In high school, I almost got arrested.
It was Ramona High tradition for the Seniors to toilet paper the school on the night before Homecoming. I realize that it's pretty silly to trash your own school but who am I to argue with tradition? Our principal visited my AP Government class (and, presumably, other senior classes) and informed us that it was fine, we had his permission even, so long as we didn't damage any school property. He went so far as to say, "I'll even open the gate for you." That night I got a call from my friend, Cassie, asking me to ride with her.
I knew that sneaking out wasn't an option. I was always kind of an obedient little adult trapped in a teenager's body. System bucker and Lori were not synonymous. I also knew that if I asked for permission there was a good chance it would be denied. I decided that was a risk I should probably take.
I distinctly remember my dad (the cop) telling me that if I got arrested he was not going down to the local station--which by the way has a tiny little holding cell and looks like something straight out of Mayberry--to bail me out. How humiliating that would have been for him. I could just spend the night there, for all he cared. I thought he was being a giant dork. Why, in the world, would I get arrested for toilet papering a school? Especially when the principal gave us permission. I think I probably laughed at the antics of my overly cautious father.
In the middle of the night my friend picked me up and we headed to the school. It's important to explain that our school was undergoing a huge construction project. There was at least one security guard on duty that night. By the time I got there I had time to survey my surroundings. There were probably fifty students there. Most of them were football players, cheerleaders and members of ASB. I felt pretty out of my tier of popularity. I had friends who were popular (i.e. my ride) but I certainly didn't consider myself a member of the "in" crowd. Oh well, at least no one was confronting me with questioning looks about my presence. Students were throwing toilet paper over buildings, saran wrapping tree trunks, and stacking picnic tables into pyramids. I picked up a roll of toilet paper and thought about throwing it up over a tree branch. As I thought about the best approach I heard the scream, "COPS!" and simultaneously felt a crowd of students descend upon me, running like a herd of crazed antelope with lions in hot pursuit.
I turned and fled, following the crowd and now acutely aware of what mob mentality actually meant. The crowd veered right and I suddenly realized why. As they turned, I was nearly blinded by the lights of an awaiting cop car. I nearly ran straight into it before quickly cutting right and following the crowd which was now trying desperately to funnel through a small break in the gate connected only by a chain and master lock. Some of the bigger guys were having to make a break for the new football field. Others were turning back and taking their chances with the law. I threw myself under the master lock and sprinted through the faculty parking lot. The mob had dispersed. People were diving into cars and hightailing it off campus. Others were crouching in shadows. I dashed across the street and dove into the bushes at the front of someone's property. I think I started to cry.
I wasn't scared of the cops. Even while I was running I wasn't afraid of them. I'd grown up around cops, with a cop, for heaven's sake. Plus, what could I possibly be arrested for? I saw myself sitting in a court room, imploring the judge with my big, dark, brown eyes and my honor's studentness, "You see, sir, I stood by the tree next to my locker and held a roll of toilet paper. I understand that it was after hours but I also know that there are many ways on to campus that don't involve climbing fences or breaking and entering of any kind. Take, for instance, by the pool. I'm a Varsity swimmer, sir. I have been since my freshman year. I know that you can just kind of walk on campus from this field and suddenly, you're at the pool. I mean, there's no sign saying I can't be there until 7:10 am. Right?" And the judge would look at the law enforcement agent, raise his eyebrows and say, "You arrested a girl for holding a roll of toilet paper?" But I still think I started to cry. See, I had no clue what had happened to Cassie. And I had a curfew. I was a little afraid of what my father might do if I didn't make it home.
I peered out from the bushes and, seeing no cops, began to walk up and down the street, wondering what on earth I was going to do. This was almost ten years ago (I can hardly type those words simply because of all the gosh darn where has all the time goneness?) before I carried a cell phone in my pocket. I had a cell phone, all right, but it was the size of my entire hand and lived, exclusively, in the glove box of my car. My house was 7.5 miles from school. I didn't think walking was an option. In fact, I'm fairly certain my parents would have preferred coming to look for me, in a state of panic, at three in the morning and finding me in the bushes at school as opposed to finding me in the middle of nowhere between town and the San Diego Country Estates. (No, my parents do not live on an estate.) As I alternated between reminding myself that I was a seventeen-year-old big girl and crying, I saw a figure walking toward me. A figure I recognized. A figure of Cassie. "Where did you go?" I asked her.
She hadn't followed the mob--smart girl. She had run back between the new theatre and the pool, an area we both knew well. She'd figured she could sneak out that way while the rest of us were being chased by cops. Hmmm. I wish I'd thought of that. Instead, my heart was permanently lodged in my throat and beating 1,200 times a minute. We'd had a third person in our car but, for the life of me, I cannot remember who it was. The three of us piled into Cass's Explorer and attempted to go home. There were cops at every major intersection, waiting to bust us for being out past curfew. (Ah, curfew, the judge could have gotten me there.) I don't remember how we ended up getting home but it was a very long and roundabout way. I entered the house, crept into my parents room and said, "Hey dad, I almost got arrested."
