Category Archives: Life Before Blogging

Most Embarrassing Moments: I Will Not Stand For This

(This moment is not particularly embarrassing. But looking back, I made it out to be a much bigger deal than it probably was.)

My parents said I was mature beyond my years in elementary school. This was confirmed when I tried to stage a rebellion in fourth grade.

cafeteria.jpgIn our school cafeteria, my fellow pupils were rather rowdy. On most days, our “lunch monitor” would have to get on the cafeteria’s public address system to quiet us down. She would first start with a polite, hushed request. “Shhhhhhhhh,” she would echo into the microphone.

This would never work.

About thirty seconds later, this would be followed by a more aggressive request. “Quiet down,” she would state, sternly.

This, too, would never work.

Just seconds later, the cafeteria would go completely dark. She had turned the lights off. I and my fellow students would panic as we waited for her deafening shout into the microphone:

“PUT YOUR HEADS DOWN!”

This would usually work. The entire cafeteria would be in complete darkness and silence, and a mass of young children would have their heads in the arms on the cafeteria tables. Peace at last for the lunch monitor, who, for some inexplicable reason, thought that 100 school-aged children would not be loud when seated with each other over a meal.

This particular day, two of my classmates would not stop talking. They continued talking. And because our entire classroom sat at one lunch table, we were singled out.

“Room 10,” the monitor yelled at our table, “BE QUIET!”

We were quiet… except for those two kids, who were naturally the class clowns. Even after our entire class shushed them, they still whispered and giggled to each other.

Were there consequences? Oh, were there consequences! The lunch monitor told us that because of these two students, we would have to stand in line at recess the next day. Yes, because of two students, all twenty-five of us would be punished. Yes, despite our own fruitless efforts to silence our classmates using the same means as our cranky sixty-year-old lunch monitor, we would all be punished. I was pissed.

I stomped back up the stairs after lunch. I seemed to be taking this harder than anyone else. I would not be punished for someone else’s actions. I would not be guilty by association. Still twenty-two hours shy of serving my sentence, I was already plotting my appeal.

elemschool.jpgRecess came the next day, and as a class, we were paraded out into the schoolyard. Our class would stand in a line and face the school’s brick wall while all of our fellow students enjoyed a brisk and sunny spring day.

But I would not stand in that line.

I stepped aside. I stood out of line. Perhaps I was out of line. The lunch monitor certainly thought so.

“STAND IN LINE,” she barked.

“No,” I replied, sternly. To this day, this has been just about the only moment in my life that I have talked back to an authority figure. “I don’t believe in group punishment. I was quiet yesterday. It’s not fair.”

“Too bad,” she snapped back. “Stand in line or go to the principal’s office.”

I considered her options for a few seconds. And, for the first and last time in my entire grade school career, I went to the principal’s office. I was not even escorted. I stormed out of the schoolyard myself and walked directly into her office. She was sitting at her desk.

“Hi,” I said. “I’m here because I’m being punished for doing nothing wrong.”

I was convinced I was in the right. The principal said, more or less, that group punishment was, indeed, unfair. With her inaction, she convinced me that I was in the right. I was never punished for standing up for what I thought was wrong. I would have thought of it as my own Last Stand, but I would not learn about Custer’s Last Stand for another five years.

I sat in the principal’s office until recess was over. When I got back in the classroom, my students looked at me in awe. Just this one time, I was a badass. I was the guy who stood up and fought against the man. Or the woman, in this case.

Never again in my elementary school career was our class, or any other, punished as a group. That could just be a coincidence, but I’d like to think I had something to do with it. And maybe, just maybe, group punishment is still discouraged at my elementary school because of the brave actions of one principled fourth grader in the spring of 1991.

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Desperately Seeking a New Wardrobe

Item #1:

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Wearing: Blue polo shirt with white stripes and white collar, gray zip-up hoodie
Photo Taken: July 2000

Item #2:

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Wearing: Exactly the same blue polo shirt with white stripes and white collar, exactly the same gray zip-up hoodie
Photo Taken: July 2007

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Most Embarassing Moments: The One with the Mud

Some people suggest that the best way to deal with your past is to confront it head-on. So, I might as well air it all out on here by sharing the stories of the most embarassing moments of my childhood. Some of these events weren’t embarassing at the time, but are incredibly embarassing now. Other events were on the verge of stripping me of my childhood innocence, but are now worth looking back on with a sense of humor.

Besides, my therapist says this would be a very therapeutic experience.

I’m just kidding. My therapist didn’t say that. In fact, I don’t have a therapist. For the blogging world, I’m pretty level-headed.

I’m just kidding. I’m not level-headed. I’m sharing my life’s most embarassing moments on the Internet.

elemschool.jpgI moved to a new town in the middle of sixth grade. It was just after Christmas break that I started at a new elementary school. It was hard trying to make friends with classmates that had all known each other since they were in diapers, so I figured I’d have to make a statement to get noticed.

Unfortunately, the statement I wanted to make (successfully starting a school newspaper) was pre-empted by the statement I ended up making.

