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Have you ever experienced karma in real life?

Karma has always been my favorite word. It is written in the Sacred text ‘Geeta’ that one must perform his or her duties irrespective of any future gains from the karma performed.I don't know whether this is right or wrong, but I feel that good karma brings good news (I don't know about the bad karma though).While in college, I used to send mails to the HR of various companies daily. The timing was also fixed for every company. I always wanted to work in an international automobile company and see how they Indianise International models of cars.I was so keen that as soon as the news of Volkswagen setting up a plant in India came, I started applying directly on a daily basis. I got the IDs from some references and sent them mails for around 3 months in a row.One fine day I received a call from blood bank asking for B-Negative blood group availability. I immediately kept all my books aside, missed my next internal college exam of 7th semester and went to the hospital for blood donation. It was a child who required blood after an accident and B-Negative, being a rare group, is tough to find.After the donation process was complete, the parents of the child blessed me by saying, “May Allah Grant you whatever you wish.”I left with their blessings and a lot of satisfaction inside. It really feels great when you can save someone's life. Though it wasn't my first time doing this, but i was feeling really positive about it. I had no thoughts about the exam I missed and the consequences that would follow.I told the story to the HOD and he allowed me to reappear for the test with a different set of questions and the time given to me was half hour. I had no idea about the answers to those questions and I wrote what I knew.The same afternoon, while I was cursing myself of not studying beforehand, I received a call.Me : Hello!Other side : Is it a convenient time to talk to you Mr. Mittal?(professional voice, must be from some HR)Me : Yes, sure.Other side : I am XYZ from Volkswagen India and we wish to offer you the opportunity to appear in the first round of selection procedure.Me : (Punching the air, and digging the hole) Any day mam. Whenever you say, I will be there.The HR : We will send you a letter regarding this which will have the date of the procedure and the venue as well. We will also reimburse your traveling expenses.Me : Sure enough. I will be prepared. Thanks a lot Mam. Thank you so much.The HR : One thing, Mr. Mittal.Me : (A bit afraid this time) Yes, mam.The HR : Will you still be sending us the mails after we have conducted the whole process with you?Me : (finally, they know me) Yes, yes. Once I crack the interview, I will stop sending the mail.(grinning)The HR : Haha. That's so nice of you. You will receive the mail in an hour or so.Me : Thanks a lot Mam. I won't spam anymore.The HR : I know. Thanks for your time. Have a nice day.Me : Thanks again.My joy knew no bounds. I have a call from a German Automobile Company whose name most people would pronounce wrongly.I informed my family about it and everyone was happy. I analyzed the whole situation at the end of the day when I sat alone with myself.Everything came to my mind in a flash and I realized the good deed I performed today and how I was blessed by someone. Was God waiting for this day or was he testing my patience? I still have no answers.But yes, I feel that I got hit by Karma. I felt the taste of Karma and by God's grace, it was sweet.P.S. I don't know how everything turns out. You never know how it hits you, May be later, may be never.P.P.S. I passed the test with 80 percent marks.

Do employers take the University of Phoenix seriously when considering an applicant's resume?

I do and I don't.I think the University of Phoenix is one step above a scam, its courses are overpriced (I'm assuming here that they're roughly equivalent to accredited college courses available at your local comm-tech, and not 'courses' of questionable value), its accreditation certainly didn't come from the same regional accreditation agency that accredited Harvard and MIT, and I automatically question the value of any product that is far and away too reliant on aggressive sales and marketing done the way the University of Phoenix does it. (Like many sellers of big-ticket items which some might wonder if they're worth what you're being asked to spend; if they get your e-mail address, plan on some daily spam in your inbox; if they get your phone number, plan on getting repeated calls until you scream at them to not call you again, or -- more likely -- block them...)On the other hand, I think even reputable, accredited, conventional colleges and universities have for the last 50 or so years become such a money racket that, if the Mob isn't mixed up in it, it's only because they missed what could have been the biggest opportunity for themselves since Prohibition and the illegallization of drugs. Higher education is something people have to have, and conventional, accredited colleges and universities abuse the privilege. Tuition is high (there's no way you're going to convince me that it bears any relation to the institution's actual costs, and that there isn't a lot of waste built in), the fees never end, the price of the textbooks is exorbitant - and this was all true when I was in college thirty years ago.Now it's much worse, and the prevailing student debt burden is now a national scandal. Why shouldn't it be? The institutions know you have to have higher education, so they can name their price, have you fill out a financial aid form, clean out your pockets, clean out your parents' bank accounts, pocket the proceeds from a second mortgage on Mom and Dad's house, load you down with more student debt than would pay for a new home of your own regardless of your eventual income after you graduate - and bill the government for the rest. I wish I could rent hotel rooms to people at such prices and on such terms.So, yes, there are going to be alternatives - and we badly need alternatives - to conventional higher education. The current business model of traditional colleges and universities is unsustainable, and they can't disappear soon enough. They've have so had it too good for too long, that I want to see some of the weaker ones sputter and die as they deserve. I look at a college campus - especially the campuses of small, private, liberal arts colleges - and I try to imagine neat things you can do with it when the college goes out of business and you can buy its campus cheap at an auction (see Michael Forrest Jones's answer to What would you do with $10 trillion? How would you structure a society, determine ownership or assets, education, housing, energy, art and R&D?).But I digress.Something I look for in an employment applicant - particularly a front office applicant and even more so a management applicant -- is an inclination to be on purpose with their lives, doing things to advance themselves, or to be a contribution to others; on their own initiative, in their off-time. Trying to start a part-time business, doing church, charity or volunteer work, building or making things, taking night courses, serving in the reserve or National Guard, being a volunteer fireman or EMT, even a second job - things by contrast to hanging out in a bar all the time, or watching TV, or playing Zynga games on Facebook. Taking classes - either online or in a conventional classroom setting - is certainly among the more respectable and potentially useful of these activities.I know one individual who pursued a degree from Ashworth University and stayed on it until she earned the 'degree'. I've seen some of her course material and it's respectable: I considered signing up for some of their courses myself five years ago when this was all happening. I don't expect that an HR type who knew that Ashworth University was strictly an online 'institution' would find that so respectable. But the first time I needed to hire a hotel manager, this woman was the very first person I called (and not just because of her 'degree'). The effort, commitment, and dedication she showed by staying on it (both in terms of work involved and financial sacrifice involved - funny thing about Ashworth: I shopped their courses, and if you want