As it stands right now, I’m thirty-one years old, which I’m pretty sure is older than the mountains themselves in internet years, I work in a frozen warehouse, and I have no real meaningful education past high school. I mean, I did go to college, but I essentially flunked out twice in less than two years. Also, I’m a genius. No really, there have been tests and everything, what with the questions and the pencils and making the colored blocks look like the picture and the whole deal. So how can this be, you might ask? How can a dude who can rearrange colored blocks with the speed and precision of a super-scientist end up with a career where the main requirements are “can you lift this thing and carry it over there?” instead of something… geniusy? Well, I’ve thought about it long and hard, and I’ve pinpointed one particular event that probably led me to my current situation.
The year was 1993. Bill Clinton was the president, Shaquille O’Neal was still a rookie, the world still loved O.J. Simpson, Metallica didn’t fully suck yet, Bill Murray was still occasionally funny, and the comic book dork world was still reeling from the recent death of Superman. Meanwhile, I was in the seventh grade, a doofus-assed pudgy kid who was way more into The Ren and Stimpy Show than anyone should have been. Like seriously, I think I had at least three posters and half a dozen t-shirts from that show, and when I manage to see an old episode now, it is more often than not absolutely terrible. I wonder how differently my life would have worked out if I had dedicated all that time and energy to Rocko’s Modern Life instead, which is still awesome. But that’s a whole ‘nother thing for a later date. This is serious business here.
Anyway, I was this shitty little seventh grade kid, and I was a goddamn genius, but no one knew it. I was pretty uninterested in schooling for the most part, and paid absolutely no attention to anything, but through the mutant power my brain has for absolutely crushing anything with multiple-choice answers, I was in all the advanced classes, and was usually a pretty solid B student. Still, I was surrounded on at least three sides by A students at any given time, and being a shy dork who was probably wearing a Ren and Stimpy shirt with brightly-colored plaid shorts, (complete with elastic waist band) someone who didn’t know me probably thought I was more likely to belong in the special ed classes than the accelerated ones. Hell, even though I dress like an adult at least a third of the time now, people still probably think that. But my brain could get me places my appearance couldn’t, so after they gave this big school-wide test to everybody in the seventh and eighth grades, I ended up as one of the finalists in the school spelling bee. And it was there that my scholastic future was destroyed.
Rather than it being the public spectacle you still see every now and then on ESPN2, it was just maybe eight of us sitting in a semicircle in the library, surrounded by teachers. How it worked was simple. They tell you a word, you spell it, if you screwed it up, you were eliminated, and the last kid standing got to go on to state or district or whatever, and whoever won state got to go on to the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee. (The ESPN2 thing) Anyway, there I am, the only seventh-grader in a room full of eighth-graders, the only male in a room full of females, and the only shitty, sweaty kid who just got out of P.E. class, dressed like a special ed dork in a room full of people who look like they were about to head to church. Church with the President. Needless to say, to the casual observer, I probably seemed to have about as many chances in hell as a snowball in a bucket of gasoline. But goddammit, I am a genius, and after a few rounds of me being awesome and people misspelling shockingly easy words, I was still right there. And then it happened. They made someone spell the word “dumbbell.”
I don’t know why dumbbell seemed like such a funny word at the time, but for one brief moment in time, just hearing someone say it out loud eclipsed all comedy that had come before it. Dumbbell was the funniest thing I had ever heard, and I immediately burst into uncontrollable laughter. I tried biting my lip, biting my tongue, and all that other nonsense you’re supposed to try to keep from laughing, but nothing worked, and I was absolutely dying, beet-assed red and internally shaking, like I was having some sort really, really funny stroke. Teachers gave me severely dirty looks and kept telling me that if I didn’t stop, they’d kick me out, regardless of my spelling mastery, so somehow, I found the inner strength to shut the hell up, no matter how hilariously-named certain pieces of exercise equipment might have been. And much to the chagrin of all the teachers who now fully hated me and my well dressed and even better behaved opponents, I hung in there and spelled my ass off, until only two of us remained. I was fully feeling my spelling mojo, I had all the momentum, and I couldn’t be stopped, but I should have known. I had already doomed myself with the fucking dumbbell.
As previously mentioned, I was just a complete ball of shit in these people’s eyes. I was fat, sweaty from gym class, and I was probably dressed like a third grader that the other third graders were too grown-up to hang out with. And I had completely screwed up the solemn, serious-business nature of their precious little spelling bee. I can’t remember my opponent’s name, but she was basically the exact opposite of everything I represented. She had good grades, was fairly popular, dressed at least like someone who gave a crap about their appearance, and had her shit well enough together that she had actually run for class president at one point. (I can’t remember if she won or not, because seriously, junior high class president has to be the most meaningless office on Earth.) If I had the cynical mind and deep, hatred of authority that I have now, I should have seen what was coming, but you see, I didn’t have those things yet, because what was about to happen to me was still in the future at this point. Basically, they had decided a good fifteen minutes earlier that I wasn’t going to win, and I was about to be on the receiving end of my own Montreal Screwjob, a good four years before Bret “The Hitman” Hart would get his.
So with the spelling title on the line, the teacher tells me my word. “Giddily.” It could not have been any other word, because she pronounced it with the diction and clarity of James Earl Goddamn Jones on Adderall; make no mistake about it, “giddily” was my word. So, not seeing the knife heading toward my back, I spell it, like I know it’s spelled. “Giddily. G-I-D-D-I-L-Y. Giddily.” And then, it fucking happened. “Sorry, that’s wrong.” And with the same clarity of voice, this whore of a teacher turns to what’s-her-face and says with a fucking smirk the whole time, “If you can spell this word, you win the spelling bee. And the word is gittedly.” And that was the moment, right there.You screwed me out of it all, just because you wanted someone who would put forth a better appearance for you and your stupid little school.
(Because no one has ever done anything humiliating at a spelling bee.)
That was when I lost my faith in the educational system, in adults and authority figures of any kind, and when any love of scholastic endeavor that I might have ever had in the future was completely ripped from my soul by a butcher knife with the word “gittedly” laser-etched into the blade. And I hope you’re happy, teacher-whose-name-I-can’t-recall. If I had won the spelling title like I was probably about to do, who knows what would have happened? I could have spelled my ass off, and maybe I would have won a goddamn ground-slide load of trophies for you and your stupid school to parade around as though they had been a thing that you had something to do with. Maybe it would have occurred to me that there were advantages to not acting like a dumbass, and that every so often I might get some recognition for something good I had done. Maybe I would have actually put forth an effort in any of my future classes, and I would have gone to them because I wanted to, and not just because I had to. Maybe I would have graduated from college. Maybe I would have cured cancer and invented perpetual motion machines and anti-gravity devices. I could have been the greatest human being what ever lived.
But no, none of that happened. And it’s all because you didn’t want to be represented by someone who laughs at the word “dumbbell.” Sure hope you didn’t get cancer or need anything to move perpetually. Turds.