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Doing hard time: Payment for big mistake

Being a teenager can be the best years of your life, but they're also the time to learn your lessons before you're an adult and out there in the real world.

Sometimes part of having "fun" involves getting in trouble, and that's exactly what happened to me back in August. I made one of the bigger mistakes I've made so far, and it landed me in a courtroom, with 16 hours of community service and six months of probation.

Anyway, I woke up around 7:30 in the morning Saturday because I had my first eight hours of community service, ever. I got up (I was crabby and tired, and I just wanted to get it over with) and slowly made my way over to the courthouse. I had to make sure I arrived before 8, and with a sack lunch, or I could've been sent home with an unexcused absence, and possibly sent back to court.

I got there with about three minutes to spare, and I was the only one there. The supervisor came over to me and told me if I was the only one who showed up by 8, I would get to go home, and I'd get my eight hours credit. I got my hopes up for nothing, as another kid showed up with about 10 seconds to spare.

The supervisor got in the van chuckling, saying "well you guys got it especially hard today. You're gonna get to compress a whole bunch of wet cardboard." It didn't sound all that bad at the time, but I was wrong.

He waited around an extra 10 minutes because he said "we're gonna need as many kids as we can get. You're all gonna need the help." And luckily, two more showed up.

So the four of us made our way out to the recycling dump and landfill. We entered the garage with the cardboard and compressor, and the whole floor was piled about two feet high in wet cardboard.

We got to pick pieces out one at a time and put them in the compressor one at a time. The whole process took about four hours and was extremely irritating because you'd try to pull out a piece of cardboard and it would tear because it was wet.

Eventually, we finished with the cardboard (and we were all a little aggravated) to find out we would get to start on all the aluminum. The supervisor brought us out back and showed us this mountain of aluminum (seriously like eight feet high), and we got to shovel and pick (only the cans) out of each shovel one by one, which would go in one bin, and the rest would go in the other bin.

We individually separated and crushed the whole pile of aluminum before we got to go home.

I guess I definitely learned my lesson though -- don't screw up, and if you do, pay the fine yourself because community service is rugged.

Jonah Bowe is a senior at Detroit Lakes High School.