I’m a fairly competitive person. I’d say “very competitive” but that’s reserved for Jimmy Fallon. I’ve watched him go nuts trying to win every game against every guest on his show, even Betty White. Now that’s “very competitive.” I’d be tempted to hold back… a little… for Betty. Eh. Maybe.
I was a spelling bee nerd in grammar school. I always expected to win and I always did. I didn’t just win in class or in spelling bees that included the entire school. I also won the spelling bee on Wonderama with Sonny Fox (wow, he was handsome!). I took home a $50 gift certificate for anything I wanted from the swanky Franklin Simon department store on Fifth Avenue. More than anything else in the world I wanted a coat with a big raccoon collar. And that’s what I bought with my certificate… a red wool coat with a huge raccoon collar.
Believing myself to be the Queen of All Spelling Bees, I was not surprised to find myself working my way up through the ranks and inching ever closer to ultimate glory: The National Spelling Bee. I was sure I’d be there, smiling at the vanquished and tossing bouquets of vowels and consonants to my adoring fans. I’d been groomed for Victory. After all, I’d first learned what ‘procrastinator’ meant and how to spell it when I was about five years old (Mother: “Pro.Cras.Tin.A.Tor. If you want to know why I called you that sound it out, look it up in the dictionary and learn how to spell it.”)
One by one I conquered other schools in the area and looked forward without trepidation to the Bronx Borough Championship. I sat on the stage with my name hanging around my neck, serene and confident. I looked straight ahead. Nothing could break my concentration… until I was given the word “iciest” to spell.
Iciest? I’d never heard that word before! I wondered if an Iciest was something like a Communist or a Socialist? Embarrassed, I had to ask to have it used in a sentence. And when the judge said “It was the iciest day of winter.” I felt quite stupid! Possibly for the first time in my life. I spelled I-C-I-E-S-T and sat back down, hoping my face wasn’t as red as my Franklin Simon coat.
Down to two. Me and some boy. A boy? Pfffffft. Good luck, sucker.
I walked the long walk to the microphone. It seemed like it took forever to get there. The entire auditorium was perfectly silent. I waited… and waited….. and the judge finally said:
I sounded it out. Syllable by syllable. And started to spell and then… I lost my syllabic place!
I was stunned. I sat back down sending evil thoughts the boy’s way. He walked up to the microphone. The judge looked at him and said:
“Your word is… banana.”
Luckily there is no snapshot of what my face looked like at that moment. BANANA???????????? BANANA?!?!?!?!?!!!! I got “reminiscence” and he gets BANANA???????????
The little bastard actually sounded it out before spelling it. Correctly.
I didn’t have the Bronx Borough crown but at least I still had the red trophy coat. Or did I? I don’t think I liked it as much once I owned it as I did when it was out of reach. I don’t remember wearing it more than once or twice and I have no idea what happened to it.
Apparently I’m also fairly contrary.