It was the first semester of my first year at law school. The administration was offering two student jobs, on a first come-first serve basis. One called for picking up the professors' lunch requests from the faculty lounge, at noon, bringing them to the deli across the street, and shlepping a huge box back to the school for distribution to the Profs, who were acting out the effects of a famine.
The other job was to be the attendance monitor for the freshman class.
I applied for and got them both.
They paid nominally, but something is better than nothing, and I arranged for the monies to be automatically credited to my tuition. The lunch job was a ball. It enabled me, under the guise of official duty, to suck up to the Profs, who, eventually adopted me as a sort of a pet, to whom they referred on a first name basis. So, who cared if there were pickles in the coffee or mustard in the cokes. Let's put it this way: at grading time, it didn't do me any harm. The attendance job, however, presented a bit of a problem.
Even at that stage of my life, I tended to favor the underdog. Undoubtedly, a trait which led me to choose criminal defense work. I was ,also, quite aware that a probe of my own college attendance record would have surely led to a Justice Department investigation.
They had given me a huge chart. It reflected all the seats in the huge classroom, with the name of each student in each seat. Every day, at the beginning of class, I was to open the damn thing and, by spotting empty chairs, ascertain and record the names of absentees. The results would be furnished to the Dean, on a weekly basis.
I couldn't do it. I needed the tuition help and had known, going in, what the job entailed, but the cop inside of me passed on this one. I couldn't do it, so I wouldn't. But this was my secret, and, to be sure, I went through the motions, every day. Even this sham made me feel like a yellow rat--a canary singing for the persecutors. For those first few days, I was a social outcast.
Each night, I would get calls, from those who had not been in class, thinking I was on the level, asking me to look the other way. Their excuses ranged from clever to sheer brilliance. My responses were always sympathetic.
"My water broke."
"My cousin in Somalia has the flu."
"I'm truly sorry."
"I swallowed a bee and have lost my sight."
"I've got diarrhea. I can only come to class with a portable john strapped to my ass."
"Your seat is next to mine. Stay home."
"I was driving with my girl and shifted gears with my knees. I hurt myself."
"It should happen to me."
"They all laughed when I sat down to play. I didn't know the bathroom door was open."
"Embarrassment can be permanently disabling."
It went on and on, until the class slowly became educated and they rejoiced as they realized that I was their mole in the school's administration, and that gittin' it done my way was as easy as slicin' a hot knife through butta! Yessirree, Bob. Hot-Damn! Damn it all ta hell. Yahoo, Buckeroo! HiYo, Silver!
During the last week of the fall term, the Dean wanted to see me. It was set up so that I had to walk by all the faculty offices in order to get to theBoss, and I took note that all doors had been kept open. The Profs and the secretaries wanted the best front row seat they could maneuver, for the anticipated showdown at the O.K. Corral.
The Dean and I said hello, shook hands and we sat facing each other, across his desk. His face reflected deep concern. I looked like a true believer, ready to drink the cool-aid.
"Gerry, I've got a situation here, and I believe you're the young man who can set the record straight."
I maintained my joy-to-the-world, angelic face, as if my life's purpose was to spread the word of the Lord.
"The freshman class attendance records for this about-to-be- completed first semester show that there has not been one absent student, at any time. Not one. This has never happened before in our school's history. Now, do you have a problem explaining that?"
I didn't even pause. I shot back, looking him straight in the eye,"Dean, that's because there has never been a freshman class like this one. Never a class so diligent in their study habits, so devoted to learning everything that's presented to them, so hungry to excel in their grades so as to bring credit upon your---excuse me Dean---our school, that religiously attending class was a necessary no-brainer." I snuck in a little breath and swallow, lest I get very dizzy and fall. "I stand in awe of them and salute them for the huge honors which they shall surely bestow on the school."
I was so sincerely and brilliantly full of it, that, part of me fell sway to me. And, as far as selling a scam, my pool-room education stood me in great stead.
The Dean, having not yet broken his eyeball match with me, suddenly looked away. His face showed a hint of frustration which quickly dissolved into a look of unmitigated pride. His smile signified that he had, finally, come to appreciate that the solid excellence of his class was really a bestowal of honor and credit upon him.
And he was truly happy.
And I was his trusted student aide, who was instrumental in the entire thing. As I walked from his office, I noticed that all the Profs were giving me a thumbs-up.
At the beginning of the second semester, I was unanimously elected President of the Freshman class, which numbered two hundred and twenty- five students.
It must have utilized some sort of absentee ballot vote, for only nineteen students voted in person.
The Dean didn't even raise his eyebrows. Hell, his trusted student aide had been in charge.
Tomorrow, I crack the safe.