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My senior year in high school was the one and only year I ever did anything stupid. I cheated for the first time that year, though not for me. 

But that’s not the stupid thing. 

My high school was and still is one of the few in the area with a swimming pool. So, “in order to graduate” everyone MUST pass the swim/gym class. Generally this class is given over two semesters of your freshman year. 

I had to retake it my senior year. Mostly because I didn’t do anything what-so-ever in swim my freshman year. 

So when it snuck up on me again senior year–against my will–I did the only logical thing. 

I skipped it. 

Almost all semester. 

And I would have gotten away with it, too. If it hadn’t been for that pesky teacher. 

You see, I was doing the exact opposite of what a normal class-skipper-person would do. Instead of, I don’t know, hiding on the bleachers in the football field or, uh, leaving school property, I did the nerdy thing. 

I found a little used computer lab and worked on my writing portfolio. 

Yep. I’m a nerd. 

I had made it through almost an entire semester. And then, of course, a teacher brought her class in to work on their portfolios. She questioned my appearance there, asked where I was supposed to be. 

I ended up leaving the computer lab, pretty much bs’d until class change, and proceeded to my next class. 

Within minutes of getting settled in class, I was called to the “disciplinary” principal’s office. Mr./Coach Wireman, ironically. 

It was then that I was told that, I could not graduate unless I took swim. I said, “I know someone who graduated even though he failed math.” That was my first smart-off to a teacher. It took me that long. 

Anyway, I got around to tellinghim that chlorine-used in swimming pools-gave me headaches. Migraines if I lingered too long in or around a pool with chlorine. And they really liked the chlorine in our pool. 

So he said, “Well, I’m not suspending you.” I thought, “You better not, I’ve never gotten in trouble before.”

“But,” he continued, “don’t come back until you get an excuse from a doctor.” 

The very next morning, when all of my other siblings were at school or work, my mom called the doctor, told them the thing, and that the chlorine gave me headaches. They said to come by before end of business and get your excuse. 

We picked it up, and drove my my high school. Turns out Mr. Wireman wasn’t there. Woohoo!

So, my favorite principal, not even the head principal (the heck does a school that size have so many for?), saw me and my mom. Mike Barber was his name. 

He said that since I needed a grade for that class, I needed to do something to earn it. And since it was gym/swimming/sports related, my work needed to reflect that. 

I was asked to choose four(?) sports and write a report on each one. I would report to the library every day to work on them and have them turned in by finals. 

The first week or so, the library was being renovated, so I just sat in the reception area for an hour. 

Best class ever. 

When I graduated high school 12 years ago, Mr. Barber was the one standing at the base of the steps and the last principal to shake hands with students as they came off the stage. I tripped as I came down (panty hose snafu) and he caught me. I thanked him but I don’t think he ever knew how thankful I was. 

My sister told me today that Mr. Barber had passed away. Though I hadn’t seen the man since graduation, I will miss him. He was my first principal-in elementary school. And he helped finish my public education in high school. 

A good man, and a good principal. 

And I still can’t swim. 

-c

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