|There are a couple of things that drive me absolutely nuts. One is toilet paper coming over the top of the roll instead of the bottom, which, by the way, is the time-tested correct method (but that's a story for another day). The other thing is watching pre-pubescent kids in spelling bees whipping out the correct spelling of words such as circumlocution and rhinotillexomania.
It's not that I begrudge these adroit scholars their 15 minutes of notoriety (You see? I can use fancy words, too). It's just that, well, it dredges up a bad memory from my deep, dark, secret past.
I remember that day well, back in 1961, in Miss Carey's second-grade class. We all looked forward to our spelling bees so we could bask in the glory of being somebody special, if only for that day.
Round after round, the other kids were sent packing. Billy DiCarlo missed close and had to sit down. Arlene Norda couldn't come up with storm, and Donald Nason flubbed on June. Soon, there were only two of us left: Dawn Latta and me.
Word after word, we battled it out, each of us nailing the spelling with incredible preciseness. We were so good, in fact, that Miss Carey had to start giving us words from next week's list, words we hadn't even seen yet! Talk about pressure.
Actually, I was under double pressure. Not only was I in the battle of my young life, trying to spell words I had never spelled before, I was in this winner-take-all contest against a girl that I planned to marry some day. Would she ever accept my proposal after whipping her in a second-grade spelling bee?
Then Miss Carey turned to me.
"Billy (yes, that's what they called me back then, but please, please, don't call me that today), spell arrow.
I know exactly what Billy Buckner felt like in Game Six of the 1986 World Series as Mookie Wilson's easy ground ball made its way toward him at first base. Bend down, gobble it up, step on the bag, and get sized for a championship ring.
But we all know what happened, don't we?
Miss Carey tossed that softball to be, and I just knew that Dawn (hot babe or not) was going home. I could almost hear Steam singing, "Na na na na, hey hey, goodbye!"
You see, I had an ace in the hole. I already knew how to spell the word. After all, it was emblazoned on a product my mother used on our linoleum floors:
And the ball scooted between my legs, Dawn got an inside-the-park home run on the next word, and I went back to my seat, forever remembered as the goat of the second-grade spelling bee.
Forget the fact that I was the second best speller in the class. You know what they say about finishing second (there must be some famous quote about it, maybe something like, "Those who finish second suffer the everlasting sting of an ARROW in their hopes and aspirations." Hmmmm. That sounds reasonable to me).
So here I am, (cough) 43 (cough) years later, still smarting from that ignoble defeat, and taking my frustrations out on today's spelling-bee champions.
But I shouldn't feel too bad. Today's spellers have advantages that I never had. They have Hooked On Phonics. They have on-line dictionaries to train with. They have spelling coaches to prod them along.
And most important, their mothers don't use Aero Wax.