At the beginning of my eighth-grade year, I went with my mom and brother to close and clean a laundromat that was located across the street from my school. There was a girls’ volleyball game going on. We were almost through cleaning when the game was finished, and people were all over the place. A few of the students had discovered some wet cement. They got all excited and wanted to scratch their initials in the cement. My friends wanted me to go with them to put our initials in the cement too. I had to check with my mom.
“Hey, Mom. There’s a new sidewalk out here and everybody’s putting their initials in the wet cement,” I said. “Can I go for a few minutes and do it too?”
“If everyone puts their initials in it, don’t you think it will ruin the sidewalk?”
“I don’t think so. I’ll just go see what’s going on.”
I took off before my mom could say anything more. By the time I got to the wet cement, there was quite a crowd. My friends wrote their names, and I was about to kneel down and put mine in too. Then I noticed a lot of bad words had been scratched in. Actually the whole sidewalk looked like a mess of words and drawings. Suddenly I didn’t feel good about writing my initials in the sidewalk, and I started to back away.
My buddies coaxed me to put my name in. They said it would be fun to look at years from now. They even called me chicken. But I didn’t scratch my name or my initials in that wet cement. And the next day I was glad.
During third period, our principal’s voice came over the intercom. He asked certain students to come to the office. One of my football buddies was in third period with me, and he was one of them. They were calling in students with names and initials from the sidewalk. The sidewalk was ruined. The city crew was going to tear it out and replace it that day. The students involved had to call their parents to come to school. They also had to help pay for the new section of walk—about $60 each.
I was so happy I hadn’t written anything in the wet cement. But I couldn’t believe what happened next. The girls on the volleyball team and the guys on the football team who’d written in the cement were suspended from their teams for the rest of the season. I was sick for them, but as bad as I felt for my friends, I was happy that I had backed away from the cement. I was glad when things got tense that I made the right choice.