Friday, March 5, 2010

My First Felony Offense

I suppose most of us hide secrets in our heart, some out of the fear of embarrassment, others because they’re just private and should remain private… and some to avoid a prison sentence! You may have thought you knew me, but you’re about to learn of my first criminal offense.

The Romans would have called it MCMLXVIII. It was 1968. The Green Bay Packers won the Superbowl, Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In debuted, Richard Nixon was elected President of the United States, Martin Luther King was assassinated, and I committed my first felony. WAIT… that makes it sound like my crime had something to do with Dr. King’s death. While that was a terrible crime, it was not my crime! I was only 11 years old.

I figured my crime was good for at least 10 years of hard labor in striped pajamas...

Back in the 60s we had elementary school, junior high and high school. Somewhere along the way junior high became middle school, and they started messing with the grades. Now I’m not sure what school a 6th grader goes to. If I had a 6th grader he’d just have to ride the bus.

But when I was in 6th grade we were the upper classmen of elementary school. Our next year would be the jump to junior high, and our first taste of multiple classrooms and teachers. The idea of changing classes was cool enough, but we actually got to select the classes… well, at least one of them. We got to choose between band and chorus. Not being a good singer I opted for band.

Mom agreed with my choice to take band, and I don’t suppose dad really cared one way or the other, as long as I didn’t make any noise while he was reading his newspaper. All I had to do was mark the appropriate box on the form and get a parent to sign it, and I had carried out my first official junior high act, while still in 6th grade. The forms were due no later than Friday.

Getting ready for school on Friday I made sure I had my form. I’d hate to flunk out of 7th grade without even attending one day of school. Sure enough I got to school with the form, filled out and ready to be turned in. Except… it wasn’t signed! I was panic stricken. Mom and dad had left for work without signing my form.

What could I do? What would you do? I got an ink pen and a piece of paper, and I practiced dad’s signature. I figured I didn’t have a chance with mom’s penmanship, but dad’s… that was do-able. I signed the form. I turned the form in. I became a criminal!

In all fairness the crime of forgery may be a felony or it may be a misdemeanor, depending on whether you get a prison sentence of more than one year, or less than one year. I figured my crime was good for at least 10 years of hard labor in striped pajamas.

I spent the entire summer of 1968 with a nagging anxiety in the pit of my stomach. Oh, I’d like to say it was guilt over my act, but the truth is I was worried about getting caught. I guess I thought all junior high schools had a handwriting expert on staff, whose only job is to verify the signatures on parental permission slips. And when that glorious day came and I passed 7th grade, I breathed a giant sigh of relief. They could throw me in jail but they couldn't take 7th grade away from me.

Dad never found out about the forgery, and I got better and better at it. That's how I got my first car!

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