Category: "1999-2001 High"

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Anecdotes #4 - May 7, 2016

She Didn’t Believe Me

When I was in the 7th Grade I read Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton and did a book report on it. My teacher questioned me about the book. She didn’t explain why she was questioning me but based on her questions I knew that she didn’t believe that I had read the book, and thought that I’d only seen the movie. On of the questions she asked it what happened to Hammond. You see in the book he is killed by pack of Procompsognathus, and in the movie he lives. Of course I’d read it so I was able to answer that question correctly.

My First Website

In the mid 90s the internet was new and search engines were just beginning to evolve. My friend Wes showed me this website he made, which was basically Wes’ Cool Home Page with some boring information about Wes on it. I realized that the internet needed to contain important information so I decided to make a website about the planet Jupiter because one of my friends was doing a paper on Jupiter. So I made a site on Geocities called the Official Jupiter Home Page. I ran into a problem making the site, though, I didn’t know anything about the planet, so I plagiarized the whole thing out of a Microsoft Encarta ’95 article by Reta F. Beebe. The website was pretty much the only one on Jupiter at the time so I got hundreds of thousands of views (and if you search for you can still find citations to it today!). I even monetized on it by putting a search box on it. I ended up making around $15.00. Eventually I got an email from some kid saying that they knew I had just copy and pasted Encarta’s article. I immediately took down the website, because I knew sooner or later someone at Microsoft might realize the same and ask me to take it down and preferred not to get that email.

The Most Boring Book

I signed up for AP English for 12th Grade, and for the summer between 11th and 12th Grade we were supposed to read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, so I did. It was the most boring book I ever read in my life and I fell asleep multiple times while reading it. A few weeks after school started I found myself failing the class. I transferred to the regular English class (not even honors). It was so much easier I called it Retard English (I feel bad about calling it that, but it was what it was), and because of that my reading of Jane Eyre had all been pointless.

Bad Employee

I was fired from my job as a grocery store bagger. I always like to tell people I got fired for sleeping on the salt bags when I was supposed to be doing carts. But really I never did that. The real reason I got fired was because I was supposed to say Hi how are you doing? to every single customer, but I didn’t like asking them that because the cashier had just asked them that and I didn’t want to annoy the customer, so I’d just say Would you like paper or plastic. They tried to correct me multiple times and I refused to do it. I also would not ask a man if he needed help out with the groceries I’d only ask women since I felt a man should be able to handle it himself. They tried to correct me on that but I refused to do it as well. That’s really why I got fired, I simply failed to do my job as instructed, and instead did it the way I thought was best. I was wrong. I was getting paid to do what they wanted, and I failed to do that. There was rumor’s of this one girl that got fired for making out with her boyfriend in the stock room. I wonder if that was true, or if it was the same deal as me sleeping on the salt bags.

Buying Diablo II

I was 16 when the game Diablo II came out, and the guy at the department store wouldn’t sell it to me because it was M rated (for gamers 17 and up). I went home and got my brother so he could buy it for me since he was a year older. Well when I went back the electronics department was not staffed so I took the game to a regular checkout stand and the girl there sold it to me with no questions asked since she didn’t know about video game ratings.

I'm Ashamed to Admit It: I Ruined a Kid's Christmas - December 9, 2013

You know how every now and then you do something so bad that you just wish you had a time machine so you could go back and undo what you’ve done? I’ve had quite a few of those experiences, and, oddly enough, most of them involve having done things where I wasn’t actually sure how bad they were. Today I’m going to discuss one such thing, and then speculate on what might have happened. I also want to say that even though at times I humorously reminisce about my experiences, I actually am legitimately ashamed of what I’m about to tell you. This is something I’ve carried for a long time, always wondering if I seriously screwed up, but never really knowing. Basically, I think I might have ruined some kid’s Christmas. I don’t know that I did, but I think I did. This story is from when I was about 14 or 15.

You know how children write letters to Santa Claus? How they address them to the North Pole, put a stamp on them and send them off? Did you ever wonder what happens to those letters? I know what happens to them. The post office collects them all together, and then charity groups claim them and write responses, or if it’s someone in need they might do something special for them. I happened to be involved in such a charity through school. It basically went like this, the teacher said we were going to answer letters to Santa, and he read one particular letter from a needy family, and said they’d do something special for them, but as for the generic, I want a Barbie doll, letters, us teenagers could read them and reply. The rules were pretty simple. If there was no return address, throw it out. If they asked for anything specific, don’t make specific promises. And of course it was assumed to not write anything vulgar or offensive.

