl with a santa hat whizzes by to catch her friends before they leave. That couple hugs one more time and parts. They almost run from each other in opposite directions.

The general volume of the foyer increases as more and more students arrive. As people meet their friends, handshakes and highfives ensue.

As friend groups gather and a head count is done, they begin to move into their various normal spots. Some head to the lunchroom while others head outside.

A faculty member in a neon orange vest pushes her way past the different cliques to get into the lunchroom. She barely makes it.

It’s hard to differentiate one group from another as they stand so close. Talking, laughing. It seems as though almost every student has their iPhone in hand.

A girl on crutches stands feet away. She animatedly complains to a boy, oblivious. After he gets tired of listening he says, “Let’s go.” They walk off together.

A group comes out of the elevator and clumps near its doors. They begin to talk, and yell, extremely loud. “I [expletive] love Beyonce.”

A boy in khaki shorts and a Russell Wilson jersey spins on one heel as he awkwardly looks around for friends. The boy in the jersey walks out of the foyer and into the lower hallway.

Things are just starting to settle down as senior Lindsay Fasser walks into her circle of pals and starts dancing. After she’s done with her jig, they walk off to the lunch room to find a table.

From behind, a girl hangs on a friend’s neck and nods with excitement as another girl explains her after-school plans.

Principal Keven Wynkoop walks up and before he can speak he hears, “Go away we’re filming.” After nodding with understanding, he looks away and replies, “Okay, I will pretend to look busy.”

As if some invisible force told everyone to leave, the entrance hall begins to clear out. Friends choose their final lunch destination and head there.

After another three minutes, no one is in the area except two lone girls by the green pole.

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A snapshot of December 4, 2014