So I’ve been tagged by Eliza Skinner to write out Three Things I’ve Learned the Hard Way. That’s basically the story of my life (or the title of my next memoir – only the number would have to be changed from three to infinity). Also, this is sort of a sequel to this exercise. Okay. Here we go.
1. You Can’t Walk On Insulation in an Attic 100 Feet Above Your School Auditorium
My senior year in high school, during a free period, I was scouting around up in the attic above my school auditorium, trying to find access to the roof of the building. In the attic there were two walkways running parallel to each other. I decided to walk from one walkway to the other. Under my feet, separating me from instant death, was nothing but insulation and ceiling tiles. A classmate of mine was sitting in a pew 100 feet below, and looked up as ceiling tiles astonishingly began to fall to the ground. Suddenly a leg jutted through the ceiling. Thousands of ceiling tiles crashed to the ground. Now both of my legs were dangling above. I have no idea how, but somehow I didn’t fall through. I shimmied my way out of the hole, crawled to the next walkway, and climbed down a ladder to ground level, only to witness a gigantic, gaping hole in the ceiling.
Of course, I was in trouble with the school for causing damage to the ceiling. I was slapped with a bill of $1,000 and told I couldn’t graduate until I came up with the money. My friends tried to raise money in my defense, carrying a cup around and asking people to “Save Latham!” They wound up raising $38, which I used to buy a couple of CDs.
The next week at my high school was designated Christian Emphasis Week, where devotionals were led by various speakers in the same auditorium where I had almost died. One speaker was a blind pianist who asked audience members to share a story, after which the pianist would sing a song inspired by the story. Of course, I couldn’t help myself, and stood up to share my story. After I was done, the blind pianist paused and began his song: “Walking on the insulation, walking on the edge of life, hanging by a thread of danger, asking God why…”
2. Don’t Go on a Cruise Ship If You’re Mentally Unbalanced
As part of our senior trip in high school, my entire class spent five days on a cruise ship called The Big Red Boat. But instead of relaxing and enjoying my time like most of my classmates, I decided to terrorize the boat. Over the course of the trip, I managed to toss 13 lawn chairs off of the boat and into the sea. Each time, a security guard would witness a chair being thrown overboard and would chase after me, but I would somehow run into my room without being caught.
I also thought it’d be a good idea to collect as many of the silver, cylinder-shaped trashcans as possible and store them in my room. I managed to collect about twenty of them. I stacked them on top of each other and crammed them into my bathroom. Once again, a security guard was tipped off and knocked on the door to my room. Conveniently I was away when the security guard knocked, but my roommate, who was passed out and had no idea what I had done, answered the door. The security guard asked, “One of you guys has been stealing our trashcans. Was it you?” Roommate: “Huh? No. I don’t know what you’re talking about. There aren’t any trashcans in here.” Security: “Let me look around.” Then he opened the bathroom door, and several trashcans poured out at once. Roommate: “What?! How did those get there?”
I capped the whole trip off by climbing up to the tower of the ship during a horrendous thunder storm. After getting drenched, I ended up passing out on a ledge at the top of the tower. When the ship docked and everybody got off the ship, nobody could find me. Finally a friend looked up to the top of the boat and saw my foot dangling out. A few weeks later, the management from The Big Red Boat decided to change their legal drinking age from 18 to 21.
3. It’s a Bad Idea to Run Errands For the Greek Mafia
My junior year in college, I took a semester off (another story) and was working in Atlanta as a cake deliverer for a company called Piece of Cake. After I dropped off my cake at an office building, a man approached me in the parking lot and asked me, “How would you like to make $100?” This was an easy sell to me at the time. “Sure, what do I have to do?”He informed me he was newly arrived from Greece and needed some errands done for him. The first errand was to drive to a certain address in downtown Atlanta, drop off a letter at the back door of the house, and then drive to a bar to pick up my $100. The Greek man also casually mentioned that I would never have to pay for a meal again at a place called The Landmark Diner (a noted mafia hangout at the time.)
And so I skeptically, but still naively, carried out the plan. But when I went to the back door of the house, I was confronted by an angry woman and a large man holding a baseball bat, who started yelling at me, “What the hell are you doing? We have a restraining order out on that guy! He is a criminal! And you are assisting him!” I dropped the letter down and ran to my delivery car (which happened to be the Piece of Cake Delivery Car.) The man with the baseball bat chased after me and got into his car. I drove to the parking lot of the bar I was supposed to meet the Greek Mafia guy, but of course he was nowhere to be found. The guy with the baseball bat pulled up behind me. He got out of the car and starting yelling again, “You are fucked! You are going to be arrested! I have your license plate! You are fucked!”
I drove off and didn’t stop until I knew I was in the clear. Then I continued my delivery route. I decided I had a better future as a cake deliverer than as an errand boy for the Greek Mafia. Luckily the Piece of Cake Delivery Car was never reported to the police.