That time I thought I was busted

This spring marked 10 years since I graduated high school, which is kind of ridiculous. It definitely doesn’t feel like it’s been 10 years since I roamed the halls of ol’ MHS but when I think of all that’s happened since then it seems like a lifetime ago. A lot of my fellow graduates have been discussing a reunion on Facebook which has got me reminiscing about the good old days when I had the attention of all the popular boys (kidding) and permed my hair (not kidding). Naturally pulling all of these memories out of the bat cave of my brain has inspired me to share a story or two, but which tale to tell?

I could tell you about the countless hours of dance team and show choir practices, auditioning for a school play by reciting Jerry Seinfeld stand-up, being totally humiliated by my junior prom date (thanks a lot Brad), or fearing for my life when the drivers-ed student I was paired with drove us off the road.
I could share stories of decorating the inside of my car with ornaments and tinsel at Christmas, enduring the painfully long walk up to school from the abyss that was the student parking lot, or all the wonderful friendships I made.
All are share-worthy, all are special, but there’s one high school memory that I’ve always looked back on with humor, disbelief, and the knowledge that I was totally hardcore in high school. And there’s not a bit of sarcasm in that last statement… maybe.

This is the story of that time I thought I was busted. And just for the record, I’m officially admitting to criminal-level activity.

I was a darn good student in high school. Just look at me…

Innocent little thing (outside of the Mardi Gras beads), huh?
I did my work, I made great grades, was active in extra curricular activities, and the only reason the principal knew my name (outside of being an all-around awesome guy who was invested in the well-being of all his students) was because he and my dad were college roommates.
True story.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I never skipped class just for fun. No way. Never ever.
At least not until my junior year when my bff and I wanted needed to go get the new Hanson CD on its release day.
Yes, I said Hanson.
Yes, we’re both still fans.
Yes, you should get on the Hanson train.

We had hashed out a fool-proof plan that included a quick trip to Best Buy to snag the CDs and lunch at a Tropical Smoothie, because smoothies were our Starbucks back in 2004. I would only agree to the excursion if we could go during the period that I had service learning. If you’re cocking your head like a puppy wondering what in the world service learning is, it was basically an excuse for upperclassmen to get out of taking an academic class by helping at a local elementary or middle school. I suppose those students who were interested in a future in education used it for experience, but both were acceptable reasons for taking the class. Me? I liked kids, and wanted to fill the last spot on my schedule with something easy fun. I was placed at the elementary school just a quarter of a mile away from my high school in a kindergarten class with Mrs. T. who happened to be a family friend, lovely person, and an extremely talented teacher!  The reason I needed our ditch day to take place during this class was because Mrs. T. was awesome, flexible, and it wasn’t like a normal class where the teacher took attendance and docked your grade for an unexcused absence. It was still technically skipping, but went fairly unnoticed. But enough about logistics, back to the crime.

Skipping class for the first time was thrilling, despite constantly worrying we would see a teacher or other faculty member at some point while away from school. But we made it back scott free, enriched with the musical brilliance of Hanson’s Underneathjust in time for the last class of the day. It was fitting that my last class was show choir and I was feeling equal parts badass and musically inspired, but we wouldn’t be doing any singing that day because we were taking photos. Photos that required me to be dressed in a shiny, black, knee-length dress with rhinestone embellishments. What I was wearing wouldn’t normally matter in a story like this, but it’s important to note for this next part.

I was still feeling the rush of our successful school skip as my classmates and I lounged around last period taking turns getting our picture taken and awaiting the final bell. With about 30 minutes left until the end of the day, and me feeling totally in the clear, an office aid walked in with a pass. She handed it to our teacher who glanced down to read the name, looked back up to scan the room, locked eyes with me, and stretched her arm out as she said, “Sara, pass to the office”.

Holy crap.

Someone saw us.

Someone saw me skipping class.

They are calling me to the office because someone saw us at Best Buy (maybe my government teacher needed an educational DVD?) or Tropical Smoothie (faculty have lunch meetings there, right?) and I’m going to have to look at my dad’s old college roommate and tell him that YES, I was a horrible, deceitful, criminal student and I skipped class.

My heart started racing as I took the pass and tried not to look like a deer in headlights despite knowing I was busted. I walked myself, shiny show choir dress and all, to the front office and was promptly directed around the corner to an administrator I’d never met before. She was younger, fashionable, and talking quite vigorously on the phone. One of those looks-sweet-but-is-really-a-hard-ass types. She gestured for me to sit while she finished her conversation…

… and so I waited.

When she was finally finished she looked up at me, apologized for the wait and took a deep breath. Then the following conversation ensued:

Her: Alright, you’re probably wondering why you’re in here.
Me: Yes, ma’am. (shaking in my character shoes)
Her: Well, you have been…um…

At this point she trails off and starts shifting through the papers on her desk. Clearly looking for my one way ticket to suspension-ville.

Her: Ah, here it is, sorry about that. You have been nominated by your teachers and coaches to represent Manchester in the Miss Chesterfield County Fair Pageant.
Me: *blink* *blink, blink* Oh. Um, I’ve been what? In the what?
Her: *giggling* The Miss Chesterfield County Fair Pageant. Every year teachers are able to nominate two students who exceed in their academics and extra curricular activities, and are positive representations of our school. You and another student have been selected. Congratulations!
Me: Well, thank you! That’s great. Sounds like… fun. (said with zero enthusiasm due to my inability to process the whole situation)

The rest of the conversation was pretty boring and basically involved me trading information on myself and the administrator trading information on the event. I was still vibrating from thinking I’d been busted for skipping school, and trying desperately to suppress the urge to burst into laughter at the irony of it all, but eventually made my way back to class where I proceeded to tell all of my friends what had happened, including my earlier detention-worthy deed. I got lots of laughs and congrats, and never skipped class again.
At least not in high school.

Lesson learned – skipping class in a high school that is home to more than 2,500 students is totally okay because no one ever notices and you might just get invited to be a pageant girl at the end of the day. Just kidding. Stay in (and at) school kids.
A more appropriate lesson learned would be that I could never have survived as someone who skipped class on a regular basis because my anxiety level was through the roof!

And because I’m sure you are all dying to know:

Yes, I competed in the pageant.
Yes, we danced to Proud to be an American with ridiculous feather boas.
Yes, we had to answer an interview question.
Yes, I have photos but they are in a storage unit in Georgia.
Yes, Jimmy Dean (sausage king) was a judge, and I thought he was made of plastic.
No I didn’t win.

Until next time…

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