to take them one by one for your own advancement or enrichment, you get a better price than you do if you pursue a 'degree' program, but we'll come back to that) to completion is respectable in itself, and she is more educated than the average individual who has pursued no post-secondary education, and in areas that we find useful. So yes, I don't take Ashworth (or the University of Phoenix) too seriously, but I take Gerri or someone like her very seriously.However, for her or someone like her, I would certainly recommend Coursera instead.There's someone else that I'd like very much to bring on board with my company as soon as I can offer her something big enough to persuade her to leave her present job. (Indeed, I told the first ones, when this one shows up, she's going to be worked in at a high level, probably, eventually, a vice president, and you may be reporting to her even though you were here first, but don't take it the wrong way: the first thing you'll notice about her is she knows her stuff, she can teach you - and me, too, many of her strengths are in areas where I'm weak or sloppy - a lot of things you'd take a long time to learn on your own, so you should be okay with it.) She has the opposite problem. She has pursued the American Hotel & Lodging Association requirements to earn a CHA - a Certified Hospitality Administrator - designation, as well as several other AHLA merit badges. Within the hotel business, a CHA designation is so well respected that, on your business cards, it fits after your name, like M.D., or Esq., or JD, or if you're Catholic, S.J. Earning a CHA is no easy or quickly-done undertaking. It's taken her years. She's one of less than a dozen people on the planet who I'll concede can maybe run a hotel as well as myself or better. And she has, long ago, completed all of the requirements for her CHA but one: she doesn't have a four year college degree. So, they won't give her her CHA designation until she acquires what they feel is sufficient experience to rate an exception. I have so lost respect for the AHLA over this that Beechmont will probably never be an AHLA member company.Education is only part of what a reputable, accredited college or university sells. The other part - what many (perhaps too generously) call the experience - is what I (perhaps too cynically - yes, I dropped out even though I'd have liked to have stayed with it because money was always a problem) call pedigree, something signifying agreement that you were chosen by a reputable institution of higher learning, and that you participated in their academic program and campus life, performed there as expected of you without asking too many of the wrong kind of questions, and could afford to pay for it all; something signifying agreement that your investment in higher education is worth more than a diploma from Don Imus' "Close Cover Before Striking School of Ministry and Heavy Machinery". I've actually had it described to me as four years of living in a dorm, four years of playing and getting along well with others, socialization, proving you can "stick to one discipline for four years"("Hey, asshole", I once said to one regional manager from AMC Theatres, who gave me that as a rationale for requiring a college degree for any theatre managers that they hired, as a "screening device", "I've spent ten years working for Carmike Cinemas as a theatre manager. That doesn't count as 'sticking to one discipline for four years'?"** Of course, I was much younger and more hotheaded at the time, and was ventilating freely because it was clear that the requirement was inflexible and I wasn't going to get the job no matter what. But still, no apologies, even now. What do they require a four-year degree in? No college or university in the country has a degree program in running movie theatres, and the graduate of any program in public venue management that does exist somewhere will be going to work for someone like MSG or Spectacor, not wasting it running a ten-plex movie theatre for thirty grand a year give or take. Am I supposed to agree that I'm more ignorant than a mindless so-and-so like this AMC character who thinks that way, because I don't have a four-year degree?)Whatever you think of the value of that experience, the pedigree, whatever; you don't get it from the University of Phoenix, or Ashworth.Not that their tuition or fees take that into account: for a long time my big criticism of online education even from accredited institutions was that they realized a tremendous cost savings from providing courses online, but do not pass the savings on. Like I said, it's a money racket. Making large amounts of money for the institution is what providing education is for. It's not what you learn, it's how much you work and sacrifice (or have someone to sacrifice for you, which is what really counts). A Yale education, I'm told, isn't really better than what you could get at, say, Winston-Salem State. The value of a Yale education is that you get to network with a bunch of other rich, well-connected future alums with whom you'll be connected and who can help you in your later career and life.My big criticism of way too many hiring managers and HR types, however, is that pedigree, not education per se, is way too much of what they look for - indeed, all they care about. The most important part.Let's face it. A liberal arts degree is a degree in "I went to college". Even the most staunch true believers in liberal education can't credibly deny that a liberal arts degree doesn't send you away with a whole lot of immediately-usable job skills. (I've actually heard an administrator at one university in the University of North Carolina system say, the purpose of college is to teach you beauty and truth, not to get you a job.)Many - I'd say most - degree programs have higher practical value, and indeed require a course of study that is necessary for their intended purpose. I'd feel a lot more comfortable being operated on by a surgeon who I'm confident knows what he's doing, even I can practice law without having attended an accredited law school, and all of today's civilization advancements are being done by STEM majors...I don't know who hires creative writing majors, although I'm aware there are people who do. I know a recently retired hotel manager whose degree was in rural studies - the anthropology of hightiders, hillbillies and hooters, I used to kid him. There are a lot more communications majors than there ever will be jobs in radio, TV and newspapers to be had for them. I myself have a degree in architectural technology that qualified me to be a night auditor in a hotel at the then not-much-more-than-minimum-wage of four dollars an hour (First jobs, and inauspicious (however fortunately inconspicuous) beginnings . . . ).But I'm supposed to have equal respect for any four-year degree that shows up because it's a (::angelic choir hitting a high note in the background::) . . . degree! Yet, in all too many cases, it's nothing more than a testament to:Mommy and Daddy had the money to bankroll it, with enough left over maybe for you to party for four years while you were there, so you obviously came from a good family. (Chance are, though, I'm not going to be as liberal as Mommy and Daddy about holding the hoops low enough for you to step through without much of a jump, or nearly as single-mindedly dedicated to your 'career advancement' and notion of success on their terms, or any terms at all other than my own. They may be committed to you, but why should I be?)Despite growing up in poverty and having absolutely no funds to pursue it (or in my family's case, not planning ahead for it at all), as well as perhaps other expenses you couldn't ignore; you scraped by on Pell grants, student loans and even food stamps, you somehow finagled food, shelter and money as needed for never-ending fees, textbooks and other costs without making it too obvious that you were having money problems and thus didn't belong there; you had the determination and persistence, and the problem-solving skills to overcome adversity, you were able to deal with the discouragement that comes with things always having to be just a little harder for you than for the other boys and girls, and you were able to manage the distraction from studies involved in having to all the