Ever since I got kicked out of high school on November 17, 1989, I've always felt this to be an important day. Extreme luck, somehow, either very good or very bad.
Let me dispel of a few notions that first sentence might have evoked. First, getting kicked out of high school, which happened almost 20 years ago, was a major event at the time, but not one that I still dwell on particularly. I'm over it, really. Sometimes the injustice of it irks me a bit, and sometimes I think what a wonderful thing it was in my life's path, a good thing disguised as a bad thing, as good things often are. The only reason I remember the date at all is that it was exactly one month after the 1989 earthquake in San Francisco, where my parents and brother were living at the time. More on that later. Next, mentioning 'luck' in relation to a date might make me look superstitious, which I'm not. Not exactly. Or maybe I am, if I assign importance to the numbers 11 and 17.
The date 11/17 resonated with me at the time, not only because I got kicked out of high school exactly one month after the San Francisco earthquake, but because I already knew those numbers as the time Lunch started in middle school-- 11:17am. For two years, it was a seriously important time of day (the daily one hour of socializing in middle school was pretty much everything my adolescent mind was wrapped around at the time, the one hour of Real Life that happened each day), a completely random time because the school had three-minute passing periods, and the numbers stuck in my mind. For every year since 1989, I've woken up on November 17 with a feeling that something big was going to happen. In the context of my daily existence for each of those years, something big has indeed happened, but in fact I can't remember what any one of those things were, as they were so embedded in the life of my mind at those times that the significance and memories are lost now. The exception to this is November 17, 2001, my first 11/17 in Turkey. On that day, I awoke to discover a tiny new mole on the palm of my left hand, near my thumb. For a few hours I thought it was a speck of dirt, but by 10am, having had no success of washing it off, I established it was truly a mole. I was delighted. No one else cared. The mole seemed very portentous at the time, though of what, was and remains unclear.
The gamblers among you might suggest that I play 11 and 17 in the lottery. I have. Many times. Keno too. Nothing.
The school I got kicked out of was a posh boarding school in Southern California. To me now, it seems very incongruous that I would have gone to such a school, but I did, and they kicked me out, along with three of my friends. We wrote a little underground newspaper together ('underground' seems like an exaggeration now, but at the time it felt huge, what we were doing), and everyone on the closed campus got very upset on their own and each others' behalf, and because no one really had much else going on, people's emotions increased exponentially throughout the day so that by lunchtime (lunch again!), we felt we had to sneak a ride off-campus because we were pretty sure someone would kill us. We'd written the paper anonymously, though by the end of the day, after a tearful call with my father telling him I would probably be expelled and him assuring me I would not be, I went and turned myself in.
It turned out the Headmaster was already looking for me. Not because of the newspaper-- I blindsided him with that little confession-- but because some other students had turned me in for worshipping Satan. They thought this was so because I had been given a coveted big dorm room that lots of other girls wanted following the expulsion of another student for theft, and so they thought I must have used my powers from my covenant with Satan in order to get this room (in fact, the Dean had given me the room because I was the only person who hadn't asked him for it, and that pleased him). Besides getting the room, I had once made a joke about chicken sacrifices, and I had put a sign above my dorm room door saying 'Abandon hope all ye who enter here,' because my room was notorious for being rather a mess. Another teacher had told these impressionable young girls that I was probably worshipping Satan, and that if they'd ever used a Ouija board or dropped acid, their chakras were open to demonic possession and they were in grave danger from me. In terror, the girls had reported me to the Headmaster that very same day, November 17th. I feel I should point out that this wasn't a religious boarding school, but rather just a place that fomented madness in its own way, as happens in very closed communities.
So I was questioned about my alleged covenant with Satan, and my involvement in the earthquake a month before, as well as my involvement with the newspaper. While the expulsion itself doesn't weigh on me much and now seems very surreal, I admit the newspaper does weigh on me. Mostly it was a very sophomoric attempt at being clever and funny. While a lot of it was just teenage bitching about campus life and things that were unfair or unpleasant, we also made the mistake of putting into print the grist of the campus gossip and rumor mill, which naturally went down very badly. It was poorly written, this newspaper, because in our zeal with doing something so secret and forbidden and momentous, we didn't edit it very carefully. But the real reason it weighs on me is because we wrote some pretty mean things about some people who didn't deserve it. In fact, we were just repeating things everyone said anyway, but things like this become more cruel on paper. So both the bad writing and the cruelty to some really undeserving people still don't sit right with me, even now.
While I was being questioned about Satan and the newspaper by the Dean and the Headmaster (in the Dean's favor, he did try to get the Headmaster to shut up about the Satan thing and focus on the newspaper thing), the Dean lit a cigarette using my Zippo that he'd confiscated from me a few weeks earlier, without punishment but with an admonishment to be more careful about smoking and not to get caught again. Whether using my lighter at that particular time was intentional on his part is something I still wonder about. He wasn't a bad man, the Dean, though he was thought to be, because he was in charge of discipline. In fact, he was probably ill-suited for this job of campus cop. I think he was probably a very decent man with an odd sense of humor, someone who I'd like today. To his credit, when I returned to campus a few weeks later with my dad to pick up some of my stuff and also to get my brother, who was unable to suffer the teasing and threats anymore because of what I'd done, the Dean apologised to me and told me he thought they'd made a mistake, kicking me out. The other reason I secretly liked the Dean was because his two boys, for whom I babysat once, were such nice kids. Best babysitting job ever. We had dinner, we watched Raising Arizona, we had a little roughhouse, then the boys both stretched and said they were tired, and went off and brushed their teeth and went to bed. They weren't tricking me either-- they really went to bed all by themselves with no fighting or prodding by me.
I mentioned earlier the 1989 earthquake in San Francisco as being part of what makes November 17 so memorable. The earthquake happened on a weekend during a Giants game. Blissfully unaware, I was milling around campus that day when some other students who'd been watching the game came up to me and told me that San Francisco had fallen down, and what hadn't fallen down was in flames, and that my family was probably dead but no one could get through because the phone lines were full. This was typical behavior of students at this school, this kind of meanness. Other younger students from San Francisco were in tears, while students like the ones who'd reported the earthquake to me had a good laugh. One thing I learned at this boarding school was a certain rigorousness to learning, and how to participate in my own education. This was invaluable. Another thing I learned at this school was that the wealthy and privileged are, by and large, total assholes. Both of these lessons have served me time and time again.
In the end, my family was fine. My aunt phoned the school to tell me this, as she'd been watching the baseball game in Las Vegas, they'd seen the earthquake, and had phoned my parents right away, before the lines filled up.
Right now, it's almost noon on November 17. I've been awake since about 5am thanks to LE, and I've been up since 7, and so far nothing momentous has happened. I didn't even have any dreams worthy of note. Last night, our building was struck by lightening which scared me half to death and miraculously didn't wake the baby, but that doesn't count because it was November 16. So I'm waiting, fingers crossed that the luck goes a good way and not a bad way.
Not that I'm superstitious. But maybe we should play the lottery today. 11 17 19 89, plus LE's birthday. It can't hurt, right?