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First Place - "Stupid Stupid Stupid"

1995 Anne Horton Writing Award
First Place
"Stupid Stupid Stupid"
Ralph Siddall

I suffer from occasional fits of questionable judgment, and the results tend to make me a viable candidate for Poster-Boy of the Prozac Generation. At the ripe old age of three I decided to eat a box of chocolates; it wasn't until much later that I understood the significance of the letters e-x-l-a-x. I once told a traffic court judge that he was nothing more than a "Lawyer who couldn't make it in the real world;" one night of jail, with a large man who thought I should be his wife, made me sufficiently apologetic to convince the judge I was no longer in contempt of his court. In 1986, during the Bears Super Bowl Rally at Daley Plaza, I decided to get a better view of the festivities by climbing to the top of the Picasso statue; I am forever in debt to the fine men of the Chicago Fire Department's Engine Company #1 for getting me down. These incidents pale in comparison, though, to the sequence of events that occurred the last week of March 1978, and led to my removal from the student body of Northern Illinois University.

It had been a cold, wet weekend, and I welcomed the return back to school. I didn't have any studying to do and knew there would be several people watching the Bulls game in Spiderman's room, three floors below. Spiderman was known as a charismatic, albeit insane, individual. Nurturing the same reputation for myself, Spiderman and I became good friends. I assume his real name was not Spiderman, but in one of those quirks of college life, I never knew for sure.

When I got off the elevator at the ninth floor, I could hear a lot of yelling, punctuated by the game announcer's exaggerated clichŽs. Spiderman had invited a dozen guys to his room, and all were present. Midway through the game's third period, Moses Malone of the 76ers drove hard on Dave Corzine of the Bulls, and dunked over Corzine's inept head. The play of Corzine at center was a sore spot with most Bulls fans, and Spiderman was no different. Malone's drive was the last straw. Spiderman picked up his 19" RCA color TV, and hurled it through his dorm room window, sending it crashing to the pavement. The sparks and explosion were spectacular. Everyone bolted the room immediately, but Spiderman and I were caught by the Resident Assistant. While Spiderman was sent below to clean up his mess, my name was written down, and I was banished from the ninth floor. This was a pretty good Monday, as far as I was concerned.

The following evening I was sitting in the lounge of our floor, actually doing a little homework. Three of my friends, Tim Mahoney, Earl Sistrunk, and Jim Tate arrived with two screwdrivers and 50 feet of rope. We had been saving a Christmas tree in the lounge since December, and tonight it was going to die. Jim and I used the screwdrivers to dismantle the large window facing north, while Tim and Earl tied the rope to the tree. Leaning over the open window, we set the tree on fire, and began to lower it. As the flames intensified, we started swinging it outward, so that it would crash into the windows of the various lounges below us, showering the ground with hot embers. Finally the rope burnt through, the tree hurtled to the grass below, and we started to put the window back in place. The Resident Assistant arrived, wrote down our names, and said he would make a full report to the University Police. Not a bad Tuesday, either.

Wednesday we were well-behaved.

By Thursday night, with the aid of several intoxicating beverages, we began to resent the Resident Assistant's attitude toward our quests for amusement. We decided to call his attention to our dismay in a sporty manner. The floor of the dorm I lived in was triangle-shaped, so that each corner room could see down the lengths of two long halls. The Resident Assistant's room was at the end of one of these halls. We stood halfway down the hall from his room, and started driving golf balls at his door, while shouting his name. Luckily he never opened his door, so he didn't suffer any injuries we could be held responsible for. I hammered a few beautiful 5 iron shots, leaving dimpled dents in the metal door. Earl, the best golfer among us, was able to hit a 3 wood off the Resident Assistant's door that ricocheted to another door at the end of the connecting hallway. Knowing that none of us could top that shot, we retreated back to our rooms, delighted with ourselves. The police arrived about twenty minutes later, and threatened us with an assault charge. Our sincere, heart-felt contrition convinced them to let us off with a stern warning. By Friday night they regretted that decision.

Driven by a sense of sports achievement, Friday night became bowling night. Joined by another friend, Jon Martin, we smuggled a half barrel of beer up to my room, and were well into its consumption when somebody got the idea to throw the keg out the window. Having made a $50.00 deposit on the keg, we decided this was not a good idea. Jon said he had the perfect thing to throw, and left the room. He returned a few minutes later with a 16 pound bowling ball. The window to my room was opened, and the ball was thrown to the roof of the cafeteria 12 floors below. As that was so much fun, we went downstairs to collect the ball and do it again. The sixth time we threw the ball it broke through the roof. We went downstairs again, but had to break into the cafeteria to retrieve Jon's ball. We did not know the cafeteria was alarmed. Tonight was the epitome of a cool party night.

As the elevator doors opened on our floor, we noticed eight University Police officers standing there waiting, apparently for us. That I happened to be holding the bowling ball at this particular time was just a chance collision of time and space, but that's the way the ball bounces - or flies - as the case may be. The five of us were handcuffed and paraded through the lobby, to a police squadrol. It was pouring rain as we left the building, and before the roof could be patched, the cafeteria was swimming in 2 feet of water. The damages exceeded $2500.00. The police charged us with criminal damage to property, disorderly conduct, violation of residence liquor laws, and breaking and entering. The state's attorney allowed us to plead all charges down to misdemeanors, as long as we paid for the damage we caused.

We were scheduled for a hearing with the University Student Judicial Board. Prior to the hearing I was able to get five matching fuschia bowling shirts made. Each shirt had the words "Northern Illinois Bowling Team - Grant North Invitational" blazoned in green sparkle across its back, and each individuals name on the front. Under my name, I added the word "Captain". The board, made up of honor students and tenured faculty members, failed to grasp the humor involved.

The board recommended that Tim, Earl, Jim and Jon be removed from campus. As Jon owned the ball he would be suspended for the remainder of that semester also. Reading from the litany of my week's prior events, and citing the facts that wa.) the ball was thrown from my room and b.) I was caught with the ball in my possession, the board decided I should be expelled from school. The university agreed, and my college career was over.

Sixteen years have passed. Jim Tate is now a top advertising salesperson with the Chicago Sun-Times. Earl Sistrunk is a certified public accountant. Tim Mahoney is a successful practicing attorney in DuPage County. Jon Martin drove off in his new Mustang one night, and the last I heard, was living in California trying to get into movies. As for myself, I am once again a college freshman, hoping to get it right this time around. Despite our creeping middle age, I know that in the back of each of our closets, tucked under a box of old shoes or unused sweaters lies one of the five ugliest bowling shirts ever made.