I fully expected my diploma to be withheld after the graduation services. I just hoped things didn't fall apart before I walked across the stage.
There are some things that just need to be done in life. Babies need to get potty trained, birds need to mate in the Springtime, and High School Seniors need a graduation prank. I never asked for the responsibility to help in this final high school rite of passage, but it needed to be done, so I helped. And once enlisted in the struggle, my high school career came to a climax I had never expected.
Simple plans are the best. There is less to go wrong. Our plan didn't involve cows, or lack of clothing or a cacophony. Earlier in the day I'd procured 200 marbles, and we had distributed them to the members of the class.
Unfortunately there was that women. Mrs. Stowell, was part of the committee of old women at the high school. A group of three elderly women who were the embodiment of crabbiness and the status quo. And if there is one thing young men crave its to break out of the status quo. Mrs. Stowell was the student government adviser, and over my three years of student government we had had epic struggles over homecoming activities, bladder busters, donut sales, and my refusal to give her back my keys.
I'd been nervous all afternoon that one of the old women would catch wind of the plot. The old women held the power of graduation. Like some unholy oracle you had to please to continue your life quest. If you did anything to displease them they would ban you from the graduation ceremonies, if your sin was during the ceremony they would hold your diploma until penance had been exacted over the course of three weeks community service.
Someone cracked! Minutes away from entering the gymnasium, Tagg, my co-conspirator gave me word that Mrs. Stowell was on the war path. She'd found out about the plan and was coming to ban me from the ceremony. So I hid-- I hid where she would never find me, the senior girls restroom.
The girls restroom in the senior hall is decorated in a nice shade of pale green. Its like twilight zone version of the boys restroom. Its got plenty of stalls, but missing my favorite toilet implement. I know this isn't news to anyone, but if you've ever had a chance to experience the other side you'll see how strange and alien it is to be in a restroom, so similar to what you're used to, but at the same time so different.
I don't remember how, but I got from the bathroom to the processional line without running into one of the committee of old women (henceforth referred to as COW). And finally I was seated in the gymnasium with 180 of my fellow classmates in the sweltering May heat. I was temporarily relieved. Mrs Stowell, and the other members of COW took their perches on the upper deck of the gymnasium to compile their lists of offenders. At least I'd made it to graduation. If they wanted me to endure three weeks torture I was fine with it.
Commencement started as usual affair. Speeches the top ten. Every now and then a marble would hit the floor, the sound ricocheting off the wooden floor and brick walls. Finally the time came to read off the names. The COW had impressed the importance of conformity as the names were read. No showing off, making gestures, or even having an expression that conveyed anything than the utmost reverence for being allowed to participate in their graduation.
As our class crossed the stage and received diplomas from the superintendent our plan was hatched. As we shook his hand we each slipped him a marble. At first he had now idea what was going on and put the marbles in his pockets. Soon his pockets were bulging, and Betty, the school's super secretary sprang into action and started taking the marbles from him. I'll admit the worked like a decent team, and were able to keep the decorum of the meeting. Soon Betty ran out of places to hide marbles and they were scrambling to find new places to put the marbles. All the time the COW members were writing furiously.
Finally the meeting was over and the race began. COW raced to Mr. Woodfin, the principal to get their list of over half the class approved to withhold the diplomas. We raced down to the commons to get our actual diplomas. As I descended the stairs I quickly scanned the room for the P-Z line. In the front was Mr. Torgeson. A jolly man, with a kind temperament. They were supposed to hold off on issuing the diplomas until COW got there. Torgeson knew better. You see once the school has given you your diploma there is nothing they can legally do to get it back. It is a legal document, and belongs to the graduate. I'd never seen Torgeson act so quickly. He went passed out diplomas like a man possessed. Like a machine gun he called out names and passed out certificates. I got mine, and stood triumphant in one last battle against Mrs. Stowell. Having succeeded not only in graduating, but in adding just a little bit of spice to the ceremony as well.
Our class partied way into the night and slept in the front stair case of the school, forcing all underclassmen to enter through a side door. Within a few years COW's reign of terror ended, old age finally forcing the women to leave the school. I later learned that when Mrs. Stowell had presented her list to Mr. Woodfin, he looked at it; looked at her and said, "I can't stop all these kids from graduating," crushing her last chance to exert power over these newly minted adults.