First off, I’m TEN TIMES a better writer now than I was back in the early 1980’s, and I have affirmations of that claim in the following true story. But being TEN TIMES better still won’t make me a good writer. I’ll admit that at best that I’m fair…if that. Regardless, the following account is both embarrassing and true…and funny too.
In 1980 decided to go back to college to get my degree in biology at the College of Charleston in Charleston, SC. Heck, I even made the cover of the catalog of courses (I’m the one with the backpack on my shoulder, and the guy I’m talking to, Dennis Kent is the person that proofread my paper). Having never attended college, I had to start with the basics and so for the first semester I took Biology 101, College Algebra, English Literature 101 and an Aerobics Running Class as an elective.
The algebra class is another entire story, so I’ll focus on my English Lit class. Our instructor was a very patient guy, a little on the “feminine” side and very adamant in being socially acceptable (he believed in manners – more on that later in the story).
After a couple of classes he gave us an assignment to write a paper about a topic or passion we were interested in writing about. I had a difficult time coming up with anything and finally settled on writing a story about “seasickness”. I chose seasickness because at the time, we were doing a lot of deep sea fishing and my buddies would get sick on the boat.
I did a little research in the library and began writing my paper. After I finished the paper, I gave it to a friend that had great writing skills and did well in English. I asked him to read it and give me his honest opinion on how he thought I would do. So I watched intently as he read the 3 page paper. He would occasionally shake his head in a negative manner, so I had an idea that he was not “digging” my paper.
When he got done…He looks at me and says, “Wally, I’ll give you this…this paper is authentic as hell, because it makes me sick to read it!” I told him, no…it can’t be that bad. He said yes it was, but I disagreed and left the paper as it was and turned it in to the professor.
At the next class, he began handing out the graded papers and when he came to me, he said, “Wally, you need to see me after class”. He lay the paper down on my desk and it had a great big old FAT “F” on paper. I thought it was a good paper, but seeing the “F” really shook my confidence and frankly…depressing.
So after class I stayed behind and the first things out of the Professors mouth was, “Wally, you need help. You need a LOT of help. I have a tutoring class once a week and I highly urge you to attend it.” I told him I would definitely be there and made plans to be at his next special tutoring class.
At this time, I was married and we only had one car in the family so my wife would drop me off at school and pick me up. The first session of tutoring, my wife dropped me off and the tutoring session went great…I think there were maybe 8-10 of us in the class. When the class was over, I asked the Professor if I could use his desk phone to call my ride. He said sure and I called me wife. When she answered, the only thing I said into the phone was, “I’m ready”, and then I hung up. The professor looked at me with this stern look on his face and said, “Who was that?”. I said, well that was my wife. He then said, “You don’t talk to people like that! Now I want you to call her right back, address her properly and use proper telephone etiquette!” I said OK, but I had an idea how this was gonna go.
I called my wife back (who was usually VERY mild mannered and soft spoken), and I said to her, “Hello Honey, this is Wally your husband. Would you mind coming to the college to pick me up?” There was a moment of silence and then she loudly asked me, “Wally…what the FXCK is going on there!”. Now I can’t stress enough that my wife did not talk like that…she just didn’t. So I explained to her that my professor wanted me to use proper phone etiquette when speaking to her. I had to explain again on the way home. When I got off the phone, he looked at me like maybe he shouldn’t have made me do that without knowing more about our relationship.
Anyway, over the remainder of the semester in his class, I did not get another “F” in his class. I also never got an “A” or a “B”, but I did consistently get “C’s”, so there was a marked improvement.