Editor's Note: Cole suffered an unfortunate accident with Silly String. He should be untangled from the worst of it by next week. Until then we present this "Cole Classic" originally published March 12, 2006.
Two of the scariest words to ever tingle a student's spine are "permanent record."
True, the words "term paper," "pop quiz," "book report" and "due today" are more frightening in their immediacy. But when parents and teachers hold "permanent record" over your head, destitution seems to be the only possible future. Provided you survive "finals week."
When I was in school, the permanent record ploy sounded like a rap sheet that would cling to you through life like a ribbon of toilet paper stuck to the bottom of a shoe.
"You better study for this history test. It will be on your permanent record."
"If I catch you dusting the classroom with chalk erasers again, young man, it will go on your permanent record!"
"I don't know how you got Mrs. Weedlemeyer's car in there, or where you found the goats, but you better believe it's going on your permanent record!"
The permanent record was meant to be scarier than Stephen King, Wes Craven and M. Night Shyamalan feasting on a picnic of spider legs and bat burgers.
A cousin to the "permanent record" threat was the "it will look good on your resume" coercion. But colleges seemed only mildly interested, to the point of boredom, that I played bass trombone in the high school jazz band. Potential employers never understood how my ability to belt a sub B-flat would help their companies.
My resume looked better without it.
I was sprung from high school nearly 30 years ago and now doubt the permanent record ever existed. No employer asked for it. No civic group wanted to see it. And credit card companies keep preapproving me without referring to it.
My friend Heidi chipped in, "Never once have I heard someone in my adult life say, 'Well, let's just have a look at your permanent record. Ah, I see that you were the geek of all geeks, always on time for school ...
"'Oh wait, there is this one day in 1985 that you slept in and missed first and second period. And you missed the school bus in 1980, the day of the big snowstorm, and your mom had to call the WRTA to make sure the public bus stopped to pick you up for school.'
"So much for that permanent record - no one ever looked at it."
The permanent record is the academic version of mother's adage to always wear clean underwear in case you're in an accident. It sounds good, but how much value is it in an emergency?
I used to be a police reporter and never - I can't stress this enough - never did I see an accident report in which a trooper wrote, "The car's mangled, and the driver broke a leg and two arms, but his underwear was clean."
But because of the threat, Heidi confessed, "I was so afraid that the slightest thing on my permanent record would crush my world. (My co-worker) Lisa on the other hand thinks that a few employers should have checked her permanent record before they even mentioned her tardiness."
Maybe she can bring up that point at the next business mixer. It's - say it with me, now - good for networking.
----- Apply for your copy of Cole's resume at firstname.lastname@example.org or check his record on the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook. It's good for networking.