68. A Series of Unfortunate Mistakes

Published on 25 May 2024 at 14:23

© 2024 Robert Sickles

My high school days keep coming to mind. Last month I published a story about my Latin teacher and it got me thumbing through my senior yearbook. I was enjoying the written comments and well-wishes from some of the members of my class. “Best of luck in the future.” “It's been a great 4 years.” “Always remember our fun times.” And then there was this that Lovely Adele wrote next to her photo, “OK Bobby, I’ll never forgive you for dropping out of Calculus.” Wow, I had to pause for that one. I’m no Ferris Bueller, but there’s a story here!

Adele stuck it out in Calculus, bless her. I always assumed she’d do fine, but she apparently missed the moral support from this guy in the next seat, also overwhelmed by higher math. Up to that point, I actually enjoyed math; but Calculus, for some reason, was over my head and beyond my interest in catching up. It was such a relief to drop it. Mistake # 1.

By the time I did that, it was too late in the term to transfer to another class, so I had no option but to take a study hall period. Mrs. H., I'll call her, seemed to seethe with disgust at the job of study hall monitor; she was one of the strictest and crankiest teachers I’ve ever run across. I yearned to escape her prison, so I accepted the offer of a friend to forge Mrs. H.’s signature on a pass that would spring me free, supposedly to participate in some extra-curricular activity. Once out of study hall, I decided to go to fourth period lunch instead. I already had third period lunch, so for several months I enjoyed two lunches in a row. I was so cool! Mistake # 2.

Feeling glib and cocky, I wasn’t devious enough to know that you don’t flaunt your crime in front of a cop. That is, I shouldn’t have expected the teacher on cafeteria duty to simply accept my funny story of finessing a double lunch period for all those weeks. He happened to notice me leaving the cafeteria then circling back to enter again. I assumed he’d get a kick out of this cute setup that only a smarty-pants guy like me could pull off. Then I even told him I had submitted a signed pass… Ooooh no, back up! I thought he was a pal. Mistake # 3.

Actually, he was the great-great-grandson of Inspector Javert of Les Misérables renown. This teacher, my so-called “pal,” was a digger and delver of a higher order, as tenacious as a pit bull. After finding said forged pass in the student files, he let the Vice Principle know that Sickles was up to something, and I heard my name called over the PA to report to the office. There, under the stark light of interrogation, I decided to stick to my bluff that Mrs. H.'s signature on the pass was genuine. Mistake # 4.

Now close the end of the school year and graduation just a few weeks away, I was again going with glib and cocky, and assumed that the Vice Principle would chuckle at my cleverness and let it go with a wink and nod. But as he went through the list of my offenses, he told me I was in serious trouble that would be a blot on my permanent record.

“My permanent record? Oh, No! Not that!” I thought sarcasm would play well. I had a hard time taking him seriously, but my levity was not powerful enough to overcome his gravity. Mistake # 5.

I was remanded to after-school detention, hosted by another of the strictest and crankiest teachers around. There, I found myself in the company of a rogues’ gallery of truly hardened adolescent criminals. What was I doing in that place? When the man asked if I was ready to confess my sin, I proclaimed my innocence and gave a flippant account of the thing, biased completely in my defense. Mistake # 6.

My punishment was thereby prolonged until the end of the term, and consisted of writing sentences every afternoon, until my right hand was stove up and my arm hung crooked. Mistake # 7. I should have known the trick that my daughter used in 7th grade many years later! She spent her spare minutes during the day writing pages of sentences ahead of time, so detention could be a quiet time to do homework!  

Lesson learned? Well, yeah… that I was a feckin’ idjit. If only I had chosen to slog through Calculus, my permanent record would be spotless, and I wouldn’t be wondering if, in the 50+ years since, Adele ever did find it in her heart to forgive and forget.

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20 days ago

I thought everyone faked late arrivals and hall passes, Robert. Welcome to the club.

Kathy M
20 days ago

You are a rogue Bobby! I'm sure all those teachers went home and chuckled at your prank, but had to punish you to keep all your classmates in line!

20 days ago

Cocky weren't you! But worth it. After all 2 lunch periods! Amazing a jealous classmate didn't squeal on you.

19 days ago


Dee Rincon
19 days ago

And I thought you were an innocent guy all these years. Laughed hard at your story. My greatest mischief was skipping 9th period study hall at the end of my senior year.

Tim Steele
17 days ago

Bob, I think I remember that!
My pass story...
I didn't work out with the track team because it was so crowded. I would take the bus home then drive back to Morris Hills to work out on my own. I had to climb over the locked gate to the track and twice security reported me. I had to see Pat Caruso and I told him that running on that track with two schools using it at the same time was like running on the Long Island Expressway...he gave a pass to run later!