time be begging and crawling for financial aid and grants and part-time jobs, to see it through and succeed in the end. (Although I'm skeptical that being the live baby who succeeds in eating his way to the top from the bottom of the large pile of dead babies in the classic 'dead baby' joke is a virtue that doesn't carry an offsetting cost in terms of psychological damage that isn't sooner or later going to be acted out in some way . . .)The days are long gone when you could actually work your way through college with part-time jobs, and cover much of it by saving ahead from summer jobs when you were in high school, like guys in my family did back in the early sixties. That hasn't been much of an option since before the late seventies, when my time came, although I'm told it was more doable then than it was now.Why do it? IT'S OFFICIAL: College Students Learn Next To Nothing - yet the same article concludes, "even (and especially) in today's tough labor market, Corporate America agrees that, 'yes, college is worth every penny as most employers consider a college degree a prerequisite for employment'." Sounds pretty mindless to me. And unsustainable.So, in making a hiring decision, I'm going to look at the alternatives when it comes to higher education -- Coursera, military training, technical training from the local comm-tech, Skillshare, Udemy . . . either you can do it or you can't, here's how you can show me -- because the alternatives are taking over, and I don't think the day that they take over completely can come soon enough.But I'm going to be looking at a lot of other things, too. I look at the entire person (that is, the person, not the pedigree). Holding it against someone because they don't have your kind of degree (or giving them credit because they do, regardless of what they actually learned in the process), is about as ignorant as discriminating against (or in favor of) someone because of their race, ethnicity, religion or lack of one, or whether they're straight or gay. (Indeed, I've written it into my own company's non-discrimination policy.) Your education, and the form and manner by which you acquired it, is only one part of your potential value to me as an employee, and an even smaller part of what you are as a total human being.I don't expect others to take the same approach, although I wish they would; and I certainly don't expect the HR profession to follow my lead; but I've spent fifty-four years now on the planet being accused of having no regard for standards set by others, so that's nothing new; and frankly, I have better things to do than to lead them. And was it Gandhi who said "be the change you wish to see in the world"?I look forward to the day when whatpossession of a four-year degree, of questionable value,acquired at the costs of a lifetime of sacrifice on your own part and that of at least one other person,slashing your family's net worth by half give or take, paying exorbitant costs and fees,all for a credential that does not qualify you for an entry-level job in your chosen line of work that the degree is supposed to support (if your chosen discipline even supports a specific line of work, and if you've even bothered making a choice),and leaves you in debt that you have no idea at your young age how you're ever going to pay;simply to prove that you can get a certain institution to accept you, because it's 'what society expects',and because you're naive enough to kid yourself that life is fair and the rewards will be automatic if you jump through the hoops and do what you're told (even if your major was art history);says about you more than anything else is "you're a dumbass who insists on doing things the hard way for not always the best of reasons" -- the same as I've frequently been held in contempt in the past for not having "prepared myself'", or "applied myself" to a more conventional higher education path.(Of course, I'm biased. I've lost count of the night classes and con-ed courses I've taken, and CEUs I have piled up here and there, and even the Coursera courses I now take as I have time, but I've never combined them all into anything that would exchange for a four-year degree anywhere.)Would my way work better? Probably: it works for me and the people to whom I'm accountable, which is all I care about.Would my way ever work perfectly? No. Nor will anyone else's. Even the Son of God Himself - who literally had no need of reference checks, who "did not need anyone to tell him what a person was like. He already knew" (Bible Gateway passage: John 2:25 - Easy-to-Read Version ) - couldn't pick twelve guys to spread His message and carry on His work after He was gone without getting a Judas in the bunch. So I don't expect to exceed His 91.6% success rate, although I make a game of trying to come close (Michael Forrest Jones's answer to After an interview, do potential employers send out rejections first or give out offers first?).But if I did look for pedigree, like the hiring managers and HR punching dummies which I love so much; then no, I wouldn't take the University of Phoenix and its competitors very seriously. I'm going to look at the degree holder, not the degree . . .* - Here again, my usual disclaimer about human resources, resume-writing, career management, interviewing, etc.: all of my advice works great, if I'm the person doing the hiring.The same goes for anyone else if they're doing the hiring, no matter how different their values, or advice on the subject, might be from my own; and anyone who says differently is a liar and the truth is not in him. There is no magic bullet. There is no 'one way to do it' that decision-makers will consider themselves bound by, although one thing some HR people are good for is trying to find common denominators among such decision makers.Hiring is always an individual, subjective, personal decision; which is always going to be influenced by the values (whether sound or not, or conscious or not) of the person making the choice, and his or her reasoning (whether sound or not, or objective or not); and no matter how much we try to layer the process with group interviews, and letting more than one person go over the candidate, etc., in order to keep the process objective; in the end, that's what it will always be.If I frequently seem to come off like I feel that the entire human resources profession is not much more than Chicken Little junk science, practiced by the sort of alpha males/alpha girls you knew back in high school who never since outgrew getting to decide who's 'cool' or 'in' and who's not, whose staffing calls generally work out no better than hiring decisions made by people not in the HR field, and often not much better than random luck-of-the-draw at that (In Head-Hunting, Big Data May Not Be Such a Big Deal | 5 Surprising Facts About How Google Hires ); that's why. (And the facts that even Google admits that much of what they're known for doing in the area of HR doesn't work, and that not even Jesus Christ could get it more than 92% right, doesn't help the cause of professional human resources management.)** -- Late note, April 17, 2016: AMC Theatres buys Carmike Cinemas to create largest chain: That mix of company cultures ought to work like a dandy. AMC has for more than twenty years required a four-year degree to be a theatre manager; at the time I worked for Carmike, very few Carmike managers had one and most of them started out as teenagers popping popcorn and worked their way up, and learned the business from the ground up. (One of the things I loved about the theatre business, and the hotel business back when it was a characteristic of it, and the military [especially the Israeli military which unlike the U. S. military is all mustang]; and the only good thing I can think of to say about the fast-food business; was that these are — or were — some of the few remaining vocational fields where you could do that: nobody hands it to you on a plate for having grown up a privileged college boy, but anyone could earn it if they worked for it.) Either those people will have to be 'grandfathered' in, or there's going to be a lot of bad feelings between the AMC people and the Carmike people . . .Atari founder: Tim Cook isn't the 'next Steve Jobs'

What is the most unusual and incorrect reason you've had the police called on you?

