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One of the most enduring memories about my high school career was my 11th grade English term paper.

The teacher was a certain Mr. Martin, a man of significant age and wisdom. I had joined the class midway through the first semester, however, which seemed to vex him to no end, as I had no idea whatsoever about some of the policies that he instituted.

I had been out with the flu for 6 days, and when I returned, on the day that paper was due, there was a certain hysteria between me and him as to whether or not I should have had it in at that point or not. Tensions escalated, and as it turned out, he gave me a zero on the paper. I won't drudge the details.

The parental backlash came next, and to save my own ass I opted to ask for a Parent/Teacher Meeting to hopefully shift some of the blame onto him, as opposed to me. At this point, I was oblivious that an E in the third quarter of a possible English major's transcript was not exactly, well, appealing.

The interesting thing coming into the meeting was that both me and Mr. Martin were playing it defensive. Under the watchful eye of a parent and a guidance counselor, we both saved our best cards.

That was, until, he chuckled.

I had just stated a fact, something to the effect of "..3 days late, maybe?" and the chuckle infuriated me. The resulting vehemence and raw anger that I lashed back with was not exactly tactful. I went to my trump card - that he had given better grades to people that had blatantly plagiarized their papers, to which my articulate, yet late, term paper was defiled with the red zero of doom.

I stormed out of the meeting with a certain feeling of defeat, because I knew that I had doomed myself with the outburst. I sat outside on the bench and left the three inside to decide my fate.

After a few minutes, Mr. Martin hesitantly walked over and sat down next to me. He smiled at me with a certain candor and murmured, "Even though you called me an idiot, I still respect your honor about plagiarism."

Somewhere around there I realized that English teachers deal with anger much better than any other authority figures.

I was in English class, reading Saul Bellow's Henderson: The Rain King. I was in the back hiding under my jacket reading while the rest of the class was watching Finding Nemo. I was never a model student by any means, but if the class was interesting, I would try to get as much out of it as possible.

The teacher came over and asked what I was doing. Since it was an English class, and we were watching Finding Nemo, I figured it wouldn't be a problem if I did some actual, you know, reading. The teacher always knew I was an excellent writer, and I figured she'd give me a pass.

Quick aside- she knew I was a good writer (or at least creative) after this: we were assigned "R.A.F.T." essays, which were essentially free-form creative writing projects. We'd have around twenty minutes to finish, and then a few people would present. I always loved doing these, and I love public speaking, so it was great for me. One day, I was really exhausted and didn't feel like doing much of anything, so I blew the day's assignment off. Naturally, the teacher called on me. After trying to worm out of it for a bit, I realized she wouldn't take no for an answer. I stood up, with absolutely nothing written and no ideas, and walked to the front of the class with a blank piece of notebook paper. I stood there for about five seconds before I started saying the first thing that came into my head, which was Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. Here's how it went:

Twinkle, twinkle, little star... how I wonder what you are...

You are a massive fusion energy plant
You shatter and fuse the building blocks of the universe
You breathe life into our modest world

Twinkle, twinkle, little star... now I know just what you are.

Something like that, anyway. I'm paraphrasing. I'm sure it didn't sound so elegant. I remember I was jittery when I was speaking, since I was making it up on the spot.

Apparently it was a huge hit, she loved it. At the end of class, she asked for my paper and I told her I lost it or something. Anyway...

She took my book. This was the last thing I expected, since it was an English class, after all. I was never a defiant student and I never caused trouble, I always kept to myself. I got up, and went up to the teacher's desk. Not really sure exactly what I expected to happen. I guess I thought that she'd give me the book back or something? I stood there looking at her, and she was looking at me with a "what are you doing here?" sort of expression. I took my book from her desk, gathered my things, and left to sleep in my car the rest of the day. I never went back to that class.

At the end of the semester, my parents got a phone call about my absenteeism. When they confronted me about it, I deflected. I always hated it when my parents intervened on my behalf, since I wanted nothing more than to be a self-motivated independent person. They obviously got pissed at me, and eventually I told them the story. I felt guilty about it. I felt as if I acted like a petulant child (which, I guess, I did).

My parents were shocked at what happened. Much to my dismay, my father decided to take up arms on my behalf.

My father: he does not raise his voice when he gets angry. He is prone to outbursts when provoked on a personal level, but when he feels affronted by any sort of institution, his rage is channeled into an even-keeled smoldering voice of passionate reason. I wasn't around to hear his side of the conversation with my English teacher, but after it was over, my mom staggered out of the room, looking for all the world like she just had the fuck of her life. She was actually jumping up and down with eyes wide describing the verbal onslaught that was just issued upon my teacher. For the first time, I was happy that my parents decided to sling stones for me as I looked on.

The next day, I went into that English class. The teacher pulled me aside, and offered me a deal. I was to do a presentation on anything that I wanted. I had to do it well, no bullshitting. If I did that, she'd give me a passing grade.

At the time, I was very interested in what the internet decided to call "urban exploration." Basically, the exploration of your immediate environment. My immediate environment was a yawning megalopolis of pavement, peppered with buildings and dimpled with storm drains. I couldn't wait to get started on this project.

I skipped classes, stole garbage bags from the bathrooms and taped them around my shoes, and explored up and down the old storm drain outside the school, cataloging the experience with pictures. I snuck into every nook and cranny of the campus. Every boiler room, elevator shaft, and computer room there was. Then, I decided to climb up on the roof. Bad idea.

I'd been up there before. Once, on a lark, I decided to climb the radio tower up there. To this day, I'm shocked nobody saw me and called the cops for that one... it was a very tall tower. I knew how to get up there, I knew how to get down. Outside a boiler room on the second floor, climb an AC vent on the second story roof, and pull up onto the top of the building. So, up I went. And I brought my camera.

To this day, I'm embarrassed to look at the pictures I took. Maybe I'll post them with faces blurred or something, because they're pretty funny. First few pictures, empty torch-down expanse of rooftop. A few shots out onto the road, and some silly pictures of the campus below. I took some pictures of the lockers on the second story from over a ledge. Then I went back down the way I came up.

When I got back into the boiler room, it seemed like something was wrong. There was people running all around, and I heard radios. I sat there, knowing what I'd see when I looked at the pictures. About fifteen minutes later, I looked at them, knowing what I'd find.

Students pointing, administrators on radios, people running all around. Fuck.

I sat there for another ten minutes before walking calmly out the door, hoping that nobody would notice me. I wasn't so lucky.

The SRO grabbed me by the back of my shirt and pushed me against the wall and cuffed me. My computer teacher feebly vouched for my integrity as I was led off. Fortunately, I wasn't actually arrested. They led me to the office, where they browbeat me about this and that. I was freaked out, I thought I was going to jail. My parents were pissed, too. They called them in. We all laugh about it now, but at the time, I was horrified.

I ended up not finishing the project and I got a D in the class.

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