My seventh grade assistant principal’s name was Mr. Sniff. The man was as ludicrous as his name.
As an underling administrator, Mr. Sniff’s primary duty was to render discipline to recalcitrant students, inevitably boys who wreaked havoc and disturbed the peace with activities like setting off cherry bombs in waste paper baskets and swearing at teachers, in a Father Knows Best era, when saying “hell” could get a child expelled and branded for life as a foulmouthed troublemaker.
Mr. Sniff was not kind, not good humored, not even pleasant looking. Students found endless riotous occasions to make sport of him because of his name.
One day Mr. Sniff was the faculty member assigned to monitor a library period. A plot, propagated in whispers around the room, was fomented that at precisely 2:03 p.m., everyone would make a loud SSSCHHHHNUFFF, which we were certain would evoke a good yuk from all persons present—perhaps even from Mr. Sniff himself.
Alas, this stunt went awry when the students got to giggling so much as the anticipated moment approached that the requisite silence beforehand needed to maximize the impact of the synchronized community snotsuck was disturbed. Ten seconds before the appointed time, Mr. Sniff stomped his foot, clapped his hands, and burst into scolding the class for being noisy, blah blah blah, heard it all before, yada yada yada yada. When the second hand hit straight up, the few who were not terrified by Mr. Sniff’s rant, daring to snort despite it (including moi), were drowned out by his blustering phillipic. I’m sure he never heard it, being so wrapped up in the din of his own effusiveness. None of us got a chance to laugh about it, being under the gun.
Poor Mr. Sniff, who seemed about forty, but acted much older, met an untimely demise. During Christmas vacation that year he went to South America on vacation, where he rented a hotel room with sticky shutters. Upon putting his shoulder to them in order to heave them open, he went through the second floor window and fell to his death on the street below.
While the event in itself was inarguably a terrible and tragic episode (remember—the bell tolls for thee, yada yada yada), most of the students I knew had a hard time stifling a snicker when they first heard about it, because it seemed to be the sort of ending that was so much in character with the man that it might have been prophesied. To their credit, few of my peers were so disrespectful as to discuss it in flippant terms afterward, and he was soon forgotten.
Thereafter I made it a goal not to become the sort of person about whom, when I die, children will laugh.