When I was in elementary school, there were a lot of losers. I don’t mean this as a slight against any of my classmates–I couldn’t really, because I was a loser too–I just mean that we played games with objectives apart from nurturing our self-esteem. In fact it’s possible that they wanted to crush our self-esteem. Why else would they make us do subtraction problems on the board in front of everyone? At least for some kids–(points finger at self)–it would have been kinder to leave us in our chairs and ridicule us there. Carrying digits is hard, or borrowing, or whatever. See, I still can’t get it right under pressure.
Clearly my growth was stunted. (Well, my emotional growth. Like I always say, physically I’m enormous.) Since I can’t benefit from the enlightened approach of modern education, I’ve decided to dedicate this post to all the ways I’m a winner.
Trophy #1: Winning with Skill
Imagine a quaint fishing village beside a miserable murky swamp. If, as you picture it, it doesn’t seem like a perfect home for goblins, add more murk. Then imagine that a few busloads of senior citizens are gathered there during an oppressive heat wave. (At this point it might be necessary to prevent yourself from asking, “Why?” It’s a natural impulse, but not one that’s going to be satisfied at any point in this story.) Next imagine these senior citizens were hosting a festival, but not a fishing festival, a boating festival, or any kind of festival that might have been appropriate. It was a chili festival. Finally, imagine that this chili festival sponsored a writing contest.
Now–the biggest reach of all–imagine that you weren’t imagining any of this, and that it all actually happened while you were in high school. It may sound like it’s just a strange dream, but it wasn’t; I won that writing contest.
I don’t remember how I found out about it, or why I decided to enter it, but I submitted a short ballad about pirates. The topic is the only feature I recall, and I’ll never know more because the chili festival folks lost my only copy. Perhaps they were distracted by the oddity of their surroundings, or menaced by the alligators and mosquitoes who had stopped by for chili. Still, they gave me $200 worth of prize money, which is one of the biggest paychecks I’ve ever gotten for writing anything.
That wasn’t my last attempt at writing a ballad either, nor my last attempt to share one publicly, but it was the last one for which I was never asked to wear tights. Those stories are for another time though; this post is about winning.
Trophy #2: Winning with Luck
In college I won a drawing and earned the right to name a local convenience store. In retrospect, I’m more stunned by the contest’s existence than by winning it. Who lets college students name things? It just seems like asking for trouble, specifically the sort of trouble caused by a convenience store named “Booze and Naked People,” or something similar but in less polite terms. Alternately, its name might have become a plea for love from whatever celebrity teen boy was the dreamiest that month. Or even more alternately, the name could have become an arrogant slight against the sort of people who would have suggested the first two names. In that case the store would probably also have required its employees to wear black eyeliner and gratuitous leather. College is a special time.
Either way, before I named it, everyone called the place simply “the c-store,” because the word “convenience” was itself inconveniently long. For example, we would go on “c-store runs” for soda and snacks. Those were peaceful days, and they went on for a while because the store managers wanted to give people enough time to enter the drawing.
Then the big night finally came. Everyone gathered in the school cafeteria for the prize drawing and subsequent unveiling of the store’s new name. The atmosphere of the place was awash with excitement and anticipation, like a carnival before Christmas morning. I went mostly under protest; passing time had merely increased my resistance to change, so I didn’t want the store to have a new name.
Imagine my surprise when I won. Imagine everyone else’s surprise when I used the granted authority to officially christen “The C-Store.” I’ve never heard so many boos. I think I even saw the managers be disappointed. It was as though I had cancelled the carnival while simultaneously revealing Santa Claus to be a hoax, and also simultaneously insulting everyone’s mother. It’s probably the closest I’ve ever come to starting a riot.
I didn’t mind though. Not only did I get to name something, I won a few bottles of soda, a polyester duffel bag (which I still use today), and an inflatable raft shaped like a giant bottle of fruit juice. It was just like winning the lottery. The Pack-rats Anonymous Lottery.
Trophy #3: Winning with Strategy
I’m undefeated at trivia games, which is why I don’t play them. I won, and then I stopped forever. I wouldn’t even be able to enjoy them anymore, because of all the risk involved. Unfortunately, my wife is unimpressed by this motivation.
One Thanksgiving we gathered with a local church group for games and dinner. Everything was going smoothly until someone suggested that we add a certain famous trivia game to the agenda. I politely declined, not wanting to face the peril. Once I explained my reasons to my wife though, her response was…. I’ll be polite again and say it was “emphatic.”
Apparently, I shouldn’t have tried to defend not playing–to defend forcing her to partner with a stranger–by telling her how good I was at the game. She might have impeached my honor and attributed to me a series of learning disabilities. It was all said with love though. To be fair to her, she has trouble opening doors, so I probably should have taken pity on her somehow.
I’m pretty sure that she and her partner tried hard and developed good self esteem. Someone else won though.
The critical point to remember is that I didn’t lose, so I’m still a winner.
Trophy #4: Winning with Friends
A few days ago, I won again. One generous and funny gentleman, “Bagman” his nom de plume, nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award. You might recognize that name if you follow the comments on my posts. If you haven’t visited his blog yet, let me recommend it to you. I enjoy it, and I’m sure you will too.
The Versatile Blogger Award is not only an honoring recognition, it’s a chance for me to help other people be winners too. Below, in no particular order, are my nominees for the next round of Awards. I hope that you enjoy their work as much as I do, and that they remember that readers in the world appreciate their efforts.
Writing a blog is a challenge; these people do it well: