Crash and Burn – 1986

First day of school:

MASC 451 – Numerical Analysis

(in heavy Italian accent) Welcome to Numerical Analysis. My name is Guido Contini. I got off the plane yesterday. They tell me grade inflation is a thing in America; I do not participate in that. In Italy, half of the students in a class fail. Hopefully, you are are smarter than that, but we will have to see..

… and of course, there was no book, only lecture notes.

RUSS 101 – Introduction to Russian

“You should be able to read the Russian alphabet by Friday, and turn in your homework in cursive Cyrillic by the middle of next week…”

Second week of school:

COMP 421 Operating Systems

“Your second assignment: Design a file system. Be specific. Due in two weeks.”

Fourth week of school:

Grade of first MASC 451 test: 3 out of 10

Grade of first STAT 382 test: 45 out of 100 (mean 55)

Grade of COMP 421 file system: 30 out of 100 or so

RUSS 101 (Introduction to Russian) first test: 65 out of 100 (mean is 80)

HIST 211 – no grades yet, but I read the entire text book first two days of class. Love this class.

Not looking good so far.

Fifth week of school:

Dropped COMP 421.

Sixth week of school:

“Hi. This is your mom. Doctor says I have to have a hysterictomy. I will be going to Methodist on Monday. The surgery is Tuesday, and they estimate I will get to go home Saturday. I need you to take me to the hospital, run errands for me, and sit with me.”

“Mom, I have mid-terms. I can’t just take a week off.”

“Oh, Honey, I am sure you can study while I am sleeping. And you can certainly go to your classes. Besides, while I am in the hospital, you can use my car.”

“Mom, I don’t have anywhere to go. I have to study.”

“You’ll figure it out.”

She did not actually sleep that much after surgery. I got almost no studying done.

Eighth week of school:

I rode my bike every morning from my off-campus apartment. I rode on from southwest campus, entered at Stockton, rode through the stadium lot, and got on the road going east-west through the middle of campus. These days, it’s one way going west, but it was two-way while I was there.

As I approached the Rice Memorial Center on my right, I noticed that there was a car parked on the street in front of it. And a shuttle bus was coming the other direction. I slowed down a little, waiting for the bus to pass, and then sped up to go around the car.

That’s when the driver opened her door.

The fortunate thing is that I did not ram the door with my front wheel, thus avoiding hitting her, and a lot more damage. I still hooked my handlebar, though. I distincly remember looking out and seeing a clear blue morning sky, with the Sun at my feet, right before I hit the ground, flat on my back, my backpack taking the brunt of the fall. My toeclips were still engaged, so when I stopped sliding on the ground, my bike fell to the right and twisted my back. When everything stopped moving, my back hurt, my leg was scraped, and my glasses were missing.

The driver came up to me, looking concerned, and said, “Are you OK?”

“No. I don’t know. I might be.”

She then ran back to her car, got in, and drove off.

A couple of minutes later, somebody found me, and helped me disentangle myself, and I assessed the damage. My backpack was shredded. My calculator in the backpack was in pieces. My Civil War text book was shredded.

My glasses, which were 15 feet away, were bent. The deraileur on my bike was smashed into the spokes, and the front wheel had a big place where it was no longer true. The right brake lever was not where it was supposed to me.

My right hand hurt. My back hurt enough to make it hard for me to walk. I was shaking with adrenaline and anger.

Nobody caught her.

The upshot was: No bike for three weeks, and a $200 repair. New $75 calculator. New $20 backpack. New $45 civil war text book. $150 for new glasses.

This meant that my 15 minute bike ride to school turned into an hour walk. I started being late and missing morning classes, as I was also having trouble with asthma. It took a week for my back to straighten out.

Ninth week of school:

Mid-term grade for MASC 451: 0 out of 10. I talked to Guido about it, and he said he did not believe in partial credit. So I was out of luck.

Tenth week of school (drop-deadline week):

The woman I was dating had already graduated, said “Yes” when the other guy proposed, and was moving to Washington, DC, to take her new job. I helped pack her truck, and she said goodbye. When she told me about the proposal, I dropped to my knee, and asked her to marry me instead, but, at that time, it was not meant to be… I was absolutely devastated as she drove away on Monday morning.

Tuesday morning I woke up sick. Sick. Sick. I had the flu. By Friday, my father had to drive in from Northwest Houston to deliver food to me (though, I really wasn’t hungry). I could got get the energy to go to campus and drop MASC 451. I was in really bad shape.

Twelfth week of school:

I had a meeting with the Dean of Students. I told him that I thought I needed to withdraw from school, and come back the next semester. We talked about everything I had been through. He told me to let him talk to my professors, and assess where I was.

Two days later, we met again. He said, “Let’s develop some target grades for upcoming projects and tests that if you make, you can finish the semester.”

I studied really hard.

Fourteenth week of school:

The dean said, “Well, I got your grades back from your latest assignments.”

I said, “Yes?”

He said, “I think you need to withdraw from school.”

I slumped, but was also instantly relieved.

He continued.

“You actually did remarkably well; you even showed vast improvement in MASC 451. But I don’t think you would avoid academic probation if you finished out the semester.”

I said, “Well, isn’t it true that my grades when I withdraw could also qualify me for probation?”

He said, “That’s for the committee to decide. And I am the chairman. To me, you have shown me enough that when you re-apply for next semester, I will recommend you be taken back in.”

“Thanks so much, Dean. You have done a lot for me.”

“You have a done a lot for yourself. Good luck to you. I’ll keep my eye on you as you go forward.”


So, I applied to withdraw, and it was accepted.


So, I was no longer in school. Now what? I had to go an extra semester now, on top of the extra year I was already is because my first year was at another university as a music major.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s