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The MisSpelling Bee

Have you ever been really embarrassed in front of people? I mean by something you said, or something you did?

Experience has taught me that it’s bad to mess up, and worse to do it in front of an audience.

This is the main reason that I hate the Spelling Bee.

The elementary school Spelling Bee is pretty much an involuntary mental inquisition about letters, in front of an assembling of every person you know.

When a flame-out is public it’s usually fairly easy to determine if people are laughing “with you” or “at you.”

Normal people don’t enjoy being laughed at.

Compounding this stress is the silent understanding that all but one person on the Spelling Bee stage is eventually going to blow it in front of the crowd.

Standing up there, you are faced with the inevitable countdown to your own extinction.

I clearly remember extinction coming to me in the first round of the 6th grade spelling bee.

You know what word I got out on? Kleenex.

That’s right, Kleenex.

I spelled Kleenex with a “c”:

“C-L-E-E-N-E-X. Cleenex.”

Before you begin publicly mocking me, like the other 6th graders, think about this; there is a “C” in clean, and Kleenex “cleans” your nose, so who is the idiot, a 11 year-old with phonics and reasoning skills far beyond that of a 1940’s era marketing department or a tissue corporation that tried to get cute by using 5 point consonants when 4 pointers were already getting the job done?

Of course this line of thinking, and the esoteric scrabble reference, were completely lost on my neanderthalic classmates.

Everyone laughed.

At me.


Circumstantial Evidence

To a kid growing up in the late 70’s, lasers were a very hot topic.  I’ll never forget the first time that I heard about the true possibilities of laser technology as a 4th grader.

Up until that point I had viewed lasers merely an ultimate weapon against evil robots and terrorists bent on dominating our moon.  As I came to understand the truth about lasers I learned that they had more to offer us than just villain scorching.

There was a kid from Hong Kong in my class who claimed to have a machine that used laser beams to show movies on his T.V. set.

These sorts of tales were easy to identify as lies when they were told on the playground, but during “show and tell” Albert was saying this to the whole class… while Mr. Sanders just sat there and let him get away with it.

Eventually Albert produced proof of this machine by pulling out something he called a “Laserdisc”, which surprisingly had nothing to do with the movie Tron.

For a child during this time period videotape was easy to comprehend.  We’d all grown up with filmstrips and understood that movies were just a series of pictures printed on transparent celluloid.

When you shined a light through them they projected an image onto a screen, and when you ran those images past the light quickly, the sequential images appeared to come to life.

While a videocassette appeared to be a portable way to transport fancy film, a laserdisc made no sense at all.

That’s when Albert pulled out a shiny silver record. (more…)

Get It Done… Right.

There are two kinds of people in this world:  The people who do their own yard work and the people who pay someone else to do it.

I am the first kind of people.

I inherited the job of family landscaper the summer after I got out of the fourth grade.  It wasn’t a fun job, but my parents promised it would pay me in, wait for it, “character development”.

Since that day, I’ve been mowing lawns and taking names.  It’s not a job I enjoy, it’s a job I’m compelled to do by my very nature.

I don’t take care of my yard because I enjoy the challenge of taming God’s green earth,  I’m engaged in an unspoken competition with the men in my cul-de-sac.

I can’t afford a BMW so the only way I can “keep up with the Joneses” is to have the greenest, thickest, most manicured lawn in the neighborhood… and I’m keeping track.

I’ve developed weeding, feeding, and dog shooing into an art form.

This is why I said, “absolutely not.” when little “Clifford” from up the street offered to mow my lawn for $10 last summer.  The job was too important for me to entrust it to a ten year-old.


I came home one afternoon and my wife said, “Honey little Clifford came by and he wants to mow the lawn to make some money so I told him he could do it when you came home.”

I was incensed that my wife was completely unaware of the secret competition that only I knew about. (more…)

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