The condom caper

Mario Salazar’s memoirs – July 7, 2020

I had a few months left of secondary school. The graduating class of 1963 included thirty-two eager young adults. Most of us were headed to college. I had been accepted at the most prestigious university for engineering, where I lived in Bogotá, Colombia.

Traditionally, the director of the school, Don Alfonso Jaramillo, was the French teacher. To a person we all loved him. He had been educated in Europe and had a calm and friendly demeanor that appealed to all of us. However, for some reason he had decided that he would not teach the graduating class and we had a new teacher by the name of Mr. Aljure. He was of Syrian Lebanese extraction and new to teaching.

As many students do, we tested each teacher. Mr. Aljure failed the tests. He was clueless as to the malice in many students and would let his class fall into chaos.

On this day, several students acted to disrupt the class, with unexpected consequences.

As he wrote something on the board, one of the students raised his hand and requested clarification. He used vague terms that would require his stepping to the front of the class to point something out. This was the signal; as Mr. Aljure turned around to see what the student was pointing out, about one third of the class left their seats and moved to the front of the class.

When the teacher faced the class, he found himself surrounded by about a dozen student, all asking something different. When he finally figured out that he had to break up the mob, he asked everyone to seat down. Slowly everyone returned to their seats, but not before someone slipped a condom in Mr. Aljure’s coat pocket.

What was the intention? I do not think that even the perpetrator really knew.

After class we went on the mid-morning recess. Teachers would get together in the dining room and would be served coffee and snacks. The students would mass in front of the concession store to purchase something to eat that would hold them until lunch.

I and several others decided to investigate the dining room to see if something would happen. The word had gotten out about the condom, but it was not revealed who had done the deed.

As we peered in, we saw that one of the women teachers took out a cigarette. The gallant Mr. Aljure immediately stood and put his hand in his coat pocket to get matches or a lighter. Instead, what he took out was the condom. We could not see what it was as we were some distance away, but the reaction was immediate.

Mr. Marcos Gómez, the discipline, math, and science Dean approached Aljure and a tete-a-tete ensued. This was our cue to leave.

The consequences were swift. As we waited for the teacher for our next session, Don Alfonso and Mr. Gómez came into the class. They had quickly figured out the origin of the condom-in-pocket and proceeded to detail the punishment and asked for the guilty party to come forward and be summarily expelled.

When no one came forward, they stepped out of the room to figure out a strategy. They came back with a solemn demeanor. Mr. Gómez proceeded to tell us that if the guilty person was not revealed, there would be dire consequences, including the expelling of all in the class. This was unheard of, but said they were willing to do it.

In the meantime, the whole class would not be allowed to leave the classroom (each grade had a classroom and the teachers would move from one to the other as a new subject was taught). For the whole day we would only leave the classroom for lunch and to go to the bathroom.

This restrictive regime went on for about a month. We were periodically reminded that if we did not reveal the culprit, we would have further consequences, up to and including expulsion.

We took on the challenge. Found a way to pass the time during recess by playing games in the classroom. One included marking a rectangle with board erasers and using marbles and pencils for cues, we would play billiards. In another we marked a path all the way around the room as a racing course with chalk and used bottle caps weighted down with playdough as the racers. We would often break out in song, disconcerting the teacher that sat outside that had been assigned to assure we did not leave.

Imagine the poor soul hearing us sing while he was outside expecting us to feel the punishment. A favorite song was “Voy a hacerte una casa en el aire” (I am going to build you a house in the air), which was a popular song about a father building a house in the clouds so that his daughter could only be courted by an aviator.

To this day when I hear this song, I remember the incident and smile.

Eventually reason won out. The school administrators realized no one was going to snitch and stopped the restrictions. Nothing else was said and our parents never learned about it. I guess the administrators did not want to make public discipline problems in the school.

As we went on our different paths in life, we would meet with other students of the 1963 graduating class and would talk about the incident. Lately I have been thinking that maybe it was a win-win situation. The school administrators believed that at worst, this incident and subsequent punishment would at least create an esprit de corps in the class. Were they really that smart?

Who put the condom in professor Aljure’s pocket? We all have a theory, but no one has ever claimed credit.

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