topic is about a time when I broke a rule or law. I don’t know if all boys are full of mischief, but I broke a lot of rules while growing up and so did most of the kids I hung out with. So as not to embarrass or implicate anyone in this story, the names of the characters are going to be changed.
The incident I’m going to share happened in my first year of college at Miami University of Ohio. When I graduated Taft High School I was one of 3 kids who had taken 4 years of Spanish. Because there were only 3 of us, for our 4th year they placed us in the same class as the Spanish III people and then the teacher found moments where he worked with us on more advanced conversation and topics.
I had a good friend named Adam and Adam had an older brother named Baker. As I was an entering freshman at Miami, Baker was a fourth year student scheduled to graduate at the end of the year. I was set to enter Miami majoring in Mathematics. I was to drop out soon afterwards and get my degree via another route, but that’s another story to be shared later. There was only one obstacle standing in the way of Baker’s imminent graduation – back then Miami required a successful completion of a second level foreign language (at least that’s what Baker told me).
Baker was a very bright student so I guess he was thinking he would take the required classes in this final year. Upon hearing that I had had 4 years of high school Spanish, Baker approached me during the summer with a proposition. He had figured out a scheme. Perhaps this idea was common in college at the time because the way he explained it, it didn’t sound too ‘made up’ – it came out like it was commonplace at the time (likely true).
He said – why don’t you take a Spanish class for me and I will take a Literature class for you (obviously the word had gotten out about my flunking a quarter of 10th grade English).
I said – we can do that?
Well, not legally, but it’s easy. I will sign up for my Spanish class and then you just show up for me the whole semester. I will do the same for you next semester.
Baker was three years older than I. He was “cool” in my book. He was bright, had an entrepreneurial spirit and was funny to be around. He was also the brother of one of my close high school friends, so I reluctantly agreed. Baker signed up for a second year Spanish class and then he shared with me the details of the days and time for the class. All I had to do now was to show up and be a fabulous Baker Boy!
(I would rename this movie the Fabulous Michelle Pfeiffer).
Ok, so let’s pause here a second and discuss this. Baker was a senior, a 21 year old major in Political Science. I was a geeky 18 year old freshman who was only good at one thing – math. What the hell was I going to do if someone asked me anything about my major during that Spanish class? What the hell was political science anyway? Do science and politics mix? I asked Baker – what if someone asks me something about your major, what the heck am I supposed to say? He had a good response for that and it makes me chuckle today as I’m writing about it. He said – just keep speaking in Spanish and struggle with your answers. They will change the subject eventually. I don’t mind admitting today that I thought I was going to get caught and dragged into an interrogation room and that it would go like this (appropriate for Spanish):
Well the schedules were printed. I had my own full class limit – I was loaded down with the maximum number of credits I was allowed to enroll for. On top of that, I had Baker’s class. Additionally, I had to borrow money to help pay my own way as well as that of my girlfriend who was a beginning freshman herself. To pay off the loan and to pay for gas money, maintenance expenses, lunch money, etc., I had to work evenings.
Care to guess how my first semester went? It was a mess! That’s putting it mildly. I’d make it into my 8am Calculus class ok and I was always prepared for that one, but English was next. Most of the time after Calculus I would head over to the student lounge, grab a couch and would immediately fall asleep, missing English. I’d skip English one day and another class the next, thinking I could scrape by. I was naively thinking I could get a C by showing up for half of the classes and doing perhaps a third of all the required work.
Baker’s Spanish class was no different. In a normal situation with adequate rest, that class would have been fairly easy for me. Even today I can still impress my wife at dinner time with my orders for ‘cerveza y margaritas’. (Damn I’m a lucky guy that my wife is so easily impressed – wouldn’t you agree?). I’m also pretty damn good at asking where is the toilet, get ready readers – ¿dónde está el baño? During the class itself, (when I was awake enough to attend), I was fine during the conversation and in-class portion. Unfortunately though the professors at Miami were not what one would consider “supportive”. They actually expected me to do homework and to study for their tests (nervy, weren’t they).
The semester came and went. (I plan to write a full story about my Miami experience and my migration into Taco Bell restaurant management.) For this story, I will share with you that I passed the Spanish class, but just barely. Baker actually had the nerve to tease me about my pathetic grade. It was done in a playful manner, but he had a decent grade point average, so probably didn’t enjoy or expect a poor grade. I don’t even recall exactly what I got – was either a D or a low C. Whichever it was, it was sufficient to qualify Baker for his graduation requirement and as it would turn out, Baker never had to enroll in a class for me.
At the end of each story I write I like to think about what I just wrote and reflect on – what is the point? Why is this story worth reading? Is there a moral or a lesson here or is this particular story just one of the funnier memories? What’s the bottom line for this story? Every single one of us has to make choices about right and wrong, good and evil. I helped to break a rule that year. As easy as that was to pull off, it makes me wonder what professionals are walking around with incomplete credentials. Today I know that it is standard procedure to have to present photo identification for just about everything – that was not the case though in 1976. Did the surgeon who operated on my knee have his older brother sit in for him that day for the important Biology test?
Is your nurse really a nurse? Greg’s a nurse.
The next time we visit our dentists, our family physician or other medical professional, we might just want to take along our own special questionnaire to satisfy our curiosity relative to their credentials. If we’re having an important surgery, perhaps we should invite them over for dinner first and ask them to carve the meat, see how they do with that first?