I really don’t like telling this story, because when I do, invariably, people say “I don’t believe you! That would NEVER happen.” Well, it did happen, and even though it’s been over 6 years ago, I’m still haunted by the many “what-ifs.” It was such a shocking and - frankly - traumatic experience that certain aspects of it did not become clear to me for quite some time. What’s more, some aspects did not reveal themselves for over two years.I lived in a tiny Midwestern town of 200, and at the time of this incident, in October, 2013, I had been teaching for the past seven years at a high school in a city of 80,000, about an hour away. I liked it very much, and felt very secure and comfortable there. Never a problem with anyone….student, administrator, staff member, parent - nobody. Absolutely no problems. Great job, great school, everything A-OK.The last week of September, I had had the flu, and I missed three days of school. Tuesday-Thursday, which is very unusual for me - and it’s hell on my students, because I taught math, and they’re used to my methods, and I’m used to theirs as well. I was feeling better, so I returned to school on Friday, then back on Monday, and the rest of that week, things were back to normal. It’s all good.Friday, October 4 was a soggy, rainy day. That usually means a quiet school day, and today was no exception. I got home around 4:30, as usual, made some dinner, watched a little TV - typical Friday night - and by 10:30, I was just about to go to bed. It was still raining, and I could hear it on the roof. I had just snapped off the TV when the front doorbell rang. Thinking it might be my neighbor, who stopped by now and then, I flipped on the porch light, and opened the door. Much to my surprise, there was a deputy sheriff standing on the porch, in the rain. Another deputy was on the sidewalk, about 15 feet behind him, with one hand on his weapon. Astonished by this, and especially the unsmiling face with one hand touching the .45. I stood there for a moment, and then the deputy spoke.“Are you Mark?”“Yes, I am.”He said nothing for a moment, then he said, “Ahh….Could I come in? It’s raining, you see, and…?”The reality of this suddenly struck. I opened the door wider. “Oh. Why, yes, of course. Please do come in.”The two deputies came in, and closed the door behind them. They weren’t smiling, and the second deputy, especially, seemed to be eyeing me closely. He kept his hand on his weapon.The first deputy did nearly all of the talking. He wasn’t exactly unfriendly, but his tone was very official, and his questions seemed to be very carefully worded. Something was obviously wrong.“Your name is Mark?”“Yes…….and, uh…..what can I do for you?” I had no idea what was going on, but he had only asked me three questions, and two of them were the same question.“You’re a teacher at XXXX High School, in XXXX City, is that correct?”“That’s right.”“For how long?”“Seven years. This is my eighth year.”The other deputy instantly interrupted: “Do you LIKE your job?” His emphasis on the word “like” gave the question a certain tone, an odd mixture of surly disbelief and sarcastic arrogance - as though he was daring me to admit that I did like my job.“Yes. I like my job,” I paused. “What’s this all about?”The first deputy went on, ignoring my question. “Well, would you say you have a difficult job?”“Well…..sometimes. It can be. Like any job. There are things that are difficult.” They seemed to be staring at me…..and it seemed to me that I was babbling.“You were absent for several days this week, were you not?”“No. That was last week. I was sick.”“Sick? Just what do you mean by that?”“Yes. I was sick. With the flu. I missed…..” - trying to remember exactly - “Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, last week. I was OK on Friday, and went back to school.”He paused for a long moment, eyeballing me. Then he said, “Are you certain this was LAST week? It wasn’t THIS week, was it?” I said I’d been sick. Did he think I was lying?“Yes, I’m certain. It was last week. I went to school every day this week.” I wanted to ask again what this was all about, but they just didn’t seem to want to tell me, so I didn’t ask. And the interrogation continued.“You’re saying that you were at school every day THIS week. And you were ‘sick’ last week. Is that what you’re saying?” He emphasized the word “sick” as though that wasn’t the real reason I had missed school. Obviously, they didn’t believe me, and it seemed they were trying to get me to say something in particular.I spoke carefully, and slowly, trying not to sound sarcastic, “Yes. That’s what I’m saying. I was sick three days last week. Then I returned to school. And I’ve been at school every day since then.”They said nothing. “All right.” A long, long pause. Then, “What happened today?” He was watching me carefully.“Today?”“Yes. Tell me what you did today, I wanna know everything you did today.”I didn’t much care for the “I wanna know….” schtick, but I let it pass. No reason to piss the guy off, when he’s standing in my living room. I thought carefully, and wondered what he was getting at. I paused between each step. “OK. I got up. Took a shower. Got dressed. Went to school, did my usual things; ordinary day. Came home. Ate dinner. I’ve been watching TV, and I was just getting ready to go to bed.” I shrugged. “That’s it.”He immediately responded: “Who did you speak to at school? Not kids. Just the adults. Which adults did you speak to today?”The deputy didn’t say “with.” He asked whom I had spoken “to.” Clearly, he wasn’t interested in what was said to me. The issue seemed to be about something I might have said to someone else.As very often happens, I didn’t have many interactions with other adults that day. Fridays are often hectic, because my juniors and seniors go into “weekend mode” so I have to be extra chatty, and even goofy, to keep them interested. I concentrate on what they’re doing, and I don’t like to be distracted or interrupted, because I need them to concentrate on what I’m doing. Therefore, I don’t have time for small talk. I had had one brief conversation with a fellow teacher. another even briefer conversation - really, just an exchange of hellos - with another teacher. I had said good morning to my paraprofessional, Roberta, who put her purse and jacket in the locked cabinet, then left to begin her day. That was all. 3 adults, and 6 math classes.Roberta’s schedule was very different from mine; she spent nearly the entire day in a different part of the building. Typically, we exchanged greetings in the mornings, goodbyes in the afternoons, and - more often than not - we would neither see nor speak to each other for the rest of the day. For five years, Roberta and I had gotten along fine; she’s a creature of habit, and so am I. She comes to school, does her job, says very little about her personal life - and I don’t pry - and then, at 3:00, she goes home.In those five years, Roberta had sent me a grand total of two text messages, both times being questions about school, and both times, I hadn’t recognized the phone number, so I had to ask who it was. I didn’t save her number, because I didn’t need her number….and the only reason she had my number was because I was her immediate supervisor. If she was going to be late, for example, her 1st period teacher might want to be aware of it.So I told the deputies this: Two very brief conversations with two different teachers. Said good morning to Roberta at 7:25 - although I hadn’t seen her leave at 3pm - which is also not unusual. Sometimes, if I’m really busy with something, or I’m on the phone, or I’m helping a student with a tough math problem, she’ll just slip in, grab her jacket and purse, then leave quietly without saying goodbye. She wasn’t being rude; in fact, she was being considerate. That was her style; she was very low-key, and she didn’t want to interrupt, just to say goodbye. Actually, it was one of the things I liked best about Roberta. She did a good job without fanfare, she was level-headed, the kids liked and respected her, she handled problems wisely without exceeding her authority, and best of all, she did not waste time on anything. I was a math teacher with no time to sit around and chew the fat.“Now, you’re saying that you DID NOT see this…what’s her name? Roberta? You didn’t see Roberta leave today? Are you certain of that?”Though I didn’t recall actually seeing her leave, I’d always trusted Roberta, and had never paid that much attention to her comings and goings. But I fudged a bit on my reply. “Ahh…no. I did not see her leave.”“Don’t you normally leave with her? At the end of the day, I mean? Don’t you and she leave the building at the same time?”