“I didn’t do it.”
Most of us have heard that sentence at one time or another — law enforcement probably hears those words the most.
But sometimes when those words are uttered, it’s very much the truth — they, or we, or I didn’t do it.
But have you had to say it?
I know I have — more than once.
The first significant time I remember getting accused of something I didn’t do, I was in high school. Because I had transferred to the school system from another school, I ended up being the only sophomore in a freshman earth science course.
It wasn’t a difficult class for me — in fact, I learned quite a lot from that teacher.
One day we were in the throes of a mid-term exam review.
The bulk of my classmates and I were frantically taking notes, because he assured us the mid-term would be tough. He also promised that if we paid attention and took good notes, then we’d probably do well on the test.
Things were running along smoothly, and then a couple guys started chuckling in the back of the room.
A few more interruptions from the two clowns broke through the review — so much so that suddenly, the teacher stood and slammed his book to the floor.
And began to yell.
I couldn’t tell you the word-for-word of his rant, but it was kind of mean, pretty scathing, and demanded an apology from the class.
Then he stormed out of the room and slammed the door behind him.
Silence engulfed the entire room — you could have heard an ant sneeze.
Then a buzzing, mumbling began between the students — all wondering what to do.
The two clowns, now without the obviously necessary supervision, began to really cut up and act the fools.
I sat at my desk, largely in stunned silence.
And slowly but surely, I got upset.
Upset turned into anger — which then did a downslide right into absolutely livid.
Of the 35 or so students sitting in the room, 33 of them were paying attention, taking notes and acting like proper students.
Only those two guys were acting simple — and I made a decision.
After about 20 or so minutes, the teacher returned to the classroom — and demanded an apology.
Silence made a comeback — just long enough for me to stand up at my desk.
Seventy-two eyes aimed in my direction, but I was not nervous — I was riding the tide of lividity.
“Are you going to apologize on behalf of the class, Mr. Ross?” he asked me.
My answer was completely surprising — to both him and the other students.
“I don’t feel that we owe you an apology, (sir),” I said. “We were all sitting here and paying attention and taking notes, and those two were the ones cutting up. Isn’t that what we have a principal’s office for? Just get them out of here and we can get on with the review.”
The teacher gave me a poker face, and was initially silent.
“You’re right,” he finally said, and before sending those two to the principal’s office, be bellowed out a high-volume lecture to them for being so disrespectful.
And then apologized to the class for their aberrant behavior, and the review continued.
A second time that happened, I needed an attorney to get me out of trouble.
I was finally 16 years old — and relished in the fact I was a licensed driver.
Nine days after I got my license, I was at work at the newspaper in my hometown.
Over the scanner, police reported something going on at the local mall, and in typical fashion, I gathered myself together to go see what I could learn.
I never made it.
I got on an in-town divided four-lane, which had a 35 mph speed limit.
I was in the passing lane, and the light I was driving under turned yellow.
I never saw her coming — but suddenly, here this car was, without headlights, coming from a blind side of the four-way intersection.
There was nothing I could do — she crashed into the front end of the car, spinning it around more than a dozen times before I came to a halt more than 500 yards away from the crash site.
After I was helped out of the car by a couple of unknown good samaritans, I noticed the woman reach in her car and snap on her headlights — only one of which worked.
I called home, and gave my poor mother a near heart attack when I told her what happened. She handed the phone to my father, who promptly came out to the scene.
My father went and spoke with police. I just sat in his Ford Escort, numb from shock. I wasn’t injured, thank God, because I was belted into the seat.
When he returned to the car, he seemed to me to be pretty mad. I can’t remember exactly what he said, but he showed me a drawn-out picture the officer made about the crash site.
And it was flat wrong.
The officer had me going more than 45 mph — not true.
The officer had me driving in the regular lane — not true, I was in the passing lane.
The officer said this woman had just begun driving through her green light — again, not true. Just looking at the front end of my mother’s Buick LeSabre, it was clear even to my juvenile eyes that she had to have been driving much faster. Everything on the front end of the car was swept over to the driver’s side.
Not to mention, of course, that her hitting me sent me far away from the crash site.
Thankfully, when I explained this to my father, he believed me — I did not cause that crash.
An attorney was hired, and the final outcome left me on probation for six months. If I completed that period without additional traffic problems, then all would be well.
Six months passed, and officially, it was over.
We’ve all been accused of something at one time or another, and we’ve all accused someone else of something at one time or another.
But instead of yelling at a whole group for one person’s folly, or accusing someone of causing trouble, take a moment to put yourself in their shoes.
Think about the source of your information.
Take a moment to look at things without prejudice or emotion.
Or you may end up pointing fingers at an innocent person — when all the while those fingers should have been pointed at you.
John Ross is a staff writer for the Times-Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I didn’t do it.”
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