I was excited to do this. I don’t think I ever wrote any letters to Santa. Seeing him in the mall was good enough for me, but I knew that writing letters to Santa was a thing that little kids did, and I had a strong belief in Santa when I was a kid, so I thought it would be fun to respond to a like-minded child, and maybe bring some joy and happiness into his or her life to know that Santa cared enough about them to respond. (I do want to say that I am currently against the idea of teaching children that Santa is real, but at the time I responded to the letter I was still in favor of sharing the myth.)

I don’t exactly remember what the kid wrote in the letter, except that I do remember he asked for a computer. I’d been in exactly the same shoes when I was a kid. I wanted a computer so badly for Christmas. It was after I stopped believing in Santa, so I wasn’t asking him for one, but I still understood the feeling. One year I thought we were going to get one. My mom had put a present under the tree that was big enough to be a computer, and she wouldn’t tell us what it was, but my hopes were high! On Christmas morning I was disappointing to see that it was a vacuum cleaner. A vacuum cleaner? We already had a vacuum cleaner. What I’m saying is that I totally understood this kid. I’m pretty sure his family already had a computer, and he wanted his own, but I knew that feeling. Of course, I couldn’t promise him he’d get a computer, that was up to his parents.

So the title of this post implies that something happened that I’m ashamed of, and you’ll probably guess that I’m ashamed of what I wrote back, and you’re only partly right. I’m not proud of my response to the kid, but it also wasn’t the worst possible response. I basically told the kid to be sure to mention to his parents what he wanted for Christmas. I also gave some lame excuse as to why he needed to tell his parents what he wanted. I don’t really feel badly about that, but it’s definitely possible that my response ruined the kid’s Christmas. Follow me for a minute on one possible chain of logic that the kid may have reasoned:

Hmm? Santa is asking me to tell my parents what I want. My friends at school have been telling me that Santa Claus is my parents. Maybe Santa is implying to me that he is my parents. But then the paradox is that if my parents are Santa Claus then they’d already be reading this letter and so why would they be telling me to tell themselves what I want? In conclusion there must be something bigger going on than both my parents and Santa combined can even fathom.

So basically my answer to this letter was going to open a can of worms. But what else are you supposed to say? If the kid’s parents didn’t know what he wanted, how could he possibly get it? That’s why I wrote what I wrote, but I don’t really regret that. No. I’m not really too worried about prose of the letter, that’s just speculation. It is actually the presentation of the letter that I’m ashamed of.

I have bad handwriting. Terrible handwriting. It’s pretty much unreadable when I write quickly, and not very pretty when I write slowly. I probably wrote this letter somewhere in the middle. I’m pretty sure it was readable, but it looked terrible. I don’t think the paper I wrote on had lines either, so the writing was slanted and curving on the page. Just imagine it. You’ve written to Santa Claus, probably the most kind and caring person in the world, and he writes you back, and it is the ugliest hand writing you’ve ever seen in your life. I mean the North Pole is full of polar bears, mittens, and candy canes, and here is this letter, ink on paper, and it’s barely legible. I’d be shocked. I’d be like, This is Santa’s handwriting? I wouldn’t believe my eyes.

Okay, so at this point you might be thinking that that’s nothing. I was 15 years old, of course my handwriting was bad, and probably the kid’s handwriting was worse, so when he read the letter he wouldn’t even notice. That might even be true. But that’s because I haven’t actually shared with you the worst of it all. Yes indeed, there’s a real kicker to all this. There’s a climactic be-all-end-all to how I ruined this kid’s Christmas.

I sketched a picture of Santa, his sleigh, and reindeer on the back of the letter. Yes, that is it. That is definitively how I ruined this kid’s Christmas. I drew a picture on the back of the letter, and it wasn’t good. My handwriting was bad, and my sketching skills weren’t up to par either. I remember specifically that the reindeer were way to small compared to the size of the sleigh, and that the perspective on Santa’s hat was inconsistent with his body. Basically it was one of the worst sketches of Santa ever made. It was no Norman Rockwell is what I’m saying. It was basically the kind of doodle you make when you’re bored in school, and here I was putting it in a letter to a kid as if it were from Santa! You may not believe me on how terrible this drawing was, but my friend Nick also saw it, and he confirmed that it was bad, and asked me if I was seriously going to send it.

