As far as I remember, the most appalling crime I've ever committed is parking in a 15-minute spot for 17 minutes - and that only happened because I'm a hero. Indeed, had I not seen a three-legged, one-eared puppy tumble into the Saranac River just before I started my car, I would have vacated the spot with two minutes to spare.
Instead, disregarding the risk to both my safety and my pristine legal record, I leapt into the raging waters to rescue the poor beast. Neither the dog nor I drowned, and I returned the pet to its owner, a wealthy old lady who offered me a hefty monetary reward - which I turned down, of course, because heroes don't accept payment for their heroics.
No good deed goes unpublished, though, and the story - including my tearful admission that I'd broken the law to save the puppy - appeared in the papers. The police didn't ticket me, but the whole world knew I'd over-parked, and I haven't been able to look anyone in the eye since.
What's my point? If I remember my parking violation, I should remember committing any other, more offensive offenses. I don't - so imagine my shock when, during my junior year of college, I received a letter claiming not only that I'd hosted an all-night, drug-fueled rock-and-roll party in my dorm room the previous weekend (when I could have sworn I'd been visiting home), but that I'd been caught red-handed, and was due before the disciplinary board the next week. The only explanation I could come up with - that I'd forgotten the party and imagined going home for the weekend - seemed improbable.
When I finished hyperventilating, I reread the letter - and the truth suddenly became clear. My dorm neighbor, a drug-fueled rock-and-roller, was also named Dan. I'd never spoken to him, but our RA had slapped name cards on everyone's door at the start of the semester. When the fuzz arrived to break up Other Dan's shindig (according to the letter, they found him cowering in his closet, frantically eating his stash), they accidentally wrote down the name on my door.
I went to the head of campus security the first chance I got and explained what I thought had happened (dropping the phrase "shoddy police work" several times). I didn't expect him to buy it, but he took me at my word, telling me he'd fix everything. And he must have, because I never heard about the matter again.
Despite stressing me out, the experience taught me a couple of valuable lessons. For one, never trust your neighbors. More importantly, though, I realized that - at least at my school - anyone could get out of any trouble, no matter how deep, simply by saying they didn't do it.
Dan Leonidas makes shallow observations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org