February 1, 2021 – Scapegoat

Throw me under the bus, I don’t care. I’ve been blamed enough for stuff that I didn’t do throughout my life that when it happens now, I barely bat an eyelash. Now, that’s not to say I haven’t had a role in getting myself into predicaments (because of my big mouth) or that I haven’t done my fair share of things that were inappropriate, uncalled for or downright wrong. I’ve done plenty of stuff during my lifetime. If you ask me if I did something, if I am responsible for ‘said’ offense (and sometimes even when I’m not), I will tell you I did it. Well, that’s not exactly true. Let me back up a couple of steps. If you ask me if I did something and it’s within the confines of a police interrogation room, it depends. It depends on whether my lawyer is present and if he or she gives ‘the nod’. If my lawyer isn’t present, the only thing I am going to say is, “Lawyer, Legal Representative, or Attorney.”

Would I appear uncooperative if I were to do this? I most certainly would! But you know what? I got this advice from one of my professors when I was attending college in order to get my degree in criminal justice and he knew what he was talking about. And if you ever find yourself in a predicament such as that, I would recommend you do the same thing. That’s not to say that I’ve ever actually been in a police interrogation room, but I’ve watched plenty of shows where people have started talking and wind up behind bars. Most of the time they’re actually guilty, but sometimes they’re not. Sometimes people try to ‘cooperate’ and end up taking the fall for something they didn’t do after law enforcement officials screw with their heads long enough and make those people start to question their own recollection of events.

As I said, I’ve never ended up in a police interrogation room; however, I have experienced the ‘next best thing’. What, pray tell, is the ‘next best thing’? That’s when you wind up in the corner or in the principal’s office when you’re in grade school. When you’re a kid, that’s the last place you want to ‘take a seat’. In my case, it happened twice in elementary school and twice in high school. All four times that I was accused, I was innocent. However, I largely brought each incident on myself because of my sense of humor and poker face. What does that even mean? Well, the best way to explain it is to put it this way, because of my unusual sense of humor, I have a tendency to ‘admit guilt’ for things I didn’t do. Why on earth would I do that? Because it’s funny!! Oh. I see. You’re not finding any of this amusing.

Let me provide you with an example to help you understand. When I entered 3rd grade, I was ‘the new kid’ in school. My family had just moved to a new community and I hadn’t had an opportunity to really meet anyone or make any friends. There were two boys (Peter and Paul) that sat behind me in the classroom and I had a huge crush on both of them. One day, an opportunity presented itself to ‘make their acquaintance’ and I took it. What exactly happened? It was ‘pizza day’ and we’d each been served a slice on our lunch trays along with a few other items. I hated the cafeteria pizza. It was always served cold and it tasted awful. The crust resembled soft biscuit dough, the sauce was essentially plain tomato sauce without any seasoning, and the only topping was congealed cheese. I always dreaded ‘pizza day’.

Did I ever eat the school pizza? No! Yuck! Never!! I ate everything else (the orange, canned green beans, tater tots and chocolate milk) but I never touched the pizza. Anyhow, while I was peeling the orange and preparing to eat it, after taking a swig of chocolate milk, I started to eavesdrop on the two cute boys behind me. They talked for a while about sports and school and then I overheard Peter say quite loudly, “What happened to my pizza?!” I turned around to see what was going on. “Someone took my pizza!” he then stated even louder. Paul didn’t say anything. He just shrugged his shoulders. I looked at Peter’s tray and noticed his pizza was gone, however, his orange and all of the other food items remained. What did I do? I decided to open my big fat mouth. “It was me,” I responded, putting on a very well-rehearsed poker face, “I ate it.”