“No. Her work day ends at 3 pm, and my last class dismisses at 3:10. So she’s long gone by the time I finish up each day.”“Hmmm. This Roberta……..you wouldn’t happen to have her home telephone number, now, would you?” The deputy’s question had an oddly casual, almost off-handed lilt. And he looked at me expectantly. Was he suggesting I call her up for a chat?“Actually, no; I don’t. I’ve never asked for her number. I’ve never spoken to Roberta by telephone.”Instantly, the formal, suspicious tone was back. “Never? Why not? Do you have some problem with her?”“Why, no! We get along just fine. We work together. I wouldn’t call us ‘friends’ but we’ve always gotten along quite well.” Roberta was at least 20 years my junior. I respected her as a person and as a first-rate para, I liked her as a co-worker, but that was really the extent of it.The deputy paused. He looked at his partner, then back at me. Silently. Not smiling.I was getting a bit impatient with all of this. 10:45 on a Friday night; they’re standing in MY living room, and being rather discourteous about it. Either get to the point, or get the hell out of here! It was time to handle this as I might handle two of my senior boys, if they were being sassy. “All right. Let’s get to the point. I need to know what this is all about.” Long ago, I had learned that teenagers, especially boys, resent a bossy “I want you to….” or “You have to….” They’re suckers for a respectful “Let’s do…” or “I need you to….” “Tell me what’s going on. Is Bert in some sort of trouble? Is she hurt, or…..” I purposely trailed off. I knew nothing about Roberta’s personal life. I didn’t know if she was married, or single, or whether she had kids. I had no idea where she lived. The fact is, I had never even called her “Bert” before. At that moment, with those deputies, the only reason I called her Bert was to send a message that, although we weren’t good friends, we were certainly on good terms. Whatever it was, it had something to do with Roberta. And I needed to know what it was.26 years as a teacher tends to make one very persuasive. And it worked. The deputy took it down a notch. “All right.” He sighed, then went on. “We are actually here to do a welfare check on you. We got a call from the XXXX City Police Department, telling us that you had told a staff member, at your school, that you were, quote, ‘going to go postal’ at the next staff meeting at your school. Did you, or did you not, make that statement?”For a moment, I wasn’t quite sure I heard him correctly. Going to go postal? As in….with a gun? Seriously? I was so amazed and stunned, I didn’t quite know what to say. I could barely stammer out the words. “That I…..I said, what? What?”He stared at me, and spoke slowly, and very distinctly. “Did you make that statement? Did you say you were ‘going to go postal’ at the next staff meeting at your school?”I stared back, completely aghast. Yet I wanted to make this perfectly clear. “No. I most certainly did NOT. I would never - ever - say such a thing at school. Nor anywhere else.”“Did you say anything like that? Anything at all? As a joke, maybe, or…..?”I was astonished and indignant. “At SCHOOL? A statement like that is not ‘a joke.’ I would never say something like that. Period! Not as a joke. Not for any reason. Not ever!”“Could someone have possibly misunderstood something you did say? Something, along those lines?”“Absolutely NOT! I wouldn’t even consider saying such a thing. And, least of all, at school,” And as I said this, I stamped each consonant for emphasis.He said nothing. He looked at his partner briefly, who, meanwhile, had crossed his arms over his chest, and leaned back against the front door.He turned back. His tone maintained that hard, pugnacious edge. “Do you get along with everyone at your school? Is there anyone you don’t like? Anyone you may have had an argument with? Or maybe have a grudge against?” He paused for a moment, then added, a bit softer, “Or someone, maybe, who doesn’t like you? Someone who might have a grudge against you?”I thought for a moment. There were a few people who I wasn’t especially fond of; more of a clash of personalities, really. But I didn’t have any enemies, nor did I actively dislike anyone, and - as far as I could tell, anyway - no one seemed to dislike me. I didn’t have time to go around looking for adults to have arguments with. Our four principals were, by-and-large, excellent. Our building principal was quite young - I would guess 30 - and had only been with us four years. He was just a little overeager, which is not a bad thing; he wanted our school to be the best. And we were. Grudges? None that I knew of. Jealousy? Hatred? None that I’d ever knew of. Our school just wasn’t like that.It didn’t occur to me then - nor for many months thereafter - that the deputy didn’t ask about any possible troubles with students. Even so, the answer would still have been no. No problems whatsoever! By then, I had been teaching high school mathematics for 26 years. I had mellowed considerably, and I doubted very much that any student had reason to hold any sort of grudge against me….certainly not of the type to provoke this kind of accusation. What’s more, to be perfectly honest, I had some of the rowdiest kids in the whole building in my math classes. For whatever reason, the kids who really struggled, and especially with behavior, seemed to wind up in my classes. Counselors or principals frequently brought kids to my door, asking if I had room for just one more face in class. Of course! I’m so glad you’re here…and they’d beam happily. The really tough kids never needed to act so tough in my classes. I had never once sent a student to the office, never once written a referral, never once called a parent to gripe. No kid ever swore at me, or made a scene, and if a bad word slipped out, he or she would immediately correct it, and I’d just smile and ignore it. If a kid seemed to be edgy or upset, I’d write a short note, then ask them to take it to the library to read it, then please come right back. In ten minutes, they’d appear again, shyly smiling. I’d thank you, and we’d go on with our day. I provided lots of little safety valves for teenage angst, and the proof was in the pudding. I don’t even remember the last “F” I ever gave.Months later, it seemed peculiar that none of these questions ever came up.And so, I answered the deputy’s question: “Yes, I’d say I get along pretty well with everyone at school. Terrific kids. Great families. First class staff. I have no beefs with anyone. I wouldn’t do anything like that…..and I certainly wouldn’t SAY anything like that. That’s just out of the question!”He was silent, but for a longer pause. What was he looking for here? Almost without thinking, I said indignantly: “How could I ‘go postal’ when I don’t even own a gun?” Which was true; I was never much interested in guns. “Do you want to search the house, or the garage? The basement? Be my guest! I got nothing to hide.”“No. We will not search your home - at this time.” There was a very brief pause in that sentence, and the peculiarity of it made me wonder if he meant they wouldn’t be searching that night, but perhaps would tomorrow. Well, let ‘em search! There weren’t any guns in my house. I hadn’t even held a gun since I was 10 years old, on ONE hunting trip with my dad. We returned home empty-handed. My dad had died 7 years before, and he had left me no guns.I didn’t know what to say about any of this, but that wasn’t the issue. I had never liked being accused of things I hadn’t done. And especially not of having said things I didn’t say.I was still thinking about all of this, as the deputy stood there. It seemed he had run out of things to ask. But I had something to ask him: “Wait - so someone at school REPORTED this? Someone claims that I said this? Just who was it that made the report anyway?”“Aaah…..we don’t know.”“Well, when did this supposedly happen?” I wasn’t just curious. By now, I was getting pissed.“Well, we presume it was today.”“Really? So, you were contacted by the XXXX Police Department? Today? It was reported to them today? Or did this just happen today? Which is it? Do you know?”“Uh….no. We aren’t sure. Like I said, we’re just here…..I mean, we’re doing a welfare check.”Like hell, they weren’t sure! The guy interrogates me for a good twenty minutes, makes with the stink-eye; the other deputy stands there, glaring at me, fingering his weapon - just in case - and they aren’t SURE?The deputy didn’t quite stammer, but my questions clearly had knocked him off-balance. He didn’t want to offer too much information. Several months later, I was telling this story to a lawyer friend of mine. He interrupted to ask me if the deputies had read me my rights - and I told him no, they hadn’t. He seemed puzzled at this, but I didn’t think much of it at the time. One year later, he and I - and another attorney - would discuss this incident in much greater detail, and with a lot more at stake.