The other day I was reminiscing about my high school years. At the time, I hated high school. I hated school period. I was always absent because I never felt like going. The guys in my classes would take bets to see if I would show up everyday. Even my English teacher would get in on the action. Despite my numerous absences, I was always able to stay ahead with my school work and was constantly in the top percentage of my class. I remember getting a letter from the disciplinarian in my senior year informing me if I was absent one more time, I wouldn’t be able to graduate. Considering I was ranked third in my class (I peaked early), I found this quite hard to believe.
Looking back now I realize that high school was one of the best times of my life. Back then what seemed tedious and boring now seems…well still tedious and boring but not as aggravating as the perils of adulthood. It’s funny how when you’re a teenager you can’t wait to become an adult. In your mind being an adult means finally having freedom. No more teachers and parents telling you what to do. Then you become an adult only to discover that teachers and parents are soon replaced by bosses and your wife. Suddenly all of that homework doesn’t seem as bad as paying bills, rent or a mortgage, having arthritis, and lower back pain.
I went to an all boys Catholic school. One side of the building was the boys’ side and the other the girls’ so it wasn’t like I never got to see a member of the opposite sex. One memory of high school that stands out for me was the day our side of the school was on fire. Well, part of the first floor. On that particular morning, I woke up and really didn’t feel like going to school but had no choice since I already accumulated too many absences. As the bus approached our temple of higher learning, a group of fire engines screamed passed us. “Wouldn’t it be great,” we all thought, “if the school was on fire?” Nothing serious. No casualties. No third degree burns. Just a light scorching that was enough to get us out of school.
I knew there was no way it would happen. But then the fire engines turned down the street our school was on. Still, I figured it had to be the office building across the street. As we turned the corner, we could see that the fire engines were indeed in the parking lot of our school. The teachers were telling all the bus drivers to take us home. Everyone on the bus cheered. Can you blame us? A day off is a day off. Not to mention the fact that it was a nice surprise. And, really, who doesn’t like surprises? I, for one, really appreciated that God would set the school on fire just so I could have a day off.
As the bus took us home, we all speculated who the junior arsonist could possibly be. We thought of the most likely suspects among the delinquents. The ones who might have the balls to do it. Personally, I couldn’t believe any of the underachievers would actually get up earlier than they had to just to set the school on fire. But, hey, what did I know? Maybe one of them ordered some Tony Robbins tapes and was inspired.
As it turned out, the damage wasn’t too bad and we were able to return to school the next day. The first floor smelled horrible and, of course, that’s where my locker was that year. Still, it was comforting to know they weren’t about to let a little residual smoke inhalation interfere with our education.
A few days later a rumor started to spread that it wasn’t a student that started the fire but one of the teachers. Not just any teacher but one of the Christian Brothers. The alleged guilty party was none other than Brother Bernard, the guidance counselor. We all laughed because he always seemed a bit strange but knew there was no way this could be true. It had to be a joke.
Then we all began to notice that Brother Bernard was nowhere to be found. Not in his office, not roaming the halls, not doing his cafeteria duty. Just like a key witness in a mob trial, he disappeared. Never to be seen or heard from again. We soon discovered it was not a rumor but that Brother Bernard was, in fact, the culprit. We found it hysterical that the dude who was supposed to be helping you figure out what to do with your life was a closet pyro.
No doubt there were a few students that day who were wondering, “So does this mean I shouldn’t become an elevator repairman?”