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Bad Boy of the Latin Club



by Miles Mathis

My biographer asked me to tell this story myself, since it is too silly to cast into the third person. She says it is silly but she wants me to tell it anyway. I know that many people think that the Latin Club is equivalent to the glee club or the Star Trek club, in terms of hipness, hopness, or any kind of coolness or badness. But I think I may at least claim that I am the only person ever to go to two National Conventions, win both of them, and be arrested at both. Whether I get any sort of extra credit for this, now or later in heaven or Hades, is yet to be seen.

     In 1979 the Monterey High School Latin Club, population 7, took the train from Lubbock, Texas, to East Lansing, Michigan, for the Junior Classical League convention. For those who don't know (which would be just about everyone, I imagine) the Latin Conventions are a big deal. Well, they are a big deal for those who go to them anyway. Actually, the Latin conventions are bigger, nationally, than the French or Spanish conventions. Some states like Virginia and Tennessee (go figure) have hundreds of kids who show up, though most of them show up just to wear togas, write odes to Lesbia, and hope that an orgy will spontaneously erupt. Even Texas has (had?) a huge contingent. I remember that one high school, Baytown Lee (near Houston) had over 100 kids show up at the convention—and we 7 kicked their sorry butts.

     Anyway, on the way to Michigan State University, the wacky Latin club decided to stop in Chicago to eat deep dish pizza and climb the Sears Tower. Which we did. However, no one else was nearly as impressed by the view at the top (of the tower, not the pizza parlor, please keep up) as I was. After about five minutes they insisted we ride the elevator back down, to eat more pizza across the street, or something equally grand. Well, as they argued in the lobby about where to eat the next slice, I snuck back to the elevator. Unfortunately, it was 2 bucks to re-ascend, and I was broke. Noticing a stairwell nearby, I leapt into action, hardly pausing to fasten my cape. 110 stories later I stood outside the observation deck. Outside the observation deck, mind you, in the stairwell, which was locked from the outside. Next to the door on the wall was this sign: "No exit. All stairwell doors require a key. Please use the red phone to call for help." So that is what all those red phones (110 of them) were for. Obligingly, I called a policeman to come arrest me. Which he did.

     He took me into a little office and began questioning me. I emptied all my pockets. No weapons (he missed the cultellus I had stowed in my golden sandal, thank Jupiter). He asked me how I got there. I told him I thought that was the bathroom. He looked at me sideways, "So you just popped in there and couldn't get out?" I said yes. "From the deck?" Yes. "OK, well, catch up to your party. Where are they?" I think they are already on the elevator maybe. I don't see them. "OK, scoot!" he said as he pushed me onto the elevator.

     I hid behind a big man in the elevator as other people got on, then, at the last moment I hit the "door open" button. The door jerked back open while ten more fat people got on, then I jumped out. By then the policeman had wandered off again. I went over to the glass wall and got my fill of Chicago and Lake Michigan and then leisurely rode the elevator down to the lobby, where my classmates were furious (the ones who didn't have their mouths full of pizza from across the street).


     The next year I was a second-year student and vastly more mature. This time I only got arrested for pulling a fire alarm in the dorms at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. In my defense the telephones in the dorms had very weird rings, and no one rang us up, so I didn't know it was the phones. I thought everyone else was pulling the fire alarms, so I thought I would join the fun.

     I spent literally two hours being questioned, but they couldn't think of more than one question. So they just asked me that over and over. "Who put you up to it? Someone else must be involved. It was a dare, right? Who was it? Who was it? Blah, blah, blah." I thought of tons of fun people to implicate, but finally just said, "I told you everything, there is nothing else to say. Unless you are going to force a false confession through torture, it is time to move on. Put me in jail or whatever." I actually said that.  I have witnesses. The authorities' mouths all dropped and then they huddled. My teacher told them I had just won a fistful of awards (I suspect she also whispered that I was an idiot-savant off my meds or something). So they let me go.

     And those are the true-life confessions of the black sheep, the mala stirps, of the Latin Club. Upon return to Lubbock, the club stripped me of my Miles Gloriosus club t-shirt and my toga virilis. At graduation they voted me most likely to do hard time for bad declension and illicit conjugation.

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