A few days passed and life pretty much returned to business as usual. To his credit, I never felt that Mr. Rivers carried a grudge against me. I had done the time for my crime and we were square. And believe it or not, I really didn’t harbor any ill will toward him. (And still don’t.) I think I perceived him as a guy acting in the line of duty. As I think about it, it’s possible that being the child of an educator had given me a unique perspective. After all, I had seen my father play the disciplinarian many times and I knew he loved his students, routinely dropping everything to make time for them.
Then just as the incident was fading from memory, I was sitting at home when my mother said, “Malcolm, I just heard this unlikely story about you… chewing gum… Mr. Rivers… a ruler… some soap, etc.” Then she asked, “Is that true?”
I couldn’t read either her expression or her mood. I wondered, maybe she’s coming to my aid? Maybe I have an advocate here? So, adopting the tone of the anguished victim, I affirmed the rumor.
I quickly saw that she felt my punishment had been unjust. She clearly felt Mr. Rivers had overreacted. Not only did she see it as a case of the punishment not fitting the crime, but she felt it was grossly unfair. Then she asked, “Did you know that that was the penalty for chewing gum and lipping off to the substitute teacher?”
I replied with something like “Yeah… I guess so.”
Then her expression changed as she simply said, “Oh.” After a pause, she went on to explain, “I can’t believe that Mr. Rivers went as far as he did, but you knew the stakes. You probably need to give more thought before you act.” We never discussed the matter again.
Next: The “So What”
Onward, Malcolm Gauld