Read the whole story in California to Ohio (Unabridged).
Friday, December 15, 2006 (continued)
Before continuing with my travel tales, I want to let you know that I did not make up the story about some kid receiving three days of suspension for wearing a hat to school. Nope, the kid in that story was me, Ryan Michael Powell. There was no phone call to a driving dad or anything like that (because it was 1989 or 1990), but the rest of it actually happened.
Yup, one day when I was a sophomore at Westland High School, I dared to wear a hat to school. It wasn't a plain red hat like the one in my cop story; it was actually a white hat with a black logo that read: "Limited Edition Drum & Bugle Corps."
Just after my lunch period on the day I wore the hat to school, as I walked from the commons to my 8th-period classroom, Sgt. Hoy (the ROTC instructor) told me to remove my hat. Sgt. Hoy was an annoying little squirt, barely over five feet tall, so I just ignored him and kept walking toward my class. However, "Rotsy" instructors like Sgt. Hoy don't take kindly to being ignored by high school sophomores, so he wriggled his way through the parade of teenagers to catch up with me. Then, when he caught me, he grabbed my arm and marched me to the school office, where he wrote up a discipline report and turned it in to Mr. Dave Holland, one of the school's four punishment experts.
Even though I'd never been sent to the office for any kind of behavior problem, Mr. Holland—such a caring and wise individual—decided my act of insubordination warranted three days of suspension. So not only did I have to stay away from school for three days, but I also would lose 2 percentage points in all of my classes for each day I was suspended. That meant I could earn no better than 94% in any of my classes for that particular grading period, even if I aced the class. It meant that if I actually earned 95% of the possible point total in any of my classes, I would still only receive credit for 89%, giving me a B instead of a solid A.
Yeah, you bet I was a little pissed off.
So when I got home I opened up my Westland High School student handbook to read the school rules and the consequences for breaking particular rules, because no one gets suspended three days for wearing a hat at school.
And you know what I found out? I found out Dave Holland is a fucking idiot.
First of all, there was no rule prohibiting students from wearing hats in school. We all understood that we weren't supposed to wear hats in school, and we even thought it was a rule, but that rule simply did not exist. The closest thing to a hat rule was a segment reading: "Students may be asked to remove hats, sunglasses, headphones, etc." But it wasn't a rule, and there were no consequences listed.
So why were they suspending me for three days? Oh yeah, for insubordination.
Dig this. The definition for insubordination, which I'll never forget, was: "Failure to follow reasonable rules." And the clearly-written penalty for insubordination was three days of after-school detention, not three days of suspension.
Well, as I have already established, I broke no rule by wearing the hat, so throw out the insubordination charge. Furthermore, I wasn't in the office for disobeying a command by a power mad school employee who doesn't actually know the school's rules, so you can't punish me for that, either. And even if there had been a rule prohibiting students from wearing hats, I contend to this day that it wouldn't have been a reasonable rule. So Westland High School had absolutely no justification to punish me in any way. That is, of course, according to the rules they wrote.
After reading the handbook thoroughly, I went back to the school with my parents and demonstrated, using the school's own student handbook rhetoric, that I hadn't done anything wrong. No, I proved that I hadn't done anything wrong. (OK, I did injure Sgt. Hoy's fragile ego a little. But that's not against the rules, either.)
So, again, why did you try to suspend me for three days, Mr. Holland?
Simply because you are one individual in a long line of sick, sadistic, illiterate pricks Westland High School has employed over the years. You get off on fucking with helpless kids, most of whom are smarter than you. No other reason. You should be real proud of yourself, Dave Holland. Not just for fucking with me, but for fucking with thousands and thousands of other kids, redirecting many of them toward their current, enviable lives as gas station attendants.
After a long fight with the administration assholes at Westland, I ended up serving three days of after-school detention.
Fuck you, Dave Holland. And fuck you, Westland High School.
Meanwhile, back at the Hall of Justice...
As Rudy and I ventured deeper into the California desert, away from the gigantic expanse of city that begins at the Pacific Ocean and ends about 150 miles from that same ocean, Rudy told me a story that reinforced my growing suspicion that hitchhiking is a surefire way to meet the best people on the planet. It's a story I wish I'd captured on videotape, even though it was too dark to get any decent video.
Rudy's story took place when he was still with the California Highway Patrol. However, I have no idea when that was, and it's not an important part of the story, so let's just say it happened about 8 years ago.
I believe the story begins at a McDonald's, where Rudy had gone to buy some breakfast. At this McDonald's he noticed a teenage boy who appeared to be a runaway. Actually, I think Rudy likened his first impressions of this kid to his first impressions of me sitting at the truck stop in Palm Springs. The kid was just minding his own business, not bugging people for money or food or anything. But Rudy sensed that maybe the kid was in need of something, so he did some investigating.
Rudy asked the kid if he wanted anything to eat, but the kid wasn't hungry. This initial conversation must have sparked some additional discourse, though, because Rudy ended up finding out that the kid had recently run away from home. It would have been easy to assume that the kid had run away from strict parents who wouldn't let him go out and get high every night or something like that, but that wasn't the case. In reality, the kid ran away because his dad was all messed up on drugs. The kid just couldn't take it anymore.
Sensing that the kid wanted to set his life in the right direction, Rudy thought about a contractor he knew who was always on the lookout for good workers. So he made the kid an offer. Rudy said, "If I set you up with a motel room right over there for tonight, would you be willing to work for my friend early tomorrow morning?"
The kid showed interest in Rudy's proposal, but Rudy kind of felt like he may not have been completely serious. Nevertheless, Rudy got the kid a motel room for the night, optimistic that it might be the spark for a brighter future in the kid's life.
Early the next morning, the kid got up and went to work for Rudy's contractor friend. But that's just the beginning of the story because he ended up working for Rudy's friend for at least the next couple years before moving on to bigger and better things.
I really wish Rudy could tell you that story because he told it a lot better than I did. Plus I probably got a lot of it wrong. So Rudy, if you're out there reading this, let's hear from you, eh.
Wait a minute. I could just call him.
To continue, read California to Ohio, Part V.
Or read the whole story in California to Ohio (Unabridged).