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Getting caught can be the best lesson of all

 (The Spokesman-Review)
(The Spokesman-Review)
Courtney Dunham Correspondent

It’s Friday night and there’s nothing to do; we’re bored. I know, let’s go TP somebody’s house!

That’s what an Oregon teen did recently and paid the steepest price I’ve heard for a prank: He was expelled from school. How many did this growing up and never got caught?

This ridiculous punishment got me thinking about my toilet paper crimes as a teenager and how much more appropriate my “sentence” was. Remembering how we got caught in the act still gives me chills 20 years later …

My friends Vicki and Beth and I contemplated ways to get back at a boy who was torturing us at grade school. His crimes included lifting up my friend’s uniform jumper in front of the recess crowd and calling us names daily that pointed out some flaw we already were self-conscious of.

That Friday night my friend was still in tears over something he said to her earlier. We could not stand up to this bully alone, but together we figured we could get the best of him. Unfortunately, we lacked the kick-ass skills of Charlie’s Angels, so beating the crap out of him was not an option, although greatly desired. So we thought of the next best thing: Toilet papering and egging his house. Something about disgracing his home admittedly gave us some measure of pleasure.

We waited until 2 a.m. to make the six-block jaunt to the “Smith” home. After TP-ing the grounds, we threw eggs at the windows and two cars. We weren’t concerned about causing damage or whether someone would hear us – it amazes me how stupid we were! Well, someone did. We had only a few eggs to go when “Michael’s” dad came barreling out the front door.

We ran for our lives. I don’t even remember running back to Vicki’s house because my fear and adrenaline were that intense. Beth arrived just steps behind me, enabling me to finally take a deep breath. That is, until we realized Vicki was nowhere in sight.

“Oh my God, what if he caught Vicki and is holding her captive?” I cried out.

Beth responded, “What if he’s beating her up or something?”

We sat like cowards in her bedroom debating our next move. A half-hour passed before we decided we should go back for her. We knew we were screwed either way, so we dragged our sorry souls back to the scene, where our imprisoned friend and punishment awaited.

We expected Mr. Smith to greet us like tyrants, but we were more off base than we could ever imagine. Instead he was almost friendly and said, “Hello girls, come on in and sit down please.”

There on the couch sat Vicki and Michael, looking as white and sheepish as the rest of us. None of us were prepared for what came out of Mr. Smith’s mouth.

“I want all of you to clean up this mess you’ve created. I got Michael out of bed to help you girls,” he said, then turning just to Michael. “Whatever you did to these girls must have been pretty bad for them to come and do this in the middle of the night. So I blame you just as much for this.”

As I scrubbed the sticky egg off the windows and cars, I realized that it wasn’t just a prank – it was causing damage to someone’s property. I never wanted that, but sometimes we let our need for revenge get the best of us.

Two hours later, Mr. Smith told us he would not inform our parents of what had happened. He said he suspected we already had learned our lesson and that if we promised to never do it again, these events would be kept between us. He then turned to Michael and said, “And no one will be told about this at school either. You will never taunt these girls again, do you hear me?”

We kept our word and never spoke about that night again, not even to each other.

Mr. Smith was by far the coolest parent I encountered growing up – not for what he let us get away with, but for what he didn’t and how he responded. I never egged anyone’s house again, or committed any other crime against another.

He taught me how to respect others by respecting myself, and that seeking revenge will only leave you with a bigger mess to clean up.

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