Thursday, September 02, 2004

Death of a Citizen

I had to dig my old college transcript out of a file cabinet and had sort of forgotten that I once got a C in the very scriptwriting class that I teach now. Loyal readers' degree of surprise will be based entirely on how much they liked AMONG US and PETER ROTTENTAIL.

It was taught by an older instructor who had once written extensively for radio drama. This was in the waning days of his teaching career and he missed a lot of days because of illness. I was a shaggy-haired kid in a Who t-shirt who thought he already knew everything and had nothing to learn, and never suspected that other shaggy-haired kids would think the same thing about him in the far future, when he would stand up in front of a class with a buzz haircut and a tie and teach the same subject.

I'm sure that to some degree I was a pain in the ass, and undoubtedly deserved a C. So years later, long after his death, I tried to make amends.

He had donated his video collection to the university and it was being stored untouched in a storage area that was now needed for something else to be stored that nobody wanted. I had a chance to take a look at this collection before, it was presumed, all of his tapes were going to be run under a big-ass magnet and recycled en masse. There were hundreds of videos that my former teacher had meticulously typed a synopsis for on index cards, and stuck in each box, which had color-coded construction paper sleeves that were also full of typed information. Unfortunately most of these would be considered bootlegs and could not be stored in a library system. It broke my heart to see all of this go to waste.

So I carefully culled out the actual purchased tapes and donated those to the university library in his name, then went through crate after crate, looking at every bootleg, and selecting a few dozen rare or classic movies that I set aside to form a department "library" of tapes for students to look at "for historic purposes only." Then I took a few dozen that I wanted to watch or have and stuck it in my office, and I am eating a ham salad sandwich and looking at that very same box right now. After a few weeks I had gone through everything and let it go off with a clear conscience.

Hopefully one day when I am dead some ill-favored student will pay me back in a similar fashion. It's how the world goes 'round.

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