Years ago, I was covering a football game at a school in Eastern North Carolina, and I used the principal's office to write my story. This was the day of the Bubble computer, a cumbersome abomination compared to the modern notebook, and I was going to send the story in via phone line. No e-mail in those days.
The principal wasn't going to wait for me, so he locked me in his office, and I had to climb out of his window! After writing and sending the story, I opened the window, but I realized I couldn't turn off the light first. So I left the light on. I climbed out the window, holding onto the windowsill with my right hand and clutching the computer case with my left.
Naturally, I couldn't close the window behind me, so I left it open. With the lights on and the window open, there was no security for the principal's office.
I slid down the wall to my full extension, and I realized there was at least a foot of air beneath my feet. So here I was, a 250-pound sports writer, hanging to the windowsill with one hand and desperately clutching that computer with the other. After a beat, I dropped into the mud below me, naturally, then slogged my way around to my truck.
Free at last, free at last, free ... Well, actually, no.
I drove to the exit and realized they'd locked the gate! I couldn't drive into a deep ditch to get out, so I had to go back to the principal's office to call the police (remember, no cell phones back then). I shinnied back up the wall and through the window to make the call.
The only good thing is that, this time, I knew what I faced. I made the 911 call, turned off the light and went over and climbed out the window. I couldn't lower the window all the way, but it was close.
Finally, about midnight, a policeman showed up, listened to my explanation at least twice, opened the gate, and I drove a hundred miles home...
With skinned knuckles, a wrenched wrist, bruised knees, muddy shoes and pants legs, and a slightly banged-up Bubble.
Anything for a story.
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Anecdotes by Tom Gillispie