Reputation Is Everything

, , , , | Learning | May 9, 2020

In middle school, I go on a school trip to New York. The school has us wear name tags on school lanyards. Since all the places we visit are popular with school groups, the lanyards let the employees know we should be with the group or at least a chaperone. If any of us slips away from the group, employees will quickly usher us back.

Some students have tried to hide or throw away their name tags to avoid this, so the head chaperone — a very strict nun — announces that anyone found without a lanyard or name tag will have to spend the remainder of the trip within six feet of her at all times and then have a month’s worth of detentions when we get back.

While we’re on a ferry, we’re allowed to wander around a bit, since we can’t go far on a boat. I’m leaning against the railing and fiddling idly with the name tag when I notice something white fluttering down to the water below. I don’t realize it’s my name tag until it’s way too far to reach.

I start to freak out internally. I’ve never gotten in trouble at school before or had even a single detention, and now I’m possibly facing a month’s worth of them! After debating what to do, I eventually decide to just tell the head chaperone what happened and hope for the best. There’s no way I could get away with not having a name tag because they’ll be checked as soon as we get off the ferry.

I go to the head chaperone and explain very nervously. Instead of yelling at me, she writes out a replacement name tag and hands it to me. I stand there staring at it in shock. She laughs and says, “Did you think you’d get detention? Don’t worry; that’s just for the bad kids. I know you’re a good kid.”

And that was the day I learned I could get away with anything, so long as I maintained my reputation as a “good kid.” The rest of middle school was fun.

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