“OK. So, what am I supposed to do with this? Should I call my supervisor? Are they expecting a call from me?”The deputy’s face seemed to brighten, and he almost smiled. Not quite, but close. “Uh…..yeah. Yeah! That’d be a good idea. Yes, I’d definitely give them a call, and right away!” Then the two deputies exchanged uneasy glances. The other deputy shifted uncomfortably in his boots. He flipped the leather guard back over his pistol, snapping it in place.“Fine then. I will be calling my supervisor. I’ll call her yet tonight.”“Ahh…..OK. We’ll be on our way now.” He touched the brim of his hat, which he hadn’t removed at all. “Please let us know if there’s something we can do.”Such as? What “something” could they possibly do?The deputies turned to go, and I shouldered past to open the front door. They ducked out and crossed the porch. I was just closing the door, when, suddenly, something did occur to me - and I yanked the door open again.It had stopped raining by then. I stepped onto the front porch, and called to them as they strode across the yard. “Officer?”They stopped and turned. “Yes?”“What are your names?”They exchanged glances. “Our names?”“Yes. Your names. In case it comes up. I’d like both of your names.” I deliberately paused before I added the clincher, “And then, you can go.”He seemed to wince at this. “Uh….OK. Here’s my card.” He reached into the breast pocket of his uniform, and withdrew a business card. He turned, and inquired something of his partner, who immediately dug into his own shirt pocket and produced a card.The deputy looked rather flustered as he handed over the cards. “Uh…here. Will that be all for now, sir?”I was not at all pleased, so I chose my words with precision. “Yeah. That’ll be all. For now.” He wasn’t going to get a “sir” out of me.They hurried to their patrol car and climbed in, started the motor, and left quickly. And I thought about what had just happened. I glanced down at the two tan business cards. Each was embossed with the Sheriff’s badge, so I knew they really were deputies. My anger subsided quickly, and I was puzzled by it. This had really happened; otherwise, I might have thought it was an elaborate practical joke. This was no laughing matter. I wondered who might make such an bizarre, nasty claim. Who would accuse me of saying such a thing? At school, of all places?And why?This was only the start of what would become a terrible, painful, and - for a long time - a baffling mystery.I went back into the house, picked up my cellphone and scrolled through the alphabetized list. I found the number of my supervisor, Kay. The call went to her voicemail. I told her it was me, and told her to please return my call, the moment she got the message, no matter how late it might be, or how early the next day. And, I added that, no…..it’s not an emergency, but it’s extremely important. Then I clicked the button, ending the call. It was late, so I didn’t expect a call that night. But I knew Kay, and I figured she’d call me on Saturday. If not Saturday, she’d certainly call on Sunday.Kay didn’t call. I called her again, at noon Sunday, and left another message: I needed to speak to her on a very urgent matter, before Monday. Kay, please call me. At once. It’s urgent.No response.On Monday morning, I arrived at school an hour early, knowing the administration would want to discuss this with me. I wasn’t worried; why should I be? I hadn’t done anything wrong. This was all some sort of goofy mix-up - not a joke, but some kind of misunderstanding. Or something. But I couldn’t begin to figure out how it had happened, whether it was a deliberate attempt to harm or discredit me, or whether it was some kind of cruel, tasteless prank. I didn’t know who had made the original report, or to whom, or what it was based on, or the timeline involved. Most of all, there was one things I wanted to know…..and had to know. Why had this happened?I had no sooner unlocked my office door and set my briefcase on my desk when the office door opened again. My principal walked in….and I’ll never forget the look on his face. He’s a big man - at least 6′4″ and 240 pounds. Solid muscle.For a moment, I thought he was going to punch my lights out. He glowered at me. “You and I are going to my office. Let’s go!”I nodded, and he held my office door open, because he seemed to want me to pass by him. For a moment, I was hesitant to do so; he was clearly furious. As I stepped past him, and into the hall, he slammed the door so hard that it echoed down the hall. Then, the long, silent walk to his office. He didn’t walk beside me. Rather, he stayed about 5 feet away, behind me, and to my left. I was being escorted to the office in an official capacity. I didn’t turn to look, but I knew he was watching me closely. Neither of us said a word. Even though I hadn’t done anything wrong, it didn’t seem prudent to say anything until there were others present. Most of all, I didn’t say anything because I didn’t know how he might react to it.We arrived at his office, and the door was already open. Inside were the assistant Superintendent of Schools, whom I knew by sight, but had never met before; my supervisor, Kay, who was trembling so that I thought she might become physically ill. There was a thin, bespectacled young man, who turned out to be the District’s union representative; and finally, a woman I didn’t know, who immediately introduced herself as the Human Resources Director. She smiled, and extended her hand, motioning me toward a chair. I smiled, shook her hand, and took the chair. When I sat, the assistant Superintendent froze, then hastily slid her chair away from me. The principal drew a chair forward, and sat down. He stared at the wall without seeing it, and despite the fact that he wasn’t looking at me, he was watching. Kay didn’t smile; she took a chair as far from me as possible. At first, she seemed to be scanning the room, as though planning her quickest exit. She finally sat, but avoided my eyes altogether. The bespectacled man perched on a chair and fiddled with a small tape recorder, as he prepared to record what was about to transpire. He didn’t look at me, and he didn’t introduce himself; he seemed unaware that I was even in the room.The Director came straight to the point. Her voice was businesslike, but her tone was reassuring. “Well, I’m sure you know why we’ve asked you here this morning.” I nodded. “We want you to know the District will conduct a full investigation of this matter, and we shall get to the bottom of it. In the meantime, I’m sure you understand why we’ll need you to be away from school for the time being…” and she looked at me sympathetically. “You DO understand, am I right?”“Yes, I understand.” I smiled at her - but not too much, lest she think I was somehow pleased with myself over all this. Yet I got the impression that she knew this was not what it appeared to be.“Thank you. Please understand that we are NOT suspending you. You are NOT being suspended, and you are NOT being punished. You shall be paid your full salary while you are away. We believe this will take about a week, and you shall be called when we are ready for your return. The Union representative shall be your District contact person,” and she gestured toward the young man, who looked up at me and blinked. “We have already arranged to have a substitute take your classes while you’re gone. Your students shall be told that you are away, on school business, and that you shall be back in a few days. Is that all satisfactory?”“Yes. Thank you.” Again, I didn’t want to appear too eager, nor to convey any emotion at all. But what was I supposed to be feeling? What’s with the overly formal tone, and the repetitions, and all the “shalls?”At the same time, I was somehow reassured by those words; she understood that I hadn’t done anything wrong. I was certain of it. Her voice was kind and it seemed to be just brimming with a mixture of sympathy and resolve. I couldn’t possibly be the first teacher who’d ever experienced something like this! I was the victim of some terrible prank, or attack, or…..or something. Telling my students that I’d be back “in a few days” seemed to confirm that. What else could I do but wait? The District would investigate, and it would all be cleared up in a few days. No problem.