In early February, we had a mild spell of weather. The sun was shining, the snow was melting, and my classmates were restless. As a reward for behaving for the week, our teacher decided to take us outside on Friday afternoon to play kickball in the schoolyard.

The schoolyard had a kickball field painted on its pavement. The first base line ran alongside the school, and off towards a swingset. Right field was a little shallow, and the pavement ended only about 10 yards beyond first base. According to our school’s kickball ground rules (yes, they were this serious about kickball. And don’t get me started on their obsession with deck tennis), the grassy area beyond the pavement in left field was in play. This rule would be my eventual downfall.

I had been kicking fairly decently that day, and thought that I would be able to make some instant friends by being a good teammate – or at least the kid that didn’t get picked last in gym class. The problem came a few innings into the game. I hadn’t seen any fielding action for the whole game, hanging out on the bench, so I offered to take right field. On the first kicker of the inning, I saw action. A pop fly hovered right over first base and down the line. I jogged over into foul ground to catch the ball. As I ran off the pavement into the grass, I saw that the snowmelt had turned the grass into a mud puddle so big that it put the Everglades to shame. I couldn’t stop myself by the time I noticed this.

Before I could even put my hands out for the ball, I slipped backwards and fell into a foot-deep mud puddle. I missed the ball completely. And I became a spectacle as I slowly lifted myself out of the puddle, caked in mud from head to toe in front of all twenty-five of my classmates. Mud was everywhere. All over my clothes. In my hair. In my eyes. I was also scraped up and bruised down my entire body. With just one misstep, I had gone from hero to zero in the eyes of my classmates.

Despite probably knowing that this one incident would have implications for my brief career at this elementary school, into junior high and beyond, I did what any other scrawny, sensitive 12 year-old would do: I started to cry. I cried violently. Needless to say, I still had some maturing left to do. I ran into the school, with the teacher chasing after me. If she lost me at any point in the hallway, she didn’t have a hard time finding me; I tracked mud through the entire school.  I had no idea what to do with myself. I ran down the halls, still crying, towards the nurse’s office, which was directly in front of the principal’s office.

swampmonster.jpgWhat’s a kid to do? I’m covered in mud in an elementary school. Elementary schools don’t have locker rooms or showers. Naturally, I had no other choice: I called my mom. Other classmates, presumably following my muddy footprints, came to check on me – although it didn’t seem to be out of caring, because they immediately started laughing at me when they saw the sight of me sitting in the nurse’s room, still covered in mud except for my face, which I had been able to wipe down. My mom left work to pick me up an hour later, just as school was letting out. I obviously couldn’t ride the bus like this. I left a permanent mud stain on the cloth front passenger seat in my mom’s car, which was a constant reminder of the incident until we finally sold it eight years later.

Picture, if you will, a 5-foot-tall figure, covered from head-to-toe in mud, running around aimlessly, crying and screaming and ranting and raving. I looked like a Swamp Monster.

And for the next five months, that was my nickname: Swamp Monster.

Kids can be so cruel.

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Your Fundraising Drives May Drive Me to Drink

Dear Alma Mater,

Can we talk?

You keep calling me. Constantly. Like an ex-girlfriend desparate to patch things up.

When the 607 area code pops up on my phone, you can bet that I won’t answer, but you don’t even bother to leave a message. Instead, you just keep stalking me. During the day. In the evenings. On weekends. I know it’s you, and I know why you’re calling.

Actually, the frequency of your calls is more like that of a debt collector. Which is funny, because you’re not calling to collect on the $40,000 of debt I’m in with you. Yes, you’re calling to ask me for money, but not to pay down my loan interest. You’re calling because you say that you need money from me.

campusclock.jpgYou need money from me for your new “green” business school. Thanks for making my alma mater a contradiction in terms – a haven for capitalist hippies.

You need money from me for your new athletic center, which, based on the renderings, is pretty much the ugliest building ever conceived. I guess you forgot that you’re a Division III school, and I never even attended an athletic event in my four years there.

You need money from me for your new campus master plan, which would apparently make the campus more attractive. We did our part to make your campus attractive already; our senior class gift was a shiny new clock for the quad! Can’t you just be happy with that?

You need money from me to provide more grants to your students. How wonderful! You want me to help the less fortunate. Funny, thanks to you guys, I think I’m in a pretty unfortunate position myself (see: $40,000 of student debt).

Look, I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. But maybe you should have thought about this, say, eight years ago, when you offered me a financial aid package that made my parents cringe. Plus, I really haven’t seen much of these so-called benefits of the education you gave me, especially considering that the guy who sits next to me at work went to a $3,000-a-year public university.

So, can you just, you know, stop calling me? I’m just not ready for this kind of committment. It’s still just too early. You’ve been calling me on and off for the last four years, and it’s just not the right time. I promise that one day, when my debt is long-gone, I would be happy to donate something. Maybe I could even give enough that you’d slap my name on some fountain or garden or classroom or flagpole or wall. But now is not the time, okay?

Love,
Chris

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My Junior-High Report Card

I think it’s fair to suggest that most people are embarassed by their junior-high selves. If you’re not, then you probably still have the personality of a junior high school student. Or, you are still a junior high school student.

