Through pranks and prayer, becoming a man at Cardinal Gibbons

March 08, 2010

February 11, 2000 was just another day in my second semester of my second year at Cardinal Gibbons High School. I was not a particularly good student, but I usually held my own (i.e., I usually passed my classes with 3-5 points to spare). A lack of a solid work ethic and maturity placed me right in the middle of the dozen or so honors students I sat with in Mr. Jauquet's religion class. Roughly thirty minutes into Mr. J's religion class is when the following announcement was made: "All students, faculty and staff are to remain in their current classroom or area until further notice."

The brief announcement was quickly made and wrapped by our principal, Gary Meyerl. Whispers and talk of what could possibly be happening were interrupted by Mr. Jauquet, who insisted that he should keep teaching. Like the other students, I could hardly pay attention to the now extended curriculum that day. Our middle-aged religion teacher carried on like a man on a mission teaching the gospel of Mark as the group of 15-year-old sophomores theorized about what was going on in the halls around them.

Who knows if anyone else thought it but my first thoughts were of Columbine. The Columbine massacre had only happened 10 months prior and left everyone saddened, if not on edge. However, it did not take long for me to put that thought out of my neurotic teenage head. Gibbons had its problems but nothing that extreme. Not to mention, with a student population less than 300, there is no way shootings or any other widespread violence could have happened without us finding out by now.

Mr. Jauquet eventually gave up teaching that day. Students talked openly about the possibilities of what had been referred to by some as a "hostage situation." Broken pipes, medical emergencies, or even a surprise field day/pizza party all came up as strong contenders. To a teenage boy being isolated in a small classroom for an hour and 45 minutes was worse than being stranded on a deserted island. (Watch ABC's "Lost" for further parallels and comparisons.)

The worst part for me was not being able to go to the bathroom. I was the kid that went to the restroom during every class. To this day I have a problem being in groups that have more than six people. A mild case of social anxiety and an even more extreme fear of being called on by a teacher or superior to speak has always made my throat dry up and caused my brain to go blank. On better days, I would leave class simply to break up the monotony known as high school. Unfortunately on this day I genuinely had to go to the bathroom. With the school in DEFCON-5/lockdown mode, this was not going to happen.

Roughly two hours and one sore bladder into said lockdown, the overdue follow-up announcement was made. Our principal proclaimed the release of all prisoners (students) from their holding cells (classrooms). He went over the newly amended class and lunch schedule (thank God) for the day and informed us there would be an assembly to discuss what had happened.

Despite my fear of crowds, I loved assemblies. They were usually at the end of the day and always meant classes would be shortened or canceled. After a trip to the bathroom and a much needed lunch break, I anxiously attended the program. The pending end of the school day and curiosity factor of the day's events made this visit to the crowded and dumpy Gibbons auditorium extra special.

Like every other period, the assembly started with a prayer. I half-heartedly participated, throwing out random but fitting phrases such as "God," "Lord," and "Jesus Christ" until the prayer concluded with a simple "Amen." It was time for Mr. Meyerl to address his students and explain the days' events. The 40-something brown haired man thanked us for meeting and also for our patience in the eyes of a tough situation. "Get on with it," I thought to myself (a thought that I imagine most other people shared).

An obviously uncomfortable Mr. Meyerl went on to say: "Today, I gather you here to talk about the delays and why many of you were forced to stay in your classrooms. It was an unfortunate day." He paused for what seemed forever before he explained: "Today, the first floor stairwell was covered in what appeared to be feces." Most students and faculty for that matter could not help but laugh. A response he did not take very well.

After silencing the crowd, he went on to explain that four students pulled a prank with a substance that "looked, smelled and had the texture of real human or animal feces." Just in case you missed that, I will repeat. He said the substance had the "texture of real human on animal feces." Now if this were an open forum, I would have asked: "How did you know the 'texture' of the feces? Did you touch real feces then the fake feces to compare the two? Sub-question: Was there a taste test involved?" That would have possibly catapulted me to legendary status in high school for at least a week.

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