Cline column: Heeding the signs from God
By Mike Cline
For the Salisbury Post
I know God exists. And He does work in mysterious ways.
Along the path of life, He has given me signs here and there that I wasn’t necessarily on the verge of doing the right thing, and to my misfortune, I believed that I was smarter than He.
Take the day in my junior year of high school. I had seen the weekly TV Guide listings and noticed a specific television program to be aired at 3 p.m. the coming Tuesday.
No question in my mind I HAD to see this program. The problem was school didn’t let out until 3:20 in the afternoon. And these were the archaic days before home video.
So, what would be my plan of action to get away from school in time to get home by 3 p.m.?
The solution came to me quickly. I had dramatics class my final period every day, and this being April, we were practicing our end-of-year play in the auditorium. There was a window backstage through which I could make an unapproved exit. The dramatics teacher was very old (gosh, she was in her 60s), so she would be an easy “mark.”
The play, by the way, was “Pride and Prejudice,” written by one of those bratty Bronte girls. Actually, we called it “Pride and Pre-Jaundice.”
I had heard the expression “go with your gut” and, in most cases, things would usually work out. I should have gone with it. Maybe the ordeal would have turned out differently.
But over the weekend, I started to second-guess myself — not about whether to skip out of school, but how to skip. Now I realize God was trying to get my attention by putting doubt in my mind.
I ignored what I was hearing and decided I would create a bogus note from my mother at home, excusing me from school for a dentist appointment. All school notes/excuses had to be approved and signed by the school secretary, Mrs. Guy. I had seen her signature enough that copying it would be a piece of cake.
So, as part of my Monday night homework, I “borrowed” a piece of my mother’s personalized stationery, wrote my dental excuse, signed my mother’s name and self-approved it by adding the secretary’s name. It looked like a painting by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn.
Tuesday arrived. I stuck the note in a secure place among my school books and off to better myself through education I went. I parked my car on the side road next to the gymnasium instead of the regular parking lot. I figured fewer eyes had a chance to see my getaway from this position.
Some pompous bragging then took over, and I told my good friend Jimmy as to what I was going to do come sixth period. I was so proud of my cleverness in dreaming up such a scheme.
“I’ll go with you,” Jimmy said. “I can go backstage in the auditorium and climb out the window and meet you at the car. Mrs. White will never miss me.”
“If that’s what you want,” I answered.
As I headed towards the auditorium for the final period of the day (zero hour), Jimmy met up with me and informed me that “Jo Anne is going with us!”
“Yeah. I told her what we were going to do and she said she wanted to go, too, and she wants you to take her home on the way to your house,” said my indiscreet friend.
Too late to argue. It was 2:20 p.m. and I had to be home by 3.
So Jimmy and I entered the auditorium. I went straight to Mrs. White and showed her the note. She didn’t bat an eyelash. I was excused. As I headed out of the door nearest my car, I saw Jimmy and Jo Anne heading backstage to make their leaps out of the backstage window.
The three of us arrived at my car about the same time, boarded quickly and off we went.
I’m convinced this is where God took over the situation completely.
Just as we drove by the gymnasium, the P.E. teacher/head basketball coach stepped out the side door of the gym and saw us.
“Do you think he saw us?” the female stowaway asked.
“Well, OF COURSE, he saw us. He wasn’t wearing dark glasses and carrying a white cane!” I shouted back.
Nothing to do but carry on with the plan. We had 20 minutes to get home and warm up the TV set.
We arrived at Jo Anne’s house, she jumped out, ran up her walk and went inside. Just as I am backing out of her driveway, a mid 1960s Oldsmobile screeches up behind me, blocking me in. It’s the coach. How he got to his car so fast and knew where we were going, I’ll never know. Wait a minute, I do know…it had to be divine intervention.
“Whatcha doin’ here, fellows?” he asked.
“She wanted a ride home, and I’ve got to be at the dentist’s office in 10 minutes, so I have to go,” I replied.
“Do you have your excuse from school?”
“Sure, here it is,” I answered as I handed over to him the incriminating evidence. It was like Dillinger being nabbed with a satchel full of bank currency.
He got in his car and drove off. I took off as well. Ten minutes to get home.
On the way, I’m thinking to myself that maybe the coach bought my story and that would be it, but I soon found out that things never turn out that way.
We arrived at my house just in time to burst through the kitchen door and turn on the TV. It’s like 2:58 p.m. At this point, I still don’t know the consequences I will face for my juvenile delinquent actions of the day, so at least I’m going to watch the program and enjoy it, then face the music.
Halfway through the show, the telephone rang. I decided not to answer. If it were important, they would call back (no answering machines back then). It was important. They called back. Just as the show was ending, I answered to hear my mother’s voice, “Mr. Hiatt is waiting for both of you in his office.” (Mr. Hiatt was our principal.)
“OK,” I said in my best defeated tone.
So about 3:45, we slowly entered the school office, and Mrs. Guy told us we were to go right in. A firing squad would be a worse experience, but at the time, I probably didn’t think so.
The three of us had a discussion of the afternoon’s events which led to Jimmy and my joining the school custodial staff for the next two weeks. Starting the next day, we both had to clean the school bathrooms from 3:30 to 5 p.m. for two weeks. For the rest of the school year, everytime I passed one of the custodians, they seemed to smile at me as if to say, “Thanks.”
And I also had to apologize to Mrs. Guy, the school secretary. I was advised by the principal that she could actually bring charges against me for forging her name. Of course, she didn’t. So I graciously apologized to her before leaving the office. She didn’t excuse what I did, but she did tell me that if it were any consolation, my forging of her name was the best she had ever seen.
Oh, yes, Mrs. White kicked us both out of dramatics. My “Pride and Pre-Jaundice” role was assumed by Charles Southers.
And here’s the kicker. Remember Jo Anne? It turns out that from her front door she had seen the coach’s appearance in her driveway, and as soon as we all left, she got a ride back to school, climbed back through the backstage window, made her presence felt, established a firm alibi and got off scot-free.
Neither Jimmy nor I ratted on her. We may have been idiots to believe we could get away with this maniacal scheme, but we were not squealers.
And as for the signs He sends me, I’m better now at listening to them than when I was younger. I really am.
Mike Cline lives in Salisbury and is an occasional contributor to the Post. He recently established a new Website, “Mike Cline’s Then Playing,” which includes a history of the movies shown in Salisbury and Rowan County from 1920 through 1979.