Letter of the Law

Episode #731

February 4, 2023

My first brush with authority was in the first grade. It was the first assignment of my education.


We were to prepare a verbal report on any subject we wanted.

I don’t remember whether I was not paying attention when the assignment was given or simply forgot about it. On the day of the presentations I was blindsided. I had clearly failed to recognize the authority of my teacher. I had not prepared for the assignment.

The teacher stood and spoke: “OK boys and girls. It is time to give your reports. When I call on you, please stand and talk about the subject you have chosen. Who would like to go first?”

Her announcement was like a slap across my face. I looked around my desk, frantic for a topic. I only saw three books stacked on the floor. I picked up the books and opened each one. They were just books, but I noticed something. Each of the bindings was different. One was glued, the next was stapled and the last was a spiral binding. I acted quickly, raising my hand to go first.

The teacher called on me.

I stood and said, “Books are put together in different ways. This one is glued.” I raised the glue bond book. “This one has staples along the edge.” I raised that book. “And this one has a swirly plastic which holds the pages together.” I sat down.

“Very good Ricki,” said the teacher and called on the next student.

The lesson I learned was that sometimes authority can be addressed with improvisation. I would later learn that improvisation can carry hidden pitfalls in the face of authority.

I went to a Catholic college prep high school named Servite. There was a dress code which included the requirement to wear a shirt with a collar. I was known to skirt the dress code by wearing loud, colorful socks. I even had Vans tennis shoes made with a paisley fabric. These items skirted the letter of the law.

One day, while walking in the hallway between classes, I encountered one of the priest-teachers at the school. It was Father Gaglia, my biology teacher. He stopped me and pointed out my Nehru shirt.
“That is not a shirt with a collar,” said Father Gaglia. “I will see you after school for an hour in the biology lab to wash test tubes.”
I looked at him with my confidence of youth and said, pointing to the Roman collar of his cassock, “That isn’t a shirt with a collar either, is it?”

Father smiled a little, then said, “That will be two hours washing test tubes.”

Those two hours were the brightest silver lining of my life. I got to know Father Gaglia very well. So well that I asked him to be my college counselor.

When it came time to apply to college, Father Gaglia gave me an application fee waiver to the University of Notre Dame. He also wrote a letter of recommendation. At that time Notre Dame wanted recommendations from four people. Those four were your college counselor, a teacher, a Notre Dame alumnus and a priest. Father Gaglia was all of these. His letter of recommendation assured my acceptance to the University. Wearing my Nehru collared shirt changed my life.

I have always been law abiding. I recognize the letter of the Law, but I try to recognize the font of that letter. The law is not always literal and san serifed, like Helvetica. Sometimes there are flourishments which draw the letter of the Law in a scripted font.


“Skydivers Know Why Birds Sing” by Ricki T Thues is now available on Amazon.
It is a Love story of Rick and Paula Thues and their 35 years of Skydiving.

Click HERE to buy the paperback or Kindle ebook at Amazon.

Follow Ricki T Thues on Amazon HERE.

“Technically Human” by Ricki T Thues, the iMentor, is available on Amazon.
It is a compilation of selected episodes from this bLog which tell the story of Humanity through the eyes of the iMentor.

Click HERE to buy the paperback or Kindle ebook at Amazon.
The ebook version of “Technically Human” is also available on Kobo. Click HERE.
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