“We shall also ask that you communicate with no District employees during this process, not by telephone, email, in written form, nor in person. And should anyone attempt to contact you, please call my office immediately. Here’s my business card,” and she handed me the card. “Now, if you need anything, or have any questions at all, please call my office, and speak with me - and me only. Is that clear?”“Yes.”“Good.” She smiled. “As you know, this is a very, very serious matter, and because we do not know what happened, nor who might be involved, we cannot take any chances. Do you have any questions?”“No. Thank you.” But I did have a question: what had she meant by “as you know?” Of course I knew; in this age of school shootings, how could anyone NOT know? Yet there seemed to be a hint of recrimination in that phrase, a scintilla of blame. It was though she was saying “we wouldn’t even be IN this predicament, if it hadn’t been for you! You’ve been very, VERY bad!“You can expect to hear from the Union representative toward the end of the week,” Once again, he looked up and blinked.“Now, is there anything in your office, or in your classroom, that you shall need?”“Yes. My briefcase. And, ahh….I have a basket of…ah….student homework that I’d like to grade this week? Would that be all right?” I said it this way, because I didn’t want to make it seem as though all of this was purposely laid-out - like I’d needed a few days off to grade homework, and this seemed like a sensible way to achieve that goal.She laughed, but somehow, it was more like she was humoring me. “Oh, gosh, yes! By all means! I’m sure your substitute would be delighted to let you take care of that. Mr. Boyel, do you have any questions?”The bespectacled man looked up, looked puzzled, and finally shook his head. Then he tilted his head slightly, and looked slightly bewildered - as thought he’d heard the floor itself speaking to him, then he said, in a thin, reedy voice “Can you stop by my office before you leave town today? We’ll HAVE to go over some things.”The message in these words: What a shame. Just look at all the trouble you’ve caused; and now, we’ll never see the sun again. Never…..I began to wonder if every person in this room was so completely ashamed of me that the very floor would open beneath my feet, and swallow me whole.“Yes, I can do that. What’s the address, please?”He looked at me with a pallid, listless expression, and seemed to hang his head mournfully as he recited it - and, almost wistfully, he told me he really hoped I might be there in………an hour?His expression, tone, and words carried the dismal tidings: There was scant hope at all that I could even begin to find his office, and it’s hardly worth the effort to give you the address - but maybe you’ll be there someday.Doubtful. But maybe.Throughout it all, Kay said nothing. She kept her face turned slightly away, ensuring that I would not catch her eye. But she continued to look elsewhere - anywhere else. At the empty bookshelf. To the plain, blank wall. At the dull gray carpeting. It all held so much more of interest to her than I could every hope to be again.Kay? Oh, please, Kay! Please! Won’t you look at me?Never before had I experienced such complete helplessness. I was adrift and alone, forlorn and forsaken, humbled and humiliated. They had not merely stripped me naked, and cast me into the street. I was, in fact, disemboweled….and all were too sickened at the sight of me to know my distress.“All right, then. I believe we’re finished for now.” The Director stood and consulted her Blackberry, ready to be off to her next contretemps. She strode past me, and I heard the click click-clicking of her shoes on the tile floor. And then, all at once, she was gone, and I was truly alone.The HR Director had been the only person here who was a person at all.The only one here who seemed to have any awareness at all that what had happened, the reason we had met under these circumstances, were, in fact, a lie.It had never happened, and they had no interest in knowing the truth.I had never said those words. I had never said them.Never thought them. Never would think them.I had NOT said, “I’m planning ‘to go postal’ at our next faculty meeting.”What had I said? Nothing of the sort!I’m not “planning” beyond my office, a week’s math lessons. ZNow, I wouldn’t go there.“Our next faculty meeting” was to have been that afternoon.Now, I wouldn’t be there.And “to go postal” to the brick building, close to my home.Now, I would go there.The place I go, for my mail, weekdays and Saturdays.Now, I would be there always.A criminal “goes postal.” I was a criminal. Someone had made me a criminal!Who?And why?None who remained wanted anything more to do with me.The Union representative had vanished. I hadn’t seen him go.What was his name again? Mr. Boy? He was young. Too young. He couldn’t help me.“Never send a Boy to do a man’s job.” I’d heard that many times, back in college,when we played cards. Bridge, and 500. Mr., Boy. A college Boy.No, wait. Not “Boy.”The principal rose, and without looking at me, said, “Let’s go. I want you off this campus before school starts.”On that unfriendly note, he and I made our way back to my office. He followed me as before, behind and slightly to my left, and he said nothing. I grabbed my briefcase from my office, and the homework basket from my classroom next door. He stood at the classroom door, and I felt his eyes on me as I crossed the room, as if daring me to touch anything other than that basket. I left the room and relocked the door.Then he growled, “Side door. Right now,” and jerked his head toward the double side doors at the far end of the classroom pod. I walked toward the doors, as he followed, and just as I was about to exit, he spoke up sharply.“Give me your keys.”I turned around, puzzled. I’ll be back in a few days. Why does he want my keys?“Your keys. Now,” and he held out his hand.I unhooked the two interior keys, and the magnetic fob that provided access to the building, from my keychain, and dropped them into his outstretched hand. The contemptuous look had returned, and he stared out the window.I wanted to throw those damned keys as far down the hall as possible. And in retrospect, I wish that I had. This guy had always been a bit stand-offish and condescending, but he was young - 20 years my junior - so I gave him the benefit of the doubt. He was no longer just a PE teacher, but a high school principal, which gave him status, with that peculiar mix of arrogance and egotism some principals develop when they rise too far, too soon. He was going to be fine, once he got more comfortable in his own skin. I had no issues with him. But now, he had issues with me, and I was dirt under his feet. In the past hour, this man had changed from a slightly oafish, but reasonably competent, building administrator into something unrecognizable.Give him the keys, I told myself. I’ll get them back next week.I met with the Union rep for over an hour that morning, repeating every detail over and over again: the perfectly ordinary school day; the routine evening at home; the late-night visit from two deputies - one sneering, fingering his revolver, and the other intense, then defensive; the ignored phone messages to Kay; the hostile, glaring principal, intimidated…by nothing! And, most of all - worst of all - how I had absolutely no idea who, or how, or why someone would make such a vicious, horrible accusation. the idea that I would ever make such an idiotic, ugly threat - and in so many words, too. Words I had never used, considered using, or even thought about using, ever; and most certainly not at school. Words quoted directly to me, by an officer of the law: interrogating me: “Did you make that statement?” The very idea that I would go armed with intent, into MY OWN school. A safe place, a good place. To hurt people? To kill people? With a gun….and I hadn’t even held a gun in my two hands since I was 10 years old, with my dad, at a trap shoot. The first, and only, time I ever fired that gun - rifle? shotgun? I don’t know - it knocked me flat on my back. And my dad laughed.I never touched a gun again. And now, someone decided to place it in my hands.Four days later, the Union rep called me at home. The District had completed its investigation, and wanted me to return to school the following Monday. But first, they wanted to meet with me, at 7:15 am. School started at 7:30, so I knew it was little more than a formality. I understood; they wanted to tell me the results of that investigation. By this time, I didn’t even care about the resolution. I knew it wasn’t me…..and I didn’t care who, or even why. I just wanted to go back