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Twenty Percent Off · 16 November 2007

Each year at our school’s senior awards night in June, I like to give books to my outstanding students in engineering and computer science. The book I like to give is called The Alchemist, written by Paulo Coelho, because it talks about following your dreams and never giving up. I think that my students appreciate the sentiment but last year’s seniors (class of 2007) found the gift rather funny. It was not the book itself about which they kidded me but rather the fact that I had left a 20% off sticker on the cover.


I did not look very closely and I should have known better but I really thought it was a coupon stuck to the books that I gave as presents. It all started when I called the book store and asked them to hold the books at the front desk so that a colleague of mine could pick them up on his way home the evening before the event. He picked them up for me and the next day I wrote a personal note to my student in the front of each book. I did notice the 20% off stickers on the front of the books but being a little pressed for time, I thought nothing of them. As I said, I figured that they were coupons so I left them on the covers. I thought that the kids would appreciate 20% off of their next purchases.


The students did appreciate the stickers but not in the way I had thought. That night at the awards ceremony, I gave each of them an achievement certificate, the book, and a poem I had previously written called, “Follow Your Dreams.” Shortly after the presentations, I met one of my award-winning students surrounded by several young ladies all who had been in my class sometime in their high school careers. Tom said that he thought I was quite the cheapskate for buying books that were 20% off. I did not know exactly what he meant. He saw my confusion and added that I had left the discount stickers on the front covers of the books.


I should have left well enough alone and just hit my forehead with the heal of my hand and said, “Doh!” Instead, I proved myself the fool (and more) as I proceeded to explain that I thought the stickers were coupons. Tom and his entourage just laughed. I told them that I figured my three outstanding students could use the coupons to get another book at a discount. They laughed even more. I realized that I was not making things any better and told them that the whole incident just proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that I am indeed the fool that I have always said I am. I did not even get any sympathy from the young ladies standing around. Instead, everybody just laughed harder. If not for the adults at the event, they might have just rolled around on the floor instead of stifling their laughs just a little.


Tom and the young ladies around us had quite the laugh at my expense. I gave them the standard inside joke that I would go home and cry because they had made such fun of me. They giggled some more because they had all heard me say that in class. I smiled at them all and was glad I had been such a big part of their entertainment for the evening. Even if it was because I left 20% off stickers on presents I had given.

© 2007 Michael T. Miyoshi

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