The young adventures of an anti-authoritarian

I have a clipboard that someone gave me. Whenever someone gives me a sheet of paper with something printed on it, I flip it over and slide it into the clipboard and write on the back. This way I never have to buy notebooks.

I’ve been this way a long time. When I finished college I remember congratulating myself for having only purchased one ream of typing paper during the whole six years. I always handed my assignments in on the back of scrap paper. One day when a professor was handing back papers he said, “And congratulations Mr. Whiton.” When I asked what he meant he flipped over my assignment, revealing that I had printed my assignment on the back of a college acceptance letter from several years before.

Many of my teachers were insulted when I turned my assignments in on scrap paper. They saw it as a sign of disrespect. But that was unintentional. It’s just that I value resourcefulness and dislike waste and have a more or less total disregard for wasteful conventions.

This failure in diplomacy was exacerbated whenever I turned my assignments in on the back of whatever handout the teacher had given our class several days before. It made a lot of sense to me: what better to print my lab report on than the back of my lab assignment? Eventually I started trying to minimize those offenses by explaining my paper-conserving goals and methods to teachers at the start of each semester.

One time I found a box of ancient dot-matrix printer paper in a friend’s garage, severely yellowed from more than a decade of exposure to dampness. But otherwise it was fine so I tore the edges off and used that paper for several years, especially for assignments I knew teachers would barely read. One day I got my assignment back from the teacher with an earnest note scribbled. It said, “All semester I’ve been trying to figure out what this paper is. Where did you get it, a landfill?”