Of course I had to explain the drawing to the kid, so I wrote, I’m including a drawing of me that one of my elves did. Yeah, that was the explanation of this absolutely terrible drawing. You really need to picture a creepy looking Santa Claus to understand why I’m so ashamed of this.

And so I mailed it. I knew at the time I shouldn’t have mailed it. I know that I knew at the time, because when I went to get the stamp from the teacher he asked me if everything I wrote was okay. He wasn’t asking everyone else that. Just me, because he could tell by the expression on my face that there was something screwy about my letter. Of course I told him it was fine, and he took the letter and put a stamp on it. And as far as I know it got mailed. This terrible portrait of Santa got mailed!

I actually pray that when my teacher realized there was something screwy about my letter, that he opened it to make sure everything was kosher, then threw it out when it wasn’t. I don’t think he did. As it stands now, I’m pretty sure that that letter got mailed, the kid read it, saw the picture and went crying to his parents. He probably told them that Santa sent him a terrible drawing that one of his elves did. At which point his parents had to explain to him that Santa wasn’t real, and that they didn’t know where the drawing came from. So the kid inevitably must have believed that he accidently wrote Satan and not Santa or something weird like that. Anyway, I’m pretty sure he’s a serial killer now, and it’s basically my fault.

Okay, so I’ve joked around a little about this, but that’s because I have to. I really am ashamed of what I did, and all I can do to cope with it is try to imagine the worst possible scenarios. I know that if I had seen a drawing as bad as the one I did, with the assumption that it had been by one of Santa’s elves, I think I’d forget magic of Christmas right then and there. Yes, the drawing was that bad.

I really do hope that the letter never made it. So many things may have prevented it from getting to that kid. It’s possible my teacher threw it out. It’s possible my handwriting on the envelope was so bad that it never got delivered. It’s possible the kid’s parents opened it and threw it out. All I can really do is hope. And if he did read it, hopefully he didn’t really become a serial killer, or have some weird obsession with Santa. I’d kind of like to meet the kid. To tell him I’m sorry. To find out if it did have any effect on him. I’m going to end with a plea that if your kids ever get a reply from Santa, please read it before them, just to make sure everything is okay.

Categories: 1999-2001 High

I Hacked a Computer in High School! - November 26, 2013

High school, the year 1999, Word Processing class, I hacked a computer. It was awesome.

I started relatively late on the whole computer thing. I was 12 years old when my family got our first computer, so I didn’t really know much about them. In fact, in elementary school, we’d have computer lab every Friday, where we got to use the next generation of computers, the Apple IIe, and I was so dumb with computers that I didn’t even know how to turn them on. The story is that I had been using the computer, and it turned off, and I couldn’t figure out how to turn it back on, and then the teacher got mad at me for hacking around with the computer, and I had to sit out the rest of the day. I was devastated. I mean, I only got to play Oregon Trail once a week, and this time I wasn’t going to get to play it at all. You know what too? I wasn’t even the guy that turned off the computer, it was my buddy Kyle that turned it off, he had been pressing buttons on my computer, and he pressed the right buttons to shut it off. So it wasn’t even my fault it turned off to begin with.

Well I showed them! After getting a computer in 1997, I learned the fundamentals. I learned about booting in safe mode, and the command prompt, and booting in safe mode with command prompt. Yeah, I knew about things! By 1999, most people were using Windows 98 or Mac OS or some such other thing where they could point and click their way through their computing needs, but I knew more than that.

The Novell interface only gave you access to a limited number of applications like WordPerfect and Notepad. No access to the start menu or My Computer was provided.
When I was in high school computers and the internet were all new and powerful, and kids wanted to use them, and not necessarily for school related stuff, so you had to restrict their ability to use them. My high school used Novell Netware to do just that. Novell limited the Windows interface to a few applications. There was no start menu, no My Computer icon. No access to the CD-ROM drive or hard drive. In my word processing class we got WordPerfect and Notepad, and a few other pieces of software. Nothing really that interesting. Nothing fun.

