Tuesday, October 19, 2021
Oct. 19, 2021

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Everybody Has a Story: Finals week: Mishap, papers and Richie Rich


During the 1970s, I attended Loyola Marymount University. That’s when I met an extremely rich student who offered me several hundred dollars to write his term paper.

He was a college Richie Rich, like the fictional comic book character who is the son of a billionaire. I knew him from the student skills center where I worked as a tutor, helping students with their essays, book reports and term papers.

Richie (not his real name) was a poor writer. And after a few sessions with him, I realized he made no effort to improve his writing.

But Richie was a charmer. He had remarkable charisma and knew his way with people. He was a budding politician for sure. Perhaps even a mayor someday? Because of his appealing personality, he even managed to get me to do most of his assignments for him.

One evening during finals week, I was at the campus library. The library was full of students silently cramming for exams. I was doing the same at a table when I leaned too far back on my wooden chair and fell over! I shattered the silence with my mishap. Everyone broke out in laughter and guffaws when I found myself on the floor. I was beet red as I got up and lifted my chair to sit back down.

“Sorry,” I mumbled to no one in particular. That was met with even more laughter. My inner voice said it was time to get as far away as I could from the library after embarrassing myself. So, after several minutes of continuing discomfort and awkwardness, I left. A few coeds at a nearby table eyed me with amused smiles as I walked out.

As you can imagine, I was in a sour mood. I strode quickly to the parking lot. Suddenly, I heard my name called. I turned around and spotted Richie walking toward me. I waved and kept walking. I was in no mood to deal with him.

But he caught up with me and, almost out of breath, told me he had been looking for me. I wisecracked that, had he been at the library studying like everyone else, he would have found me. But he didn’t catch my sarcasm. I continued walking even more briskly.

Richie finally revealed the reason he had been searching for me, although I had already guessed. With his patented smile and winning personality, he offered to pay me several hundreds of dollars to write his term paper. For a student who could barely afford to fill up his gas tank, it was a lot of money. And back then, that hard cash was worth a lot more than today.

I stopped walking. I asked when the paper was due. He gave me his best smile and said, “Tomorrow,” as though that was nothing, plenty of time.

I shook my head and pressed forward walking, curtly telling him, “No.”

But he was not to be deterred by my rejection. He kept up with me, stride by stride, and bumped up his offer by a couple of hundred. He also began whining like a child demanding a cookie. I was unmoved.

When he persisted, I stopped and turned around to face him.

“Richie,” I said, “you can offer me $1,000 but I won’t do it!”

I added in a louder voice, “I have two finals tomorrow I have to study for!”

But he wasn’t listening. He was desperate and insisted that I reconsider. Then I gave him my best advice, for free.

“Go home,” I said, “and start typing.”

I left the hapless rich boy standing there without any way out, other than to do his own work. I never saw him again.

Everybody Has a Story welcomes nonfiction contributions, 1,000 words maximum, and relevant photographs. Send to: neighbors@columbian.com or P.O. Box 180, Vancouver WA, 98666. Call “Everybody Has an Editor” Scott Hewitt, 360-735-4525, with questions.