"A lot of things aren't worth doing, but almost anything is worth telling."
Ursula K. LeGuin, "Shroedinger's Cat"

Friday, December 7, 2012

I Smell Fear on You!

I have always been a procrastinator.  Between my low-grade depression and congenital laziness, it always took last-minute panic for me to get any of my school work done.

It finally caught up to me with my final English paper my sophomore year of high school.  Keep in mind that this was 1986.  I had to type my paper on an electric typewriter with footnotes (not endnotes!) which means I had to judge how much space to leave at the bottom of each page through luck and guess-timation.  (A couple of of kids in my class were using computers, but I wasn't what you'd call an early adopter.)
It was only a five-page paper, but I had done almost nothing until the night before.  I knew I was going to be pulling an all-nighter.  What I didn't anticipate is that I still wouldn't be finished by the time I had to leave for school the next morning.  English was my first period, and I wasn't old enough to drive myself yet.  Basically I had managed to finish my entire paper except for the bibliography.

I went to a Catholic high school taught by an order of "brothers."  Brother Stephen was my sophomore English teacher, and he could be demanding at a school that was strict to begin with.  He personally collected the papers from each student, and when he got to me, I could sense he could sense the fear in me.  We watched a video about Emily Dickinson as an "easy" period for the day our big paper was due.  Brother Stephen must have read through my paper during the film, looking for the source of my deer-in-the-headlights terror, because as the end of class, in front of everyone, he booms out, "Mr. St. John, did you turn in a bibliography with your paper?"  And all I could do was croak out a meek little "No" as my face burned in humiliation.

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