It was my second year of college, and I was attending a religious university. As with any such university, there were strong guidelines for admittance. These included modest dress, proper grooming, honesty, and a strong moral code. Before each student came, a paper had to be signed that we, on our honor, would obey these guidelines. I was happy to sign it, and even happier to live it. I enjoyed that type of environment and the association with other young people who lived those same standards.
But one day I received a call that surprised me. My roommate, Bryce, answered the phone, and the lady told him she was calling from the honor office and needed to speak to me. Bryce was shocked that I would receive such a call. He handed over the phone and then quickly informed all of my other roommates about it.
Immediately they all gathered around, staring at me, making me very self-conscious. I said hello into the phone, and the lady on the other end spoke very businesslike. Mr. Howard, this is Becky from the Honor Office. We have been informed that you are in violation of the school honor code.
My heart started to pound, and I could hardly breathe. I thought hard, trying to remember something I might have done that was against the rules, but I couldn’t think of anything. “What?” was all I could say.
It is inappropriate to discuss something of this great magnitude over the phone, Becky said. We need you to come in.
“When?” I asked.
”Something like this needs to be dealt with immediately. Are you free right now?”
”Uh, yeah. I think I could come.”
”This particular matter is of grave concern,” she said. “We are not going to be dealing with this ourselves. You need to talk directly to the college president.”
”The college president?” I gasped.
”Yes, the president,” she replied. “May I inform him that you are on your way and will be there shortly?”
“Thank you,” she replied. “He will be expecting you.”
When I hung up the phone, my roommates were all staring at me. Although they had only heard one end of the conversation, that, along with the shocked look on my face, was enough.
“I have to meet with the president!”
“Wow!” Bruce said. “What did you do?”
“Nothing,” I said, but by their smirks, I knew they didn’t believe me.
The walk to the president’s office was a long one. The wait in the reception area was worse. Finally, the president came out and ushered me into his office. He spoke sternly to me, speaking to me about rules and the importance of having and obeying them. I fidgeted a lot, wondering when he would finally tell me what violation I had been called in for.
But he never did. Instead, he stopped, and glared at me, so I timidly asked, “Will you please tell me what it was that I did?”
His expression remained unchanged. “As if you didn’t know,” he growled.
He stared sternly at me for another brief moment, then he suddenly started to smile, and then to laugh. He laughed and laughed. Finally he stopped and wiped his eyes. “You ought to see your face,” he said.
He then reached over and hit a button on his phone. “Iris, I think you need to come in here.”
With that, my aunt came in the door. I instantly remembered that she was the president’s personal secretary, even though I had never seen her in that capacity. She pulled me into her arms and gave me a hug. “You know, you never come up to see me, so I thought an April Fool’s joke was in order.”
I smiled, and then I laughed, remembering that my roommates didn’t know anything yet, and it was still April first.
(Daris Howard, award-winning, syndicated columnist, playwright and author, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit his website at www.darishoward.com)