The River's Badge

Friday, October 5, 2018

About Winning And Accusations


I remember when, in sixth grade, my teacher would hold spelldowns. Spelldowns probably don't exist anymore, because, well, hurt feelings. To the uninitiated, the class would be divided into teams and each team would line up along opposite walls. The teacher would present a word to spell and the first person in line would be required to spell it. If that person F'd up, they would have to take their seat and the lead person from the other team would be given the opportunity to spell the word correctly. This exercise would go on until only one person from each team remained.

To be honest, we were indifferent to it all. It was only the fear of failure and derision that kept us in the game. And, for some of us, pride. I was a good speller; thus, I generally won the spelldowns. I was a mid-year enrollee in the school and knew no one, so spelling became my only pitiful claim to fame. When Mrs. Haas announced upon my turn, "Czechoslovakia", I knew I had the game won. I even remembered to say, "Capital C".

Then, when I'd finished, Mrs. Haas said, "incorrect". My face burned hot. I hesitated before taking my seat. I knew I'd spelled it right. Should I protest? Of course I didn't. I was eleven. But (clearly) I never forgot it.

Being accused of misspelling a word doesn't compare to being charged with sexual assault, but there is an innate human reaction to having one's integrity impugned. After all, what do we possess if not our honor? If Mrs. Haas suddenly materialized before me today, the first thing I would demand would be a tape recording of my so-called "misspelling". Barring that, it's simply hearsay. Or perhaps Mrs. Haas had a mental breakdown and confused Czechoslovakia with Yugoslavia.

Therefore, I feel (warily) good about today. It's not so much about winning as it is about unjust accusations and vindication.

Right is right. That may seem quaint in today's cosmos, but if your corpuscles fizz when you are unjustly accused, you'll get it.

In the winter of 1966, my only true friends were The Monkees. (Just thought I would end this on an "up" note):






















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