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The season of youthful folly

It is that time of year when young people — tomorrow's generation of leaders, business tycoons and, it would seem, aspiring perp walk candidates — start acting like they are dumber than a sack of mullets. • Ah, senioritis! Let the pranks and fuming school administrators begin. • Over the last few days, graduating (maybe) high school seniors have indulged in that rite of stupidity of the campus prank. At Osceola High School in Pinellas County, law enforcement turned out literally in force with hovering helicopters, humorless dogs and numerous patrol cars to apprehend scholars attempting to line the hallways with 4,000 cups of water.

At least this was ambitious. Incredibly dim-witted sure, but grudgingly ambitious.

At Plant High School in Tampa, the next generation of stock market manipulators were disrupted in a plot to wrap the entire building in Saran Wrap. A few days later, another group of aspiring personal injury lawyers were nabbed as they glued 30 of Plant's campus doors shut. This time, there will be billable hours to account for.

Who knows where this tradition of the pre-commencement prank came from? I was guilty of succumbing to the urge to do something unbelievably dense as graduation from Akron's St. Vincent High School drew near in 1968.

Such a rich target of opportunity. As I leaned out a second-story window, water balloon in hand, there she was, Janet Fabrizio, who had dumped me shortly before senior prom, walking toward the door directly below. Payback — it's a wonderful thing.

Unfortunately, at the last second, she paused to hold the door open for Sister Clarice, a dour, perpetually frowning Dominican nun with all the sense of whimsy of Pol Pot. But it was too late. The water balloon was on its way, scoring a direct hit on the top of her habit.

Janet always had a lousy sense of timing.

I had just dropped a water balloon ON A NUN! I was doomed!

Envisioning the excommunication scene in Becket, I ran away. Such a foolish thing to do. When you are educated by Catholic nuns, you learn pretty quickly they possess a sixth, seventh, eighth sense. They have eyes in the back of their heads. They have a special nun-dar that hones in on you. They are scary people, especially when you have just dropped a water balloon on one of them.

Terrified that the Knights of Columbus were about to show up at the house with their ceremonial swords drawn, later that evening I put on a coat and tie and went to see one of my football coaches to explain that I had just dropped a water balloon on Sister Clarice and to ask for his advice.

But I already knew what I had to do. I had to go see Sister Clarice and beg forgiveness. If memory serves I think the coach was trying to stifle a giggle, but I couldn't be sure.

At the campus Dominican convent, I asked to see Sister Clarice. Let's put it this way: Arnold Schwarzenegger probably had an easier time breaking the news about the extra kid to Maria than what I was facing.

But Sister Clarice was not available. She wasn't feeling well. I began to have visions of serving a life sentence, sharing a cell with a Mafia hit man in the Ohio big house for killing Sister Clarice.

"Whatta ya in for, kid?"

"I offed a nun — with a water balloon."

Soon Sister Fabian arrived and I poured out my sorry tale of nunicide to her. What should I do? Sister Fabian suggested I go see Sister Clarice before class first thing the next morning and take my chances. If memory serves I think Sister Fabian was trying to stifle a giggle, but I couldn't be sure.

Sister Clarice walked into her classroom without saying a word. At least she had dried off. I took this as a good sign. Finally she turned to me. "Mr. Ruth, do you have something you want to say?"

Uh, yes, as a matter of fact I did. I asked Sister Clarice if she remembered an event from the previous day. She did. I tried to explain I hadn't meant to drop a water balloon on her but rather I was aiming for Janet Fabrizio and well, things didn't go according to plan. And I was incredibly, unbelievably, intensely, very sorry.

Sister Clarice just looked at me. "Mr. Ruth, do you think you can refrain from this sort of activity until graduation?" Yes, I was pretty sure I could, yes, absolutely.

Well, then, Sister Clarice said she hoped I had learned my lesson and was free to go.

If memory serves, I think Sister Clarice was trying to stifle a giggle, but I couldn't be sure.


Damarcus Kirkland-Williams, who is charged with killing 13-month-old Ezekiel Mathis, has no previous record of violent offenses. Ezekiel's older sister was not removed from the mother's home by Hillsborough Circuit Judge Tracy Sheehan but by another circuit judge. Friday's column was incorrect on both of those points.

The season of youthful folly 05/30/11 [Last modified: Monday, May 30, 2011 4:56pm]
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