Thursday, May 24, 2007

I Shall Not Want ...

Did you ever want to win something without thinking through the actual consequences of winning? For example, I dreamed of winning the Price Is Right showcase showdown as a kid, but if I had, would I really have been so thrilled with that new dinette set? Never mind the tax bill! So it was with the only contest I’ve ever won in my life.

I am a perennial non-winner. Loser might be too strong a word. You have to try to win to be a loser, after all. The extent of my trying has largely involved filling out contest entries. Rarely have I thrown myself into actual, direct, unequivocal competition with others. The exception: a Bible verse memorization contest in fifth grade.

My fifth grade teacher, a rather temperamental middle-aged Latina with an unnamed bowel condition that required her to frequently rush out of class on emergency bathroom runs (pun intended), challenged us to see who could memorize a Psalm and recite it before the class. The winner would be escorted by our teacher on an all-expenses-paid trip to Stax, a forerunner of Old Country Buffet. Student and teacher, alone together and not within the safe and familiar roles of a classroom ... But that part didn't quite register. When you’re 10, nothing, and I mean nothing, tops a buffet.

What inspired me to undertake this challenge with my fear of public speaking (and of my teacher, for that matter)? My friend/nemesis Cheryl immediately volunteered. On impulse, I followed suit. Not surprisingly, we were the only one’s to do so. That made for some pretty good odds. I chose the 23rd Psalm. I spent days memorizing the somber lines. The day of the competition arrived and Cheryl flubbed the ending of her Psalm. I recited mine perfectly (albeit covered in a cold sweat).

At last, victory was mine. But, other than the DIY sundae at Stax, it was far from sweet my friends.

Love this. Wow, what was your teacher thinking?

In grade school they used to motivate us to sell the most fund-raiser raffle tickets by giving the winning class Buster Bars. We would talk about it like it was the most exciting thing and we HAD to win, though I don't think I even knew what a Buster Bar was (a type of ice cream bar with nuts and chocolate). Kids are easy to manipulate. I guess the main thrill was the idea of eating ice cream in school when no one else could have it.
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