Now let me tell you about word processing class: It’s basically an easy A class. That’s the only reason you take it. If you want an A on your transcript, you take word processing. All you do is show up, process some words, then leave. If you do all your work, you get an A. There isn’t much to word processing, and you have half a year to do it, so basically you could spend 10 minutes a day doing the assignments, then you had 40 minutes to do anything you wanted. Or you could do 5 days worth of assignments in a single day, and have the rest of the week free. There was no homework. There couldn’t be. Not everyone had computers, and no one was expected to purchase WordPerfect.

Most kids would skip the class. Or at least show up for role call then leave. I was too good a student to skip class, in fact I only ever did it once my senior year, so instead I’d just sit there, bored out of my mind. Wondering how I could possibly unlock the potential of these computers. But all I could do was run WordPerfect and Notepad. Sure I could maybe write a story or something, but I wanted more.

The advanced boot options menu, including Safe Mode with Command Prompt.
Then one day as I was booting the computer, I had an epiphany. I saw the sign, and it opened up my mind! The sign was the bootup text that windows has that said, For troubleshooting and advanced startup options for Windows 98, press F8. So I pressed F8, and sure enough it let me boot up in Safe Mode with Command Prompt. Command prompt! I knew about command prompt. I knew commands for command prompt! Everything came full circle.

Remember how I said the Novell client gave us access to a few programs, and one of them was Notepad? If you aren’t familiar with Windows, Notepad is a text editor that resides in the Windows directory. You know what else resides in the Windows directory? A very powerful tool called Windows Explorer. Let me show you the commands I typed when I got to the command prompt:

cd windows
ren notepad.exe notepad.exe.bak
copy explorer.exe notepad.exe

I then restarted the computer. Now some of you will know what those commands do. Some won’t, so I’ll explain: An application is stored in a file, the file has a name. The Notepad application is stored in a file called notepad.exe. The Windows Explorer application is stored in a file called explorer.exe. Those commands make it so the Windows Explorer application will also be stored in notepad.exe. Notepad was accessible from the Novell interface, but the Novell interface didn’t know I renamed the file, so, voila, I could now access windows explorer from the Novell interface, and once you can do that, the world is yours. Because Windows Explorer gives you access to everything, it gives you access to the hard drive, to the CD-ROM drive, you can run applications you can install applications. Almost anything you want to do, you can do. Including what everyone in a word processing class wants to do, play games!

Indeed, I got the Quake demo installed on that machine and I’d play all day. Then some kids found out what I was doing. At first they’d watch me play, and ask me what I was playing, then later they wanted to play games too, so I helped them hack their computers as well. Of course I kept it on the hush-hush. I didn’t want the teacher to know what was going on. So there was only a small collective that knew how to hack the computers.

What’s truly weird though. Is I must have not been the only person to have been hacking these computers, because one of the guys whose computer I hacked, found a football game, Tecmo Super Bowl, on the computer, and he thought I had installed it on his computer, but I hadn’t, it was just there. Someone else had put it there. Then the others in the collective were asking me how to put the football came on their computers, but I didn’t know how because I didn’t know anything about transferring files over networks, so I told them they needed a CD or a floppy disk to copy the game onto, then they’d be good. But that kid kept telling people I installed that football game for him, and I thought it was hilarious that he thought that because I had only ever touched his computer to show him the commands to get into Windows Explorer.

Ultimately I got kind of bored of playing games, so I only hacked the computers a few more times, and then I just sort of felt bad about playing games at school, so I’d spend my hour in word processing class shooting the breeze with my buddy Kenny, and he told me all about how to impress the ladies, using such techniques as wearing cologne and stuff, but I was like, I don’t want to be a tool and wear cologne because I’m 16 years old! So I never wore cologne much in high school, but I did on a couple of occasions.

To make a long story short, I had come a long way from not knowing how to turn a computer on when I was in 5th grade, to hacking one in 11th grade. By which I mean, while I got caught with my computer turned off in 5th grade, the teacher never knew I spent the whole hour playing video games in 11th grade. Indeed my covert abilities had increased tenfold! I got an A, by the way. It was an easy A too.

