Nobody's perfect, right? Everybody cuts corners here and there. To quote The Simpsons: "If you cut every corner, there'll be more time to play. It's the American way." I was always a well-behaved kid. I never got in trouble, really. But sometimes there were things in school that I just didn't want to do, and I would, like any delinquent, spend more time not doing an assignment than it would take to do it.
Scratch that. I figured out ways to spend zero time. And I never got caught.
In ninth-grade English, we had to write a book report. We could pick any book in the known universe, as long as the teacher approved. I had a Star Wars book from the early '80s lying around for years, gathering dust, and I decided to pull it out for the assignment. The teacher approved. I started reading, and ma-ha-han, was I bored. I got about halfway through it when a thought occurred to me: what were the odds that my teacher had read Lando Calrissian and the Mindharp of Sharu? Vegas odds, I'd go at least a thousand to one. So I tucked the book away, got out my pen and paper, and made up the second half. To this day I don't know how it ended. My grade: 100.
Also in ninth-grade English, I had to do a research paper. Simultaneously, in biology, we were learning about genetics. So I decided to cut some major corners and write my paper on genetics, using my textbook as my main resource. My grade: 90.
In seventh-grade science (not exactly high school, but anyway), we had to write a research paper (notice a pattern?). I had chosen the topic of atomic energy because...I probably just picked it randomly off of a list. Anyway, so science was second period. During first period choir, I was copying out the World Book article on atomic energy, word for word. Word...for...word. I turned it in. I don't remember my grade, but I could have cared less because I didn't actually write it. Whatever grade I got was acceptable. And since I had absolutely no vested interest in the thing, I tossed it in the trash on my way out of class. Then, a month later, the teacher announced that we were going to be doing science fair projects based on our research papers. It was like she knew... Anyway, so the night before the science project was due, I took stock of the supplies we had in the house. No poster board. Wait...no poster board? How was I supposed to do a science fair project without poster board? I thought about it for a second and came up with the obvious answer: don't do the project. So the next day, when everyone turned in their work, I sat in my desk at the back of the class. A few days later, I get the call. "Gregory, can you please come up to my desk for a second?" OK, here it came. I was ready for it. She was going to ask me why I didn't do it, and I was just going to say whatever was necessary. I had already accepted that I was going to get a zero. I went up to her desk, ready to face the music. But what she said threw me for a loop. "I can't find your science fair project anywhere." No question, no accusation. She was asking for my help. And my brain just clicked on, and without a moment to consider my response, I went bug-eyed. "Well, I turned it in with all the others!" I gasped. Then, to add effect, I moved over to the counter where everyone else's hard work was displayed, making a show of searching for mine. My teacher felt bad about the idea of failing a kid whose project had somehow disappeared. My grade: 85.
In the last issue of the school newspaper before I graduated, I recounted the science fair story. It felt pretty great.
We had a matchmaking service at our school called Data Match. You would fill out a questionnaire, and whichever club was responsible for it - I want to say Student Council - had a computer program to link up high match similarities. Then you would get a printout of the most compatible people to you. I had to write an article on this for the school newspaper. So I went out to do my interviews and was told, off the record, that the whole thing was a sham and the names were generated randomly. Again, this was off the record, and this was a sanctioned school fundraiser for which hundreds and hundreds of people had paid money. So I wrote a completely fabricated story about how great Data Match was. Don't trust the media. The government controls it, people.
Whenever I had any paper to turn in - any paper, I always started it with a humorous title page. I would make up quotes about the paper, reviews. I would list "other works in this series." I would do everything I could to get my teachers smiling before they read the mediocre work that followed. I'd say it helped out more than half the time. Here is the only surviving example of this.
NEXT TIME: SCAMS I CAUGHT WHEN I WAS A TEACHER