85% of a true story

Preface: I wrote this essay for my Magazine Writing class last semester. It started out almost completely true, but it was boring, so it ended up being somewhat in the vein of Killing Yourself to Live. I got an A on it so if you don’t like it, you can piss off.

The first “book” I ever wrote was in fourth grade, and was titled “The Buffalo Woman 2”. The assignment was to write and illustrate a sequel to a story we had read in class. Although I only got a B-  (thanks to a vindictive teacher), my parents assured me that it was one of the best stories they had ever written and that one day, I would become a great writer like my grandfather, who wrote for CBS news in the 1960’s and 70’s.

Four months later, my dad rented Woody Allen’s “Sleeper”. At that point in time, I don’t think I have ever laughed harder in my entire life. The script had an incredible amount of wit and hilarious observations about the surroundings of the film. I figured, “I’m a funny guy, I can write comedy. I can be Woody Allen.” But I don’t think he was as stubborn as I am.

I spend most of my childhood daydreaming in and out of different “enrichment’ programs during my elementary school days. This little club plucked the brightest kids out of class for an hour a day to solve brain teasers and eat Jolly Ranches. I was mostly in it for the candy. I don’t recall why I was picked to be in this program, just that I was good enough to be in it.

My teachers said that I had the capacity to achieve in these enhanced programs, but I was too lazy. I didn’t care much for their opinion, being that I was never one to listen to authority figures. I’ve always been the lone wolf when it came to learning. I didn’t like being forced to learn things. I remember speaking up one day in class.

“Why do I have to solve these?”

“Because you have to.”

That was some pretty solid reasoning. Even at the age of eight, I could tell when the adults were bullshitting me. I then asked why I had to be in the program. My teacher didn’t respond. Everyone went on with their brain teasers and I just sifted though the candy bowl looking for the peach flavored Jolly Ranchers. I wasn’t asked to come to the club from then on. ‘Oh well,” I thought. “More time to play Ninja Turtles.”
Though I indulged in the usual childish fare like Nintendo and action figures, my musical tastes were much more adult. As far as I knew, I was the only 4th grade student at Walter M. Schirra Elementary who listened to Nine Inch Nails and Portishead. I’m pretty sure that everyone else was listening to Ace of Base and The Offspring, but I can’t remember that well. Either way, I was appreciating music on at least a 10th grade level. I don’t say this to brag, because it was a severe handicap when my friends would want to talk about Coolio and I wanted to talk about Beth Gibbons. Needless to say, I was a strange kid.

My love of music coincided with my love of writing. I was obsessed with lyrics. If I heard a song that had a catchy beat or hook but mediocre lyrics I didn’t bother listening any further, which was hard at times considering I have no control over the car radio. Everywhere I went, I’d carry a small notebook and pen, writing down conversations I’d overheard or funny thoughts (many of which concerning, farts, the act of farting, and fart locations). I thought that perhaps if I wrote as much as I could, I might bang out some lyrics. Naturally, in order to keep an accurate record, I would occasionally make notes during class. One day my teacher Mrs. Wall, who quite literally resembled one, caught me writing in my notebook while we were suppose to be reading about Native Americans. I’m almost certain she chose a career in teaching in order to torture and humiliate students, because I had never met a teacher before who loved to yell and make examples out of people. Seeing this slight act of insubordination as yet another chance to go on a power trip, she ripped the book out of my hands and, as loud as she could, asked why I wasn’t doing the assignment.

“WHAT IS THIS? DO YOU HAVE MORE IMPORTANT THINGS TO DO,” she said as little particles of saliva flew out of her mouth.

Clearly this woman was about to kill me. But even at the age of nine I wasn’t keen on putting up with bullshit, so I said the only logical thing there was to say:
“Fuck off.”

I have no idea where I learned that word. My parents frowned upon obscenities and I never caught my dad saying it at any point. It just simply popped in there, like I was programmed to say it.
I’ve never seen anybody’s face turn redder than Mrs. Wall’s. She may have been more concerned with the fact that I had the balls to challenge her than that fact that I used what is arguably the worst curse word in existence. After the class’s collective “Ooooooooooo”ing subsided, I was sent to the principles office for the first time in my life. I was willing to man up and accept whatever punishment they were going to give me, but I at least wanted my notebook back. The principal said that if I apologized to Mrs. Wall, he wouldn’t call my parents. I figured it was an even trade. Even though I apologized, I never saw my notebook ever again.

After that school year, I moved to a new town and a new school district. Yet my newfound dislike of authority figures carried over. I’m sure whatever I wrote in the notebook would have no relevance to my sense of humor or thinking now, but it’s something that I wish I had as keepsake. It felt as if Mrs. Wall had taken a part of my childhood, and I liked the event to the way schools treats their students: it’s not about what you want to do; it’s what the school says you need to know. And that would in some way shape how I would want to pursue a career in writing. These “people” didn’t care for my interests, so I had to resort to self motivation. But hell, I made it through 18 years of institutionalized learning and I’m still writing the way I want to write. I even have a new notebook to keep all my thoughts and ideas in.

And what ever became of Mrs. Wall? Well she died about five years ago, which I can only hope was the result of an aneurism stemming from a disobedient little brat.


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