I work at a community newspaper that covers my old hometown and my old schools. So now, I get to observe it all from a completely different angle. But I wind up missing a lot of the little stuff.
Last year, I was reminded of a particular day toward the end of my senior year of high school.
A good friend of mine had been complaining for some time that I always wore solid, plain T-shirts of subdued colors, like black or gray or blue. No colorful design, no bright brand name, just a functional, monochromatic shirt, and a quiet monochrome at that. (The center of attention was not my favorite place to be.)
So, for my 18th birthday, he gave me a present: a black T-shirt with a message in tall, white letters.
It said, “I lost my phone number. Can I have yours?”
He said I had to wear it just one day. So, wanting to be a good sport, I complied.
I walked into the school commons the next morning with that uncharacteristic pick-up line T-shirt, and, in stereotypical teenage fashion, I felt like everyone was staring at me. My friends found it highly amusing. I just wanted to get through the day, be seen by as few people as possible, fulfill my obligation, and never touch the shirt again.
During one class, we were reading or doing a worksheet in complete silence, and out of the blue, the teacher started giggling. I looked up and realized she was laughing at me.
And that was merely the first class of the day.
I soon encountered a minor kink in my “be seen by as few people as possible” plan—we had an assembly that day. A school-wide assembly.
The younger students were seated in the rising bleachers on both sides of the gym, but all of us seniors were directed to chairs right in the middle of the floor, with three grade levels looking down at us, plus teachers and some visitors to the school.
Yeah, I felt a tad exposed. I crossed my arms and hoped this little shindig would be short.
I was happy to learn that part of the assembly would involve a slideshow. To run a successful slideshow, something else needed to happen: you needed to dim the lights.
I welcomed the darkness. That would be a few minutes in which no one would be able to see me and my silly “I lost my phone number. Can I have yours?” message.
They dimmed the lights and began the slideshow. I relaxed and uncrossed my arms. Then I looked down.
The darn shirt glowed in the dark.
I re-crossed my arms, and fortunately, most eyes were on the slideshow anyway.
So how was I reminded of this swell day?
I was looking through the newspaper archives for a little retrospective item. While seeking tidbits for a “10 years ago” slot, I came across an article about the school celebrating its 10th anniversary with a big assembly.
This bewildered me initially. I knew that was the spring of my senior year, so I must have been there, but I could not for the life of me remember attending an assembly about the school’s 10th anniversary.
Then it hit me.
“Oh,” I realized, “so that’s what that assembly was about.”
The 2001 article made no mention of glow-in-the-dark gag gifts.