Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Can't Stand Idiots

Because this is clearly a last-minute entry, I will be making this brief - just to "jump through the hoop" of getting a blog written this month. Makes me wonder if I should continue to do this. Obviously I'm not making the most of this whole blog thingy. Probably I am just suffering from endofthesemesteritis. Having a whole week off just before the end of the semester isn't doing anyone's motivation levels much good.

Recently bought a few t-shirts from JCP that I like. One has the ghost-buster's logo on it which is nice because it is helping me to think about the group I am hoping to help put together with the Pittsburgh CFI. The aim will be to provide a rational counterpoint to the CRAP that gets into the newspapers from so-called "paranormal investigators" in the area. So if anyone is interested, let me know. ALSO, if you can think of a good name for the group, THAT would be helpful, too. I was thinking along the lines of SIPP (Scientific Investigations of Paranormal Phenomena) but I don't know if I really want the word "paranormal" in there. Anyway, let me know. Please.

The second shirt has an image of the cat-in-the hat character and says something like, "Trust me, I'm a doctor." The last one has big initials: CSI. Then beneath these it states, "Can't Stand Idiots." So that's my brief topic for this month's entry.

What I really cannot stand is when I am an idiot. In fact, the whole idea for this entry was "given" to me when I overheard a student mention her own seeming proclivity for self-idiocy. It reminded me of an early memory of being an idiot. This would be first grade.

R. L. Wood School (Haverhill Massachusetts) was where I was introduced to my potential for idiocy. It only contained grade one through four (if memory serves); and it is now closed for good I've heard. Anyway…

Every day we broke for lunch as soon as the hot-lunch delivery was completed. We filed out of the classroom door in the back of the room and walked past a table stacked with Styrofoam containers of steaming yet ultimately lukewarm foods covered with condensation. We were given a tray and a container then toward the end of the table, napkins, plastic-ware, paper straw, and a small carton of milk. Then we continued back through a doorway at the front of the classroom to sit at our desks and eat like adults.

Let me stop here and tell you how awesome those desks were! They were the chair-attached kind that had a slightly angled top that lifted to reveal a chamber underneath. Here we stored our small pot of paste (yum), box of over-sized crayons, a wooden ruler, a giant red eraser, some pencils, as well as graded papers (the ones that didn't earn the right to go home to the parents - yes, I mean the F's), and books about Dick and Jane. At the front edge of the desk was an old ink-well hole (mostly useless except that it was a good place to chuck bits of trash and what-nots during the day).

Ok, so I was an exceptionally shy child who tried not to move, talk, or otherwise become noticed. I had zero friends - unless you count the kid who chased my when I got off the bus every morning. He loved doing this in the winter because he'd catch up to me by grabbing my hood and yanking it backward and then use it to whip me around to the ground.

I also remember that there was a girl who really liked me and one day she walked over to me, grabbed me and gave me a big kiss on the cheek. I probably looked at her with a mixture of shock (that never happened to me before - or since, actually) mixed with horror (can you say COOTIES?!). I quickly wiped away the wet remains of her affections with my hand which made her burst into tears and run away crying, "He wiped off my kiss!"

Turns out that signaled the beginning of quite the dry spell for me… lasted at least a decade before I got any other girl to kiss me.

BEING that I was shy, that didn't mean I was immune to the attentions of the teacher (Mrs. Hansbury). She was always very generous with her foil stars and praise whenever a student did something amazingly wonderful… like pick up the chalk that had fallen from the tray, or let her know there was someone at the door, or raise a hand to answer a question.

It was during lunch one afternoon that I suddenly had a craving for some attention. I had eaten my meal and was sipping milk through my straw reflecting on how nice it would be to get a gold star on my forehead. The milk carton was resting on my desk next to my elbow which was supporting the hand I was using to balance my idiot head. Sipping through this soggy paper straw, I scanned the floor for errant chunks of chalk, or maybe an eraser to pick up. Nothing there. Then I remembered that noticing a visitor at the door was worth points, but nobody was outside the front door (most likely spot for visitors). But then again, maybe the person was outside the BACK door?! Nobody would even SEE that door window because we all were facing forwards! Maybe there's somebody there RIGHT NOW!

I twisted my head and body to the right so I could check. Now, turning one's head means that one's face goes too. Turning the face means eyes, nose, and mouth turn. Since the mouth was turning, that meant that the soggy straw was going for a ride, too. Because the straw was going, that meant the milk was going to try and tag along as well.

Just FYI, you should never invite milk cartons on short trips because of all the members of the traveling party mentioned above, they are the WORST at keeping up.

The milk carton just tipped over and started to chortle its contents onto my pants. I didn't want to make a big scene, so I just watched as the milk emptied out. It was supposed to be less than a pint of milk, but somehow I think the dairy had overfilled it because it was about a gallon or two that eventually made its way onto my clothes.

This may not seem like a big deal to anyone - but you have to remember that a little boy with a wet crotch in first grade doesn't exactly radiate maturity or mental wherewithal to either the teacher, or the little boy's merciless classmates. And no, there was nobody at the door.

For some reason lunch was a bad time for me in first grade at Wood School. I remember one day we had corn in our lunch cartons. I was innocently eating when I noticed the guy next to me placing a single kernel on his spoon, then bending the spoon back and then releasing it at another kid a few seats over.

I watched as it seemed to rocket across the room like it was shot from a gun. That was amazing!

Never in my experience had I ever come across anything like this. The lad was a genius to invent such a device! I watched him do it again and decided it was time to see if I could recreate this agricultural weaponry on my own. I held my spoon just so… Looking over at my neighbor to see if I'd set it up correctly. Then I plopped a chunk of corn into the bowl of the spoon. Yes, mine seemed to look about like his. Now let's see, you simply push down the edge of the spoon? As I did so, I looked over to see if it was really that simple… Yes, it… WHOOPS! The weapon fired before I was ready! I hadn't had a chance to aim it anywhere. Actually, to be honest, I don't think I'd even planned on firing the weapon… I just wanted to see if I could set it up!

I'd been holding the spoon-weapon so that it was facing the front of the room. Watching in horror, the little yellow projectile sailed beautifully upward toward the front of the classroom following a mathematically perfect arc! Glancing ahead at its likely target, I saw the lunch monitor. She was standing up front, arms folded in a military stance while scanning the desks for unruly behavior. She never saw it coming. The corn kernel bounced exactly off the tip of her nose perfectly. If I'd been aiming for it, I'd have missed her completely.

It was a very light morsel of food, so the resulting head bounce she gave had to be pure reflex. She had merely been startled - not physically wounded in ANY way. Nonetheless, despite the benign nature of the event, she stomped to the middle of the classroom demanding to know, "Who did that?!"

As you know, children, especially first graders, are a socially cohesive bunch. They stick together in solidarity. So as a unit, every single child in the classroom (and I think even some who happened to be passing by in the hall) pointed their finger at me and yelled, "HE DID IT!"

The monitor was clearly shocked and made me feel even worse by saying, "Little Stevie Paul?! I never would have thought you capable of such behavior!" No punishment. It was just that sentence of disbelief and disappointment.

It was that very day that I vowed never again to partake of any culinary warfare. I hung up my plastic spoons for good. So be warned. If ever we find ourselves together in a cafeteria and a food skirmish breaks out. My role will never exceed that of conscientious objector.