In the interests of truth-in-newspapering, I should reveal that this column is being written by a guy who once cut and ran.
Nearly half my life ago, I owed three bucks in college library fines. The rules said pay what you owe or you don't get a final transcript of your grades.
But I was faced with the usual collegiate squeeze of not having any money. Besides, I was in a great hurry to send a transcript to a prospective employer (although I can't imagine why; there were so many Cs on it that it looked like the minutes of the Civilian Conservative Carpetbaggers' Congress).
So I went to see good old Mrs. Morris in the registrar's office. This was way before computers, kiddies, so Mrs. Morris had no quick way of checking the record.
"Have you paid all your fees and fines, Bob?" she asked.
"No, Mrs. Morris, I haven't," I said. But because I intended to, I took out an installment loan on the truth and added: "But I've arranged to."
That was good enough for good old Mrs. Morris. Across the desk came the transcript, and out the door I flew, arrangements unmade.
Nonsurprise: they're still unmade. But that may change, and soon, if what happened to Arnold Wilson of Lanham is any indication.
Arnold graduated from Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt at the end of July after attending summer school. He intended to enter the University of Maryland - Eastern Shore next month. So he was in a special hurry to obtain his final grades from Roosevelt in order to firm up his status at UMES.
But Roosevelt officials wouldn't issue him a transcript. Arnold, it seems, was a criminal.
He hadn't paid for a 15-cent phone call he had made sometime last winter from the principal's office.
Carefully concealing my larcenous past, I placed a what-gives phone call to Morris Samuel, an assistant principal at Roosevelt.
I was dreaming of headlines: "Youth's Future Ruined Over 15-Cent Call." But like so many reporters before me, I chased my scoop away in the process of trying to develop it.
Samuel looked into the matter, then closed it in praiseworthy style. He paid Arnold Wilson's 15-cent bill himself, and saw to it that Arnold's final grades were mailed.
"It certainly is school board policy that all obligations must be met by graduating seniors," Samuel said. "But in a case like this, we'll make it up for him. We told him, 'When you get 15 cents, come on in and give it to us.' "
But Arnold Wilson hasn't done that yet. What with swimming and sunbathing and getting ready for college, he hasn't had the chance, according to his mother, Peggy Wilson. "You know how teen-agers are," she said.
Take it from a scholastic criminal who's been on the lam a long time, Arnold. Pay the man. College may be worth all this, but the guilt isn't.