I was being sarcastic in an attempt at humor and it totally backfired. The next thing I knew, Peter had summoned the teacher over and accused me of eating his pizza. “Did you eat his pizza?” the teacher asked me sternly. “No, of course not!” I responded, “I was just joking. I hate the school pizza. I didn’t even eat my own slice.” But it didn’t end there. It was like a house of cards crashing down. The teacher promptly walked over to the front of the classroom. After getting all of the students’ attention, she asked the following question, “Who saw so-n-so (me) eat Peter’s pizza?” I kid you not, nearly every single kid raised their hand. I couldn’t believe it! “I didn’t, I didn’t!” I stated with earnest, but it didn’t matter. “Go stand outside,” the teacher ordered, “You are not participating in recess today.”

In this particular instance, rather than sending me to the corner, the teacher had me stand outside. After she released the other students to go play out on the playground for recess, she came and talked to me. I was nearly inconsolable. The first thing she said to me was, “Admit what you did and you can go to recess.” Huh? “But I didn’t do anything!” I protested, my face wet with tears, “I was just joking! I didn’t do it!!” “Then you can stay out here a little while longer,” she responded, abruptly turning around and reentering the classroom. I slumped to the ground, my back against the brick façade, and bawled like a baby. It was like a bad dream. I couldn’t understand why she didn’t believe me and I really couldn’t understand why nearly every single one of my classmates raised their hand when asked if they saw me eat the pizza. It didn’t make any sense at all!

After recess, once getting all of the students settled back in, my teacher returned. By then, my face was red and swollen. I looked a right mess. “Admit you did it and you can come back inside. We both know you did it,” she said. “But I didn’t, I didn’t!! I didn’t do it!!” I stammered and sputtered between sobs. Because I was stammering and sputtering and sobbing and fraught with emotion, my words were nearly indecipherable. And somehow, at some point, as I continued to protest and repeatedly state my innocence, the teacher misheard me. When I was saying ‘didn’t’, she thought I said ‘did it’. “There you go!” she exclaimed triumphantly, “You finally admitted your guilt. Now don’t you feel better?!” I started to argue that she misheard me but then I stopped. What was the point? Everyone was convinced I was guilty anyway.

“You can join the rest of the students in the classroom now,” she stated as she held the door open. I slowly stood and then followed behind her, my shoulders hunched over and my head down in shame. I could feel the stares from my classmates burning into my head. I felt humiliated and broken. After she ordered me outside, convinced of my guilt, any love I had for that teacher prior to that day drifted off into the wind, never to return. I just felt bitterness toward her after that. It made for a long school year but I survived. I definitely didn’t make another attempt at humor that year. It was pretty clear that my teacher and classmates didn’t ‘get me’ in the slightest. The irony is, I brought it all on myself. Had I just kept my mouth shut, life would have simply proceeded as normal and that day would have been just like the rest, boring, forgettable, and ordinary.

As much as I would love to tell you that I learned something from that hard lesson, I can’t because I didn’t. I did nearly the exact same thing the following year with the exact same players, Peter and Paul. The only difference this time was that instead of ‘admitting’ to eating Peter’s pizza, I ‘admitted’ to smashing Paul’s cupcake. And the second time around, the ramifications were much, much worse. What can I say? Not only do I have a bizarre sense of humor, but I appear to be a slow learner as well. What’s really unfortunate is that I still eagerly ‘admit my guilt’ (even though I’m innocent) whenever people make an accusation. I still haven’t learned! Someone will say, “Who clogged the toilet in the men’s restroom?” or “Someone smashed my mailbox with a baseball bat.” True to form, without batting an eyelash, I’ll state confidently, “It was me. I did it!” Sigh. Utterly hopeless.

Thank you so much for stopping by. For the folks that are ‘following’ my blog, I am grateful for you and the continued interest you have in reading about the variety of things I talk about each day. A special ‘shout out’ to Barbara, Coreen, Janet, Inindita, Antonia, Leah and Rebecca for your continued support and encouragement. I’m no poet laureate or anyone with significant credentials to speak of but I do enjoy the opportunity to share things about my life and family or to just make simple random observations. I love to write and I try to infuse humor into everything I do and I hope I was able to make you smile, especially if you had a really crappy day. If all goes well and I haven’t run you off, I trust you will return tomorrow as will I.

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