At least twice when I was a child I walked out of school in the middle of the day, awol and without notice to any adults. For reasons beyond my comprehension the authorities and parents got riled up about this, but it was always the only response I could muster to adult unreasonableness. Both times I think the biggest problem was a demand that I go to a room I was not familiar with to face some strange teacher. I had had enough difficulty working out how to find the rooms I attended classes in.
The first time was in 3rd grade (so, first year in Columbus) and I don’t remember what the problem with the strange teacher was, but I know I walked straight home the 1.3 miles, so I don’t know how my parents had time to become so alarmed.
The second incident was rather spectacular and I have been reminded of it a couple of times in a short period of time recently. After I had been thinking about it, out of the blue I coincidentally got a note from an old classmate I hadn’t seen since those days referencing it and even recalling the name of the teacher!
This incident was in 7th grade, my first year in the old stone prison-like institution known in those days as Jones Jr. High. I was in a large study hall early in the day, planning on completing an assignment due the next period, and discovered that I did not have any blank paper. The teacher was this German woman who I remember as being kind of a Frau Blucher type, although in updated mid-century American style of course. Her name was actually Mrs. Gudat. I slim, harsh-faced formidable character. She had strictly forbidden talking or noise of any kind in her study hall, but I was desperate enough for a piece of paper that I risked trying to whisper as quietly and surreptitiously as possible to the person in front of me to try to borrow one. Of course, this flagrant violation did not escape the preternatural hearing of the hawk-like Frau Gudat, who marched down the aisle, where I was a good ways toward the back of the room and against the left wall, so this drew the attention of the whole group, to administer admonishment and forbid the transfer of illicitly obtained class-work materials. I tried to explain that I just needed one sheet of paper and I really needed to finish this assignment, a situation for which she had no sympathy. “You should have done it last night!”, she barked, and headed back to her podium.
I sat there fuming over my untenable academic situation and the injustice of the authoritarian regime and began to have one of my incidents of rising heat and anger. In those days I always used a cartridge fountain pen, a cheap Schaeffer that was widely available. I took off the cap and made a forceful arcing gesture with it toward the front of the room, shooting a plume of ink down the aisle. The ink ended up hitting a boy quite a ways up the row from me. By a stroke of bad luck, he was a boy with a bit of a limp from some childhood disease or something, which added further shame to the whole incident.
Mrs Gudat came storming down the aisle demanding to know why I was picking on the poor cripple boy. By now I was standing, and I said, “I wasn’t aiming at him.” “Well, what were you aiming at?”, she demanded. “I was aiming at you!” I replied.
The next thing I knew she was slapping me, rather dramatically, and said, “I’LL TAME YOU, YOU SAVAGE!!!”
This seems to have started talk amongst the student population that we were having some sort of steamy affair.
Then I think there was some sort of demand that I go to some strange room after school, and I walked out. This time I just kept walking for quite awhile. I walked out of Old Arlington, I walked up Ackerman past what were in those days fields of cows, and ended up at University City Shopping Centre on Olentangy. There I remember there being a new record store that I might not have had a chance to check out as of yet. It wasn’t very good, but enough to calm me down.
In the meantime apparently there had been a lot of hue and cry and search for the missing child. I was filled with shame and fear with the thought of facing the reactions of adults and students alike. My parents had to have yet another meeting with a Principal and I got some vague report that there had been discussion of how I was a bit peculiar but apparently some sort of genius, so I would get special consideration but I’d better watch it. I think Mrs. Gudat was induced to make an apology, which was surprising since in those days it seemed like teachers could treat students however they wanted. As for the students, it may have given me a certain cachet for awhile, but also undesirable attention and they quickly got back to ever intensifying ridicule and bullying.