By Ralph Hood

Well, okay, it wasn’t really a prison—it was a jail.

In the early 1960s, I was a student at Clemson. My frat brother, Bill, and I attended the Clemson vs. Georgia Tech football game.

Bill and I were a help to each other. One of us seemed to be in control every time the other became, shall we say, somewhat out of control.

The day of the football game was a bad time for me, but Bill—thank goodness—was in full control. To make it short—I managed to get fairly deeply under the influence of beer.

That day I offered to fight an entire fraternity at Georgia Tech. They took me at my word and came barreling out of their frat house to accept my offer. Bill told me to shut up, then he somehow convinced them that I was a “good old boy” who had enjoyed too much beer.

No, that incident was not what got me in jail.

Later that evening I went searching for a pack of cigarettes (I had several vices back then). The Atlanta police—for some odd reason—decided I was a risk to the public, put me in a paddy wagon and, with very little ceremony, locked me up for the night.

Bill couldn’t find me. Being no fool, he called the police and they filled him in. He was smart enough to tell them that he would pick me up, not that night, but next morning.

I was ashamed.

The next spring when I was graduating and interviewing for jobs, a Fortune 500 company wanted to hire me. I knew they were going to run a check on me and feared they might find my horrifying criminal record. I finally got a copy of my arrest. I expected it to say that I was arrested for violating this law or that law, but that’s not at all what it said.

Under “cause of arrest,” the record said one word—“drunk.”

There was no dignity in that. I was sore afraid.

The Fortune 500 company never said anything about it, so I really did get the job. More importantly, my parents never found out about the episode!

Those of you who have known me since we moved here 12 years ago, will be totally surprised to learn that I ever drank a beer at all, thus proving that I did learn a few things along the way.

Please send comments to ralph@ralphhood.com.