to school, and let this entire ugly incident disappear into memory.The following Monday, I arrived at school at 7:00. I couldn’t enter the building by my usual route, because the principal had confiscated my keys. So I used the main entrance. I walked into the office, greeted the receptionist, the secretaries, and the other people who were there at that early hour. Nice people, each and every one. They had never been anything but kind to me.The team was already assembled, in the Conference Room this time. The same cast…with one exception: Kay was not there. Fine; Kay and I would work things out, in time, once she learned the truth, that this whole thing was nothing more than a hoax. But the principal was there, the assistant Superintendent of Schools, the Union rep, and the Director, the youngish woman who had been so polite and decent about it all.They beckoned me to come in, and I did, taking the chair they had designated for me. I was smiling…I couldn’t help it. I was back to school, and that was all that mattered. Nothing else mattered. At its most basic, school is about students, and a teacher. That was the center of it all, the core, and all else revolved about it, fleeting and then gone. Tell me what you need to tell me, I’ll thank you, pick up my briefcase and my homework basket, go to my office, and get ready for Algebra II at 7:30. Me, and 18 juniors. Life will go on.The Director reached into the black folder she had beside her, and pulled out a single piece of paper. She placed it before her, on the table. I saw that it had just one short paragraph. This would not take long. The explanation would be very brief. Mercifully, blissfully brief.She cleared her throat. Then she looked up…..and WITHOUT looking down the paper, not even once……..she recited the findings:“The result of the District’s investigation reveal that you DID make that statement, on Friday, October 4, 2013, at approximately 3:30 pm, in the presence of an employee of this District, who shall remain anonymous. This individual, recognizing it as a credible and imminent threat, immediately reported it to a member of the Administrative Team, and as a result, XXXX City Police Department was called.“As a result of this investigation, you are hereby suspended immediately, for a period of three days, without pay. You are hereby ordered to leave this campus immediately, and you are not to return until Thursday morning, October 17, 2013, at 7:20 am. At that time, the file on this case will be permanent sealed, and all reference to it will be expunged from your employment record.“You are further ordered not to make any reference to it, neither orally nor in writing, to any employee of this District. All affected parties have been duly notified on this order, and should you choose to violate this order, by speaking about it, or by referring to it in any way, to any affected party, such party has been instructed to immediately contact me, with the details, and the District will take immediate action against you, up to, and including, termination.”Just then, the principal slid a sealed envelope across the table toward me. I picked it up, and it felt slightly heavy and bulky. My keys. I was overwhelmed by the unreality of what had just happened. I couldn’t think. I could barely breathe.I remember very little about the rest of that day. Classes happened. Students came and went, and the bells rang, reminding us all that time marks itself, and then moves on. The Earth continued to turn……and in so doing, it seems to force the sun to cross the sky. The sun really doesn’t cross the sky. It’s an illusion.I was really there that day. But it wasn’t really me that day. It was an illusion. I never really felt secure in that building again. Security was, itself, really an illusion.That illusion was very short-lived. In December, after consultation with my attorneys and the Union representative, I accepted the terms of a negotiated release from my teaching contract. I was awarded eight months’ pay. In January, I received an offer to teach high school mathematics in a school district in another state, beginning in the second semester. J took part in two telephone interviews; they hired me, sight unseen. But how had they heard of me? How had they known how to reach me?Well, the administrator replied, someone from your old school contacted us, and said you might be available. They even gave us your telephone number.Who was it? Well, actually, the person hadn’t said. But they spoke very highly of you. So, how about it? Will you take the position?I asked for three days to think it over, and they agreed. I wondered….who had recommended me? I thought back. Someone from the past. But the past was painful. The same questions, only this time with a different reality. Who, and how - and why. Always, always, the same question.Why?Finally, with great apprehension, I decided to leave the past in the past. I accepted the offer. I moved 320 miles north, to a new town, where nobody knew me, and I was careful to keep it that way, too. I taught there for three years, then my new state allowed me to take early retirement. For 24 years, I loved to teach. Then, one terrible event destroyed it. It destroyed my sense of reality. It made reality itself into an illusion.Why?It’s been six years now, and the questions remain. I can usually put them behind me, but the reality is, they’ll always be there. I know that now. I had wanted to know - I demanded to know - but I would never be told. “Affected parties” had seen to that. The HR Director did reveal the how - that day, in the Conference Room. I believe I know the who - but perhaps it doesn’t matter who. That individual, that “affected party” had, once upon a time, made a fateful, terrible, and destructive decision, and in so doing, I became an “affected party.” In that sense, perhaps I’ve been the only “affected party” all along.Why?That individual did an evil thing. He (or she) lied. Falsely reporting the threat of such a crime is itself a crime. My lawyer friend explained this to me. He (or she) was never prosecuted for it, nor did the person face any consequences from the school district.Why?I haven’t come to terms with it. The reality is, I was accused to contemplating a very serious crime. And threatening to carry it out! Making terroristic threats. And what happened? I was suspended for three days without pay. Nothing more. This reality, in turn, gave rise to still another reality - and it was my lawyer friend who pointed it out. A reality he found positively astounding……and it was TWO YEARS before either of us even realized it.During the course of that District investigation, I was never interviewed, nor questioned, nor asked to provide a statement. And that’s not all: the District had no idea that I had even been questioned by the deputies. I know, because my lawyer friend called the Sheriff’s Office, and they told him they had nothing on file. There was no record of a criminal investigation - nor even a report of a suspected crime - which means no report was filed. It had been a “welfare check.” That’s what the deputies told me…..and, to them, that’s all it was….so they didn’t bother filing a report. In other words, why file a report, when there’s nothing to report?That’s why they had lost interest in talking to me. I simply had nothing to tell them.What I never did discover, though, was the answer to one crucial question. The one question that echoes in my mind, six years later. It wakes me in the night, when I hear a sudden noise, and I can’t go back to sleep again. It haunts me in the day, when a stranger looks at me in the grocery store, for no apparent reason, and I have to turn away, or leave the store, and I’m quaking with a terror that I can’t explain, or resolve, or conquer. And I’m ashamed because of it, and ashamed by it, and I’m ashamed of myself. I’m ashamed by a reality that wasn’t real.For six years, I’ve been ashamed of something I didn’t do, and could never do. I’m ashamed of an illusion.But it wasn’t an illusion. It really happened. The illusion became reality. It’s my reality.Why did this happen at all? Why did it happen to me?Why?NOTE: The facts described herein are true.. It happened precisely as I have described, and it happened to me. Some details have been excluded for personal reasons, but no relevant detail has been omitted. The conversations detailed herein are authentic, but in some cases, precise wording of those conversations has been recreated, but not fictionalized. True names have been changed to protect the innocent from the guilty - or, perhaps, the guilty from the innocent.

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