I was in junior high from 1993 to 1995, the formative years of alternative rock. I did, in fact, own some plaid. I did, in fact, listen to Nirvana, Green Day, and Weezer (when I wasn’t secretly listening to Ace of Base). And I did, in fact, look like a total dork.

Normally, photographs from this era could be used as blackmail material. I’ve decided to stop that possibility dead in its tracks by grading myself. Be prepared to have a few laughs at my expense.

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Exhibit 1, School Photo, 1994
Sadly, this picture made it into your junior high yearbook – the first yearbook that you actually purchased. It’s a good thing that color printing was apparently cost-prohibitive in that era, because it looked bad enough in black-and-white. Your hair was uncontrollably curly (it still is, but 2006 me knows to keep it too short to ever get that bad). And that one curl in the front of your head… what the fuck? Were you oblivious to using the photographer-issued comb and mirror before this picture?
Grade: D-. Harsh, but there are probably 700 black-and-white versions of this photograph still floating around out there on bookshelves across Rhode Island.

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Exhibit 2, Family Photo Session, 1993
Fancy back-lighting and flashes, a professional photography session, and this is the best you can do? Sadly, I think this was the nicest shirt you owned at the time, as you had just outgrown your older nice clothes thanks to a recent growth spurt. But could you go out and buy something new? Apparently not, as you loathed clothes shopping at the time. No wonder your mother dressed you in this button-down shirt… wait, are those Peanuts characters down the seam? Pardon the pun, but that shirt is comically funny. Hopefully, you learned a lesson from that shirt: buy your own damn clothes.
Grade: D+. It would be a complete failure, but the fact that you’re so chubby that you look like your torso is floating on a steel-belted radial tire probably saves you the embarassment of detailing your ugly pants.

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Exhibit 3, Celebrity Photo Op with “Fred the Baker”, 1995
Couldn’t you have picked something nicer to wear when you’re meeting a minor 80s-era regional celebrity? I have to give you credit, though. The Fighting Irish had a couple of breakout seasons while you were in junior high, so there are worse pieces of clothing you could be wearing. But is it any coincidence that since you wore that sweatshirt for this photo, ND has gone 0-8 in Bowl Games? That curse could have resulted from that hairstyle, too. I don’t think there’s a term to describe it, but the name “Spanky” comes to mind. Unfortunately for you, your 8th grade nickname was much worse.
Grade: C+. This was the worst grade you got in junior high, but it’s the best you’re going to do on this report card.

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Completely Harmless: A Chronology of My Brushes with the Law

police_badge.jpgOne of my friends said to me the other day, “you seem like the type that has a wild streak in you.” I told him that I’m a lot more reserved than people think. I’m not one to walk on the wild side all that much, sans blacking out drunk at a New Year’s Eve party, skiing a double-black diamond ski slope, or walking through South Williamsburg at 3:30am. 

Well, I’m all about clearing the air with my blog. So to prove to you how tame a person I really am, here is a list, in chronological order, of all of my brushes with the law.

October 1992: At 10 years old, my friends and I decided to bike into this wooded area in Cranston, Rhode Island, where I grew up. The cops followed us in their car, and we scattered after they used their P.A. system to tell us we were trespassing.
Result: no charges pressed, a good workout in getting the hell out of the woods on my bike.

August 1999: In the first of only two traffic stops in my life, I am pulled over for going 65mph in a 45mph zone on U.S. 23 in the small town of Dillard, Georgia.
Result: a $125 speeding ticket (most likely going to fund two signposts for a new “Welcome to Dillard” sign), an empty wallet for my entire first semester of college.

September 2002: The Ithaca College Police knock on my door and bust a get-together in my dorm room attended by a whopping total of four people. While we had been drinking wine all night, the cops searched my refrigerator to find two precious unopened 12-packs of Molson Canadian I had a friend buy for me earlier in the night.
Result: 24 very, very empty bottles of Molson, their contents poured into the bathroom sink by a nearly-sobbing Chris while the cops watched. To this day, it ranks as the most tragic squandering of alcohol I have ever witnessed.

March 2006: While moving my belongings back to New York from Burlington, Vermont, I am pulled over for going 48mph in a 30mph zone in Ticonderoga, New York in my mom’s minivan. I am already extremely embarassed that I am driving a minivan, and I am even more embarassed that my mother is in the passenger seat.
Result: a warning by the cop, who spared me a 4-hour drive full of apologies to my mom; a very slow, sobering drive through the Adirondacks.

See? I am not a risk-taker. The air has been cleared, and I hereby declare this entry adjourned.

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Get the Picture

Sometimes, you have to see the whole picture to get the whole picture.

For example, this is part of a picture that was on the front page of the Ithaca Journal after a Cornell student fell into gorge on campus:

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But that’s only part of the picture. Watch how the scene changes completely when the full image is revealed:

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In the story, and in the caption, there was no explanation for this mysterious snappy dresser. We are forced to speculate as to what a Foppish Dandy was doing in the middle of a 100-foot-deep gorge at 7:30 am on a Friday morning. The floor is open.

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