The well-mannered sophisticate you’ve come to know to be the author of these whimsical anecdotes actually shares the tarnished record of his subjects, as you may have suspected. All the aliases in the world can’t distance me from the shame and misconduct some of these blog posts contain. But today is an exception. This story is about me, guileless, with a proud message… if you can get to the end.
In eleventh grade, I was suspended from Barrie Central Collegiate for drinking alcohol underage, and on school property. Before you imagine it, no, I wasn’t sipping a flask in third period data management. I’m not a degenerate. I was just trying to have a good time with my friends at the spring dance. 2014, “Spring Fling”, tie-dye themed.
The dance was on a Friday night. About ten of us pre-drank at a friend’s house, as was standard for all school dances. Our group was made up of fellow competitive swimmers who also went to school with me. Perhaps because it was near the end of the swim season, or perhaps the party-stars just aligned, but we really got after it that night. We took our time too, we arrived at the pre just after dinner and drank until the nine o’clock departure time. The dance started at eight but our inebriation would only last so long without top ups —which I had my own plan for— so two hours of sweaty dancing was all we would be able to manage anyways.
We sorted our tie-dye outfits and loaded into two minivans driven by a parent and a sober friend. Near the end of the trip into Barrie’s downtown, where the school resided, we took our last swigs of booze followed by sizeable swishes of mouth wash. We parked at the far side of the parking lot and giggled our way to the back doors of the school where the entry checkpoint was set up. In our neon orange, green, and yellow, with bright headbands, I know we looked ridiculous. I know because the only photo I have is from that night is from right before shit hit the fan. I wore a backwards white ball cap and a Playboy shirt from Walmart speckled with a custom tie-dye job. Besides the drunken glaze over my eyes, I’m sure I looked quite sharp.
Through the checkpoint we were subdued and polite. We accommodated the two police officers and our vice-principals by offering the small string-tied bags some of us brought, and by lifting our arms and spinning to show we weren’t concealing. Smoothly we were ushered past, free to join the festivities down the hallway. Two large pill bottles containing whiskey instead of pharmaceuticals were unfound in my underwear and shook there as I ran to the dark gymnasium, chasing the vibrations of my peers and dance music.
Revels ensued. Not so clear in my memory for some unascertainable reason. After some time, I giddily emptied both the makeshift flasks and my bladder in the bathroom during a song I didn’t like, and joined the crowd with a newfound boisterousness. Untouchable camaraderie and juvenility reigned supreme. Until it didn’t.
I was ripped from the merriment, pulled out of a bouncing ring of bodies, by a classmate harbouring news of the worst-case. Ty, one of my longtime buddies and a swimmer we came with, whom I signed a waiver for to attend the dance since he was from another school, had been grabbed by the authorities. I left the dance floor to check on him down the hall. I zigzagged my way until I saw him in a cubby area beside the checkpoint. He sat, head in hands, looking worse for ware. Still, I foolishly thought he was fine. I decided to talk to the male vice principal, a man I mistook through the alcohol to be a friend in this circumstance. He was a nice enough guy, I’d seen and spoken to him more than once at the rec-centre before or after swim practices. Off duty, he was quite likeable. Presently, he just sighed in response to my efforts to free Ty from punishment. “Benny, you smell of alcohol too. It comes out your skin when you sweat. Now I have to hold you too,” he said. I thought he was joking, I started to back away, all support for my friend forgotten, but he waved me back.
Next thing I know, I was leaning against a pillar between Ty and one of the officers, dwelling on the consequences that were coming all too soon. Ty now had a garbage bin in front of him and spitefully vomited into it a handful of times. The joy was gone. He looked more angry than worried, and certainly drunk no longer. Each upchuck was sent into the bin with such contempt, it’s truly hard to do adequately describe here. But the boy was having none of it. I shamefully tried a different approach. I engaged in small talk with the pudgy red-haired officer nearest me, hoping my politeness and attempted articulation would save me from trouble. It did not. I was questioned, my parents were called, and I was informed I would be suspended. Before long, our whole arriving party was gathered beside the cops, less one, who had hidden away in the crowds. Because he was two years younger, they’d forgotten he had come with us.
My parents arrived before I could see the outcome each member faced. There was some questioning of them too, but they had nothing to contribute; my irresponsibility had stolen them away from a small concert they were attending on the other side of town. The drive home was miserable. As were the following hours. Suspension was no small sentence in my household. Like when I was a child, my guilt for my actions was more powerful than the judgment of my parents. And the liquor didn’t help. I exiled myself to basement and wept. They told me to go sleep upstairs. Eventually I sobered enough to listen.
The weekend was spent at our family cottage, just my parents and I. Not much was said about the incident, only that I would spend the days away from school doing chores. I was assured it would not be time-off. My conscience thought chores weren’t enough, but I was happy my parents weren’t too strict. Three days at home, the minimum suspension time outlined by district policy, came and went quickly. Further consequences followed with the swim team during that time, but that was unreasonable and still leaves resentful memories with me. At school on Thursday, it was a mix of shame and laughter amongst the lads. At least we all went down together. For us good-ol-boys, suspension was not expected by our peers, so it remained a topic of discussion for the appropriate amount of days. All things wash away with time. And in my case, it was more than that.
Third period data management, about a week or two after the suspension, a call over the class intercom: “Benny Greeno to the main office. Benny Greeno to the main office.” What nightmare does this order bring? Downstairs, I was received by the female vice-principal, a woman I was not very familiar with and one I did not think was familiar with me. But she was warm when saw me and invited me into her office.
“Now I know the suspension was tough for you, Benny,” she said. “And I know something else too. Did you hear that we did a calculation of grade averages for the entire school year?”
I had actually. It was to help decide on head boy and head girl for the graduating class, and to see who made honour roll in the other grades.
“Well, it just so happens that you have the highest average of every student in your grade. What do you think about that?”
I was pretty damn pleased with myself, if I’m being honest. It was welcome news with the recent events. But the VP wasn’t done.
“And I was thinking,” she continued, “what if you and I, right now, called the superintendent and asked to get that suspension you served removed from your record because of how hard you’ve been working in class?”
“Wow,” I said. “That would be really nice.”
And so we did. And the man on the other end of the phone, who I never met, and to whom I was just a name on a list, cleared up my transcript permanently. I thanked the vice-principal and put it behind me.
So, the moral of the story: work hard and some of your wrongs might just get turned around? Nah. More like: if you can’t find it on my record, it didn’t happen. I’m clean as a whistle and you’ll never catch me, coppers!
B.F. Greeno, aka