I took the Upper Division Writing Exam this afternoon. It's not an incredibly high-stakes exam, but a passing score allows a person to skip a few English courses. One never knows exactly how well or poorly one did on the test, as the results are only given as ?pass" or "fail." I'm relatively confident I didn't fail. When I write things out by hand I don't misspell; I'm a horrible typist but actually a decent speller, and usage isn't a problem for me. If I don't know the correct way to word or punctuate something, I just change it to a way I'm certain is standard usage.
Our essay topic was""Describe something you've had to learn the hard way." There are so many directions I could have gone with this, from not following my instincts and absolutely refusing to obey my parents and stay with my aunt and uncle who practically let me die in their attic to not suspecting that something was up the time my attacker asked to use the restroom right after I did. These subjects and others like them seemed too melodramatic and perhaps even a bit hard to believe for someone who doesn't know me at all. In any event, I didn't want it to appear that I was appealing to the grader's sympathy. Instead I chose a lighter topic.
I think I wrote about this once before, but I'm redundant even on a good day, so what the hell? I'll share it again. When I was around two-and-one-half, I became convinced that the colored balls inside our Fisher Price popper, which was community property between my brother and me, were actually gum balls. I asked my mother to let me break it open. She told me that my brother still played with it, so she would not allow me to destroy it, but she didn't think I could break it anyway because Fisher Price toys are very sturdily constructed, and besides, the colored balls were most certainly not gum balls. I pleaded with her for months, which turned into years. Dumb old Matthew was four years old and was still pushing the stupid popper around, pretending that he was vacuuming or mowing the lawn. I can remember asking my mother if she wasn't beginning to grow just a bit concerned that Matthew was so easily amused by a baby toy. Her answer was something to the effect of, "Matthew's not the one of you who concerns me." Even when I was a toddler, my mother used sarcasm as a major weapon in her arsenal. If anyone wonders where I got it from, look no further.
I continued to nag my mother, but one day midway between our fourth and fifth birthdays, Matthew decided to move onto bigger and better toys, and that he no longer needed to use the Fisher Price popper. It was one of the happier days of my life that I recall. My mother adapted a pair of my dad's safety goggles so that they would at least remain on my head, not that they actually fit me. Every day after breakfast in the summer and after kindergarten once school began, I went out into the garage, put on my safety goggles that made me look like some sort of space alien (my uncle has a picture of me wearing the things, and they legitimately made me look either like I was from another planet or like I was incredibly special) and went to work on breaking into the Fisher Price popper with my dad's hammer. It kept me out of my mother's hair for so much time that she surely must have wished she'd either taken the popper away from my brother years earlier or had gone out and bought another one for me to destroy.
After months of hammering, I seemed to be making no progress at all until one morning shortly after Christmas (I remember that it was after Christmas because my uncle commented that most normal children would be playing with their new Christmas presents and not spending every waking moment attempting to destroy old ones), I noticed the faintest crack in the clear plexiglass cover. From that moment on, nothing would deter me from my mission. Every spare moment of the remainer of Christmas vacation was spent pounding on the popper with my dad's hammer. It nearly killed me to go back to school without having actually broken into the thing, but the very next weekend, I finally broke through it enough that I was able to use the claw end of the hammer to pry the popper open, I took the eight multi-colored balls out and held them carefully, looking at the colors and wondering which flavor of gum would be most appealing. I finally decided upon red. I put it in my mouth and chewed, curious as to whether it would be strawberry, cherry, or cinnamon flavored. Much to my dismay, it was none of those flavors, nor any other flavor unless one would describe plastic as a flavor.
Matthew apparently noticed that I had broken through the plexiglass, because my mother knew about it. I certainly would not have volunteered the information to her. My mom asked what the colored balls tasted like. I was tempted as strongly as I've ever been tempted to do anything to lie to her and describe all the delicious flavors of the gum balls, but I knew she'd be able to tell that I was lying, so I was forced to admit that she had been correct all along.
I had devoted probably at least three hundred hours trying to get to the gumballs inside the Fisher Price popper that were not actually gumballs at all, and my mother had told me so all along. I've done many things in my life that have given me a reputation for being stubborn, but the Fisher Price popper incident easily tops the list.
This, of course, is not my exact essay, but the content is essentially the same. I think my only real chance of failing is if the grader finds my stupidity, even as a preschooler, so profound that he refuses to grant a passing grade to such a complete moron.