“Need to proofread the paper,” he wrote. “There were a number of errors in the issue of Oct. 24: 98 Conwell instead of 9A, Danny Schmidt play listed for Sunday when it was on Saturday, and an item in Indie’s Choice that happened five days before the paper came out. In the Oct. 31 issue, the front page fire chief story says continued to page 11 when it’s actually on page 12. Also the Wellfleet fire dept. story on page 5 dead ends mid word with no ‘continued to.’ I eventually found it on page 7, although it claims it was continued from page 1.”
I offered Tim C. a job as a proofreader, but he didn’t reply.
I hate making these kinds of errors, but I’ve made much worse ones. One of the biggest was flunking out of college. It happened at the end of my second year there. I won’t go into the details of everything I did wrong that year. Suffice it to say that I actually experienced a nightmare that other people tell me they have dreamed: I walked in and took the final exam in a course for which I had attended none of the classes.
I’ve been lucky. I even ended up, many years later, teaching one of the courses that I had failed in my first try at college. The school had a notably humane way of dealing with failure. There were three levels of disciplinary action, I learned. The first time you flunked out, they said your “connection was severed.” That meant you had to leave town, get a job, hold it for six months, and then get a recommendation from your employer. If you did all that, you were automatically readmitted, no questions asked. (I made it back, two years later.)
If you messed up again, though, you arrived at level two: expulsion. If you were expelled, that meant they kicked you out and it was highly unlikely you would ever be invited back.
Then there was level three: expunction, the most severe of all disciplinary actions, requiring a two-thirds vote of the entire faculty. It happened at my school in April 1963, when a student was found to have gained admission under false pretenses, using another student’s name and forging recommendations. He was expunged, meaning that his name was removed from the college’s records and all trace of his having been there was erased.
This strikes me as a uniquely appropriate punishment for the most audacious of high crimes and misdemeanors: not just to be rid of the miscreant, but for all official record of his utter phoniness to disappear from the books.