The next morning I learned that several of my fellow pranksters had been maced and cuffed and taken down to the station where they had waited for their parents to bail them out. Oh thank goodness I didn't get caught. I would have still been sitting in the holding cell, I thought. Come to think of it, I might still be sitting there, 9.5 years later, refusing to give them my last name and sparing my dad the humiliation. Apparently the security guard had seen the tubes of saran wrap and mistook them for baseball bats. He thought a whole hoard of seniors had sneaked on to campus to destroy the school. Or something like that. He informed the cops that we were armed. They sent back up. Unarmed students were maced, cuffed, and arrested. It probably wasn't the best day to be on patrol in Ramona.
Unfortunately, the school and the local law enforcement were not too happy about the predicament they'd found themselves in. Instead of admitting that somewhere, somehow, there had been miscommunication and the situation had been handled poorly all around, they dug in their heels and blamed the students instead of taking responsibility for the lunacy that ensued as a result of a few rolls of bathroom aid. Maybe they were embarrassed and angry. Maybe they were afraid of their supervisors or a lawsuit. Or maybe they were just freaking idiots. After all, students were chased, maced, and arrested for a principal approved activity. Among the arrested were football players. Football players who, when told to rat out their fellow classmates, refused. Football players who, when told to rat out their fellow classmates or forfeit playing in their final homecoming game that night, eagerly ratted out their fellow classmates. Cheap shot, RHS Administration. Extremely cheap shot.* I sat in my Government class and squirmed as notes were brought in excusing student after student to the office. On the one hand, I knew that whatever punishment they were receiving should be given to me as well. On the other hand, I knew that one of my friends, in particular, was going to be very upset with me for not including her. She, at this point, still didn't know I'd been a part of it. In all fairness, it wasn't really my place to invite people. I wasn't the one driving, after all. Right? Right? I'll keep telling myself that. I'll keep pretending that it had nothing to do with, "OH MY GOSH I JUST GOT INVITED TO PRANK THE SCHOOL WITH POPULAR PEOPLE AND THINKING ABOUT WHO ELSE TO INCLUDE IS THE FURTHEST THING FROM MY MIND."
There was a lull in the action and I started focusing on Congress or something. And then the door swung open. The note was taken to my teacher. She looked at my desk, briefly closed her eyes, shook her head ever so slightly as if to say, "You? I didn't expect this from you." and said, "Lori, they want you in the office." I wanted to bust up hysterically and cry at the same time. I had never, in all my life, been called to the Principal's office for doing something wrong. Except maybe this one time in second grade where there was a situation with a girl hiding in a bathroom stall and the door getting kicked in or something like that and, come to think of it, I think Cassie might have been involved in that situation, too. Hmmm. We were a pair. The eyes of the one friend bore into me like daggers. I slid out of my desk and barely made it out the door before I realized that the hysterics were going to win over on this one. I don't even think I'd regained composure when I entered the office. I think I was still shaking with laughter. When they opened the door and led me into the conference room that was filled well over capacity with other cohorts I tried to stifle my giggling. I don't think it worked very well.
We all had to give our deposition concerning the affair and, being an English buff and a smart aleck I recollected everything. I wrote about asking my parents if I could go. I wrote about holding a roll of toilet paper. I wrote about hiding in the bushes. I wrote about THE FACT THAT THE PRINCIPAL GAVE US PERMISSION. Which, consequently, was something he lied about later. That was his last year at the school and I wonder if this situation had anything to do with it. It was easy enough to prove that he'd been in our classrooms. Eventually we were given community service and our off campus lunch privileges were revoked.
I showed up for one session of community service along with five or six other people. Some parents were in an uproar over the whole thing--not mine, my father was probably attempting to deny paternity--so they didn't make their kids clean the stadium on Saturday after a football game. When the administration realized that only five or six of us were showing up, they cancelled our community service duty. When they realized that fifty of us being stuck on campus for lunch was worse than just sweeping the whole thing under the rug, they did just that and gave us our off campus privileges back.
I wouldn't change a thing about that night if I could. Well, maybe one thing. I think I would have invited some people that weren't there. But other than that, I am so happy to have that experience. Even if I was almost arrested.
In comparison, my brother (and some friends) once mooned a bus driver during their cross country practice. He got caught. I wonder, if my parents had a choice, if they'd rather erase from their memory my brother's naked butt getting caught or me getting hauled into the Principal's office after holding a roll of toilet paper and then fleeing the law?
*It should be noted that I adored my high school experience and wouldn't trade it for all the tea in China--or something like that. Typically I did not have reason to dislike the administration but they handled this situation extremely poorly.