I’ve alluded to this a couple of times before on this blog, but my senior year of high school I spent a night in jail. A friend of mine found the key to a room that held old, unused laptops that were ostensibly meant for the teachers but never given out for some reason. He took one, and then another, and then slowly started to hand them out. I went into the room, but never physically took one. No, as the only one of my friends with a car (and the person who drove them to school), my role was the transporter.

Word got around school and people started to ask for them. As far as I know, money only exchanged hands on one occasion, but that was enough that someone outside of our friend group (I honestly don’t remember his name at this point) decided to blackmail us. He threatened that if we didn’t give him one he would blow us in. Which was dumb because we weren’t selling them. If he just asked nicely he probably could have gotten one for free.

Regardless, we balked at the idea and so he ratted us out. I was in the television studio (I went to an arts school) when school security came to get me and searched my SUV, where they found a single bookbag with one laptop in it. From there I was interrogated, where they tried to pit me against my friends (“They’ve already told us about you, so you should just spill everything on them,”) and then called the actual police.

The cops were nice about it. They didn’t handcuff us until we were away from the school and did their best to minimize our embarrassment. I think they understood how ridiculous the situation was.

The rest of it played out similarly to the story. We were processed and spent the entire day in the holding pen, until we were each moved to our own individual cells. It was cold, and we weren’t allowed blankets because you can hang yourself with them. Which is dumb, because there are plenty of ways to kill yourself in a cell without a blanket.

We were all released the next day. I was suspended from school for a long while and had to attend night classes at a different school to do busy work. The principal of our school wanted to pursue grand larceny charges–I guess as a deterrent to other students?–but no one seemed to take that seriously. The computers weren’t even worth that much, and I think there was recognition that saddling us with such serious charges was unfair at our ages. We were sentenced to community service that we did together over the summer. After a few years our records were expunged.

The repercussions we faced were ultimately minor, so the lessons I took from the experience were more personal. I realized how much inner strength I actually had when I needed it. And I saw how unfair our education and justice systems could be. I felt the disappointment of some of my teachers and learned which ones actually deeply cared about me.

In that sense, I have no regrets. In fact, I think everyone should go through something like that. Something that tests you, pushes you to an extreme, shows you a different side of the world and the people in it. Those situations are the ones that we learn the most from, and the ones that stick with us the longest.