As I’ve mentioned in the past, despite my nerd/pseudo-intellectual/know-it-all personality, I was a pretty average grade school/high school/college student. In fact, at various times, I’ve been a pretty below average student. In college, that meant retaking classes and figuring out stuff on my own, but grade school was different. In grade school, where teachers reported to parents, there were dreaded “progress reports.”
To the uninitiated, progress reports were letters sent home to parents to advise them of poorly performing/behaving students. At my particular grade school, St. Gregory the Great, progress reports went out at very specific times during the Fall and Spring semesters. I mention that because sometime around fifth or sixth grade, I figured out when the progress reports were going to be sent, and started checking the mail on my way home from school in order to intercept them.
That means by the age of 10 or 11, I had become a criminal mastermind. Well, not quite. Because instead of destroying the progress reports, I hid them. In the house. Where my parents could easily find them. Maybe I felt guilty and wanted to get caught, or maybe I was just a poor excuse for a criminal. Either way, I eventually got caught.
While cleaning one day, my Mom opened one of my cast iron banks that I had been given as a birthday gift by my grandmother and discovered the hidden progress reports. When I got home from school, my disappointed and angry Mom informed me of her find and that when my Dad got home from work we’d be having a little discussion together.
My Dad was by no means a harsh or mean man, but there was no way I would be able to handle the shit storm that was about to come down, so I did what any right-thinking 10 or 11-year would do – I ran away.
I’m not sure the reason, but my Mom left for a short period of time prior to my Dad arriving home, so I scribbled a pathetic note about how I was a disappointment and had let them down, and would be departing to avoid confrontation. As it was the middle of a Buffalo winter with a few feet of snow on the ground, I grabbed my gloves and hat, threw on a winter coat and marched out into the wintry night.
Without any reason or forethought, I started my trek which took me through several neighborhoods I had previously walked or ridden my bike through, contemplating my future. Or not. I hadn’t really thought this out very well as it was spur of the moment, so after about a half hour, I stated getting cold and hungry and tired.
Had I not succumbed to these weakness, perhaps I would have stayed a runaway, and taken a wildly different path in life. Like that of a train hopping hobo or homeless drug addict. Instead, I decided to walk to a nearby grocery store called Super Duper to warm up. Big mistake. Waiting for me at the store was my Uncle Tim. I hurried into the bathroom, trying to evade him, but the jig, as they say, was up.
My uncle drove me home to my waiting parents, who immediately sent me to my room without much discussion. After a cooling off period, Mom and Dad came up to my room to discuss the events of the day. I didn’t get grounded, but I got something much worse – a big dose of disappointment. Not the “we’re disappointed you’re such a massive failure” kind. No, this was the much more embarrassing and effective “we’re disappointed you couldn’t talk to us about your difficulties at school.” Ouch.
After that, I got a tutor for my worst subject, math. The progress reports slowed and eventually stopped, and my grades went from unacceptable to merely average, which was enough to keep me from having to repeat any grades and pass me along to high school and eventually college.
And I never had to do anything as stupid as that again.