Been a while since the last Mr. Squish strip. Let’s get back on the horse.
In my first semester at CSUS, I had a classmate who did nothing but work on the school paper. Nothing. Yes, he had four other classes; I recall he was in my Newswriting and Reporting class. But he barely went, never paid attention, and was forever asking me what he missed in class. He didn’t care about ethics, developing his news judgment, or learning how to gather multiple sources. He just wanted to write for the Hornet.
By midterms he had either flunked the exams, or not taken them at all. He was flunking everything but the newspaper. For all I know he was flunking that too: I don’t remember he wrote much. He’d just hang out at the Hornet trailer… and grab stuff out of my hands. That’s mostly what I remember of him: Grabby. At the end-of-the-semester staff awards, I even gave him an award for it: Grabbiest Staff Member. I don’t think he appreciated it. But that was his last semester at CSUS anyway.
There are a lot of students like that: They can’t hack college. They lack the self-control to read the textbooks, keep up with homework, keep up with deadlines, attend classes, and so forth. What they do is get involved in a thousand extracurricular activities, or get a significant other (sometimes more than one) and spend all their time wrapped up in relationship drama, or party every weekend and spend most of the semester drunk or baked. I dated one such student. I should’ve seen it coming, considering how she’d come hang out in my room while I was doing homework, and though I’d get all my work done, she’d goof off… and then we’d spend the rest of the day together, and she still hadn’t done her work. Our relationship ended shortly after she was expelled.
Anywho, back to 1991: “What’re you gonna do about your midterms?” I asked Grabby one day.
“Oh, I’m gonna drop all the classes I’m flunking,” he said.
“How many classes will that leave you?”
I thought it a massive waste of tuition. Now, at the time, CSUS wasn’t expensive: It was about $750 a semester, not counting books and dorms and food. Cheap enough where you didn’t have to take out a student loan to pay for it all. Nowadays you do. (I had an agreement with my parents where Mom would pay a third, Dad a third, and me the other third, plus books and transportation.) But I never dropped more than one class a semester; and that’s if I was getting any less than a B by the final withdrawal date. I’d try again next semester. Dropping all but one struck me as ridiculous and wasteful.
And perfect for Leonard Squish. In fact, I kicked it up a notch and had him drop everything. Behold:
I had this all planned for the end of the semester: Leonard was gonna go home as soon as all the Hell Week parties had wrapped up, ’cause he’d dropped everything before the final withdrawal date. So what was he doing all that time between the drop date and Hell Week? Well, you know… hanging out.
So here I introduce Leonard’s dad, who for lack of creativity I named “Leonard Squish Sr.” Leonard Sr. is based on a guy I used to carpool with to Solano Community College. He was really conservative, swore a lot, spat a lot, and his kids really pissed him off. His rants about his kids made me think he’d be the perfect foil for Leonard. So that’s what I made him. I even drew him like the guy: Bald, glasses, mustache. It’s not an exact likeness, so I don’t owe him residual checks. (Not that I made money on the strip anyway.)
My parents were okay with my dropping a class here or there, but had I tried this stunt, I know they would’ve had a cow. And rightly so.
Leonard’s line, “If you know in your heart that you did it, it doesn’t matter,” is the usual useless sitcom-like consolation parents offer their kids whenever they lose a competition: So what if you didn’t get a trophy; you tried your best. Good advice in competitions, but completing a class isn’t the same thing. It’s a bit fun making it backfire.
Using this technique, I could guarantee Leonard would stay a freshman forever, or at least till Leonard Sr. got tired of paying for college. That way, if I ever took the strip beyond college and into regular papers, à la Doonesbury, I could age Leonard in real time, yet explain why he never left college. But I dropped the strip when I dropped out of CSUS, and so much for that.