Categories: 1999-2001 High

I Wrote a Letter to Myself 10 Years Ago - March 31, 2013

I have this envelope with the words, Don’t Open Till Oct 7 2008, written on it. A letter that I wrote to myself. I assume I wrote it on October 7, 1998, because I remember that when I wrote it I wasn’t supposed to open it for ten years. It was an assignment to write this letter when I was in Mrs. Adams’ 10th grade English class. While I don’t remember the specifics of the assignment, I think we students were supposed to answer specific questions such as, Where will you be living? and What will your job be? Mrs. Adams also told us that it might be a good idea to keep it in our underwear drawer since we would always have underwear.

Well, I went ahead and wrote the letter and put it in my sock/underwear drawer where it remained for several years. Later I moved it to a safety deposit box. In 2009 or 2010 I was thinking that my ten year high school reunion was coming up, and so it had probably been more than ten years since I had written that letter and it was about time I read it. At the time of this writing, another three or four years have passed.

In the years between writing it and opening it, I thought of it from time to time. I’d see it in my drawer and be like, I sort of remember what I wrote. I remembered that I wrote that I would be driving a Ferrari, specifically the car that Magnum P.I. drove. I remembered that I said I would be living in Hollywood, and that I would be a movie star. (Which I have no idea why, since I never really wanted to be an actor, I just wanted to be famous. Also, I remember that the girl behind me had said, Hollywood! as soon as the question was presented to us, and that seemed alright to me.) And I remember that I wrote that I would be married to this girl I had a crush on named Julie.

Let me get to the actual letter, which I’m sort of reading for the first time again, since it has been so long since I last read it. The thing about it is that I’m pretty sure that those three things, car, job, and wife, were the only three things in the entire letter. I remember that before I read it, I was like, I wonder what things are in the letter that I forgot. And then I read it, and I was like, Absolutely everything I remembered was in it, and nothing else! So, anyway, I’m about to write the full body of it right now, so we’ll see what’s in it. Here goes...


Ten years from now on October 7, 2008, I suspect that I am reading this. Jack, by now you ought to be in Hollywood, where all the rich houses are. Married to the hot, foxy babe Julie S. By now you should be making about 10 million a year. You work as an actor. Mostly in mystery and spy films. Most people like the movies you are in. You’re not in any perverted movies, but violent ones. Yes, you live now in Hollywood in a 2 million dollar home with a butler named , anyways he’s cool enough. You have one room in your house that is a pure trampoline. No, actually you just have a real good one in your back yard. You have only one child, a girl which has a funny name, or a boy’s name, but either way, weird. You should now be driving a Ferrari, the same year that Magnum P.I.’s was. You should be rich, happy, never hungry. Your wife doesn’t cook. Your cook does.

You sometimes ride in a limousine, and have a chauffeur with a french name. You have visited England, France, and Egypt by now. You also sing rather well. You play no instrument, and you obviously are stupid for reading this. If none of this ever happened then you either became a professional killer, joined the army and will fight, or already fought and died, in World War III.

Wow! That was freaking weird. Especially the ending part, it got a little dark there, didn’t it? Where did that professional killer stuff even come from? I must not have been taking it seriously at all, I mean I remembered that I was considering going into the Army when I was in high school, and I kind of figured that World War III was going to happen.

The rest of it, though, was pretty much what I remembered. Hollywood actor, Magnum P.I. car, Julie. I mean I used a lot more words, but that was the gist of what it said. I guess I also seemed obsessed with money and being rich, but that kind of went along with the whole Ferrari and Hollywood thing, so I’m not surprised that I didn’t remember that specifically. Also, for reference’s sake, I literally wrote quote-unquote for the butler’s name. I have no idea why. I guess I couldn’t think of anything.

So what was I actually doing ten years after writing the letter? Career-wise, I was a student. Financially, I made about $12,000.00 a year working part time. Relationship-wise, I was single, and Julie was married to someone else. Vocabulary-wise, I still use the word fox to describe attractive women. (Speaking of which, let me tell you about Julie, she was one of those girls that was a total nerdy-looking, dare I say ugly, girl in the 8th grade, then when 9th grade started she wore contacts, did her hair, used at least some makeup, and stopped wearing baggy clothes. Like a butterfly out of the cocoon that was the summer between 8th and 9th grade, she emerged, and I had a crush on her right away.) I do remember that I wanted to give my children unusual names when I was that age, and that has changed. At this point I wouldn’t even give them unusual spellings of common names, such as Rebekah for Rebecca, since I think that’s pretentious, and everybody’s doing that these days, it seems.

I suppose that’s the real irony of the ten years later thing. Not much changed. I was a student when I wrote it, I was a student when I read it. Basically I did all the same things I did then. It’s actually kind of depressing to think about.

Years before I wrote that letter, when I was an even younger teenager, I thought life was hard. So hard, in fact, that I hadn’t the faintest idea of how to even begin to figure out how to approach it. I was hoping that I would just wake up one day with amnesia, and it would be ten years later and I would have my whole life figured out. Yeah, just wake up one morning, have a wife, a job, a house, a car, and children. Everything that one needs to make life worth while. I’d just wake up, find a woman next to me and be like, I guess that’s my wife. Get up, go to the bathroom to shower, look in the mirror and be like, I guess this is my house, and I guess that’s me. Sit down at the kitchen table for breakfast, and be like, By the way, wife, I can’t remember the past ten years. That’s why I just called you wife instead of your name. Also, children, what are your names? And the children would be like, Mommy, daddy’s being silly. Then as I left for work I’d give my wife a kiss as I walked out the door, just assuming we did that every day, then I’d just drive around for hours since I didn’t know where work was. Yeah, that’s what I was hoping for as a teenager. Heck, I was going to write a novel about it entitled, Ten Years Later. It seemed like life would just be easier that way. I wouldn’t have to figure anything out. Now I realize that you still got to figure out life. It doesn’t happen automatically, just because you will get amnesia in the future. So that’s my plan, figure out life, then get amnesia.

What’s weird about my amnesia fantasy as opposed to what I wrote in the letter, though, was that in the amnesia fantasy I didn’t care at all about being rich and famous. I wonder why? Even today I still fantasize about being famous. But in the amnesia fantasy all I wanted was an ordinary life. The amnesia fantasy predates the letter by a few years, I think it first crossed my mind when I was twelve or thirteen. The letter was written when I was fifteen. So maybe that was the difference. Of course the amnesia fantasy was all in my head, I never wrote it down. I only thought about writing a novel about it, about some other guy that had amnesia, and not me. The letter was written down, it was about me. It’s possible I didn’t want to write down some fantasy about me living some ordinary life, I mean this girl in class was saying, Hollywood! when the question was posed. I wasn’t about to write down something less exciting. I kind of wonder what happened to that girl. Maybe she did end up in Hollywood.

Perhaps I should write another letter to myself to be opened in another ten years. Certainly my life has not yet come full circle, there are still things to come. I do have more practical expectations of where I want my life to go, where it will probably go, and where it might go, and certainly I could make more interesting predictions, but, on the other hand, I don’t think I’ll write down such things. I don’t want to jinx myself. You know what I mean?

Categories: 1999-2001 High

I Was Wrong: A Story of a White Elephant Gift - December 2, 2012

In case you don’t know, a White Elephant Party is one where every guest brings a wrapped gift, with no particular recipient in mind, then using some sort of game the gifts are exchanged until everyone has a random gift from a random person. I think a lot of kids are introduced to this type of party in elementary school. That’s how I was introduced to them, in any case.

A sliding puzzle game, a typical cheap White Elephant gift.
The most common version of the game is where all the gifts are put in a pot, and every player gets exactly one turn. The order in which you get your turn is selected at random, by any means, such as alphabetical. On a player’s turn they have two options: They may take a random gift from the pot and open it as their own. Or they may take a random gift from the pot and exchange it with someone else that already has an opened gift. At that point the person they exchanged gifts work with opens the new present to reveal what it is. As you can imagine early on in the game a few select presents will be revealed and they will bounce around a lot. On the other hands duds show up more frequently and once you have a dud it’s pretty much game over. In elementary school you can expect presents such as water pistols, Hot Wheels cars, or sliding tile puzzles.

The first time I played the game in the 2nd grade one of the top choices ended up being a package that included a notepad, trapper keeper folder, and pen. There were a few other popular items that were bouncing around as well. I remember that gift being a top choice because I lucked out, and was the last person to go, so I had the whole gamut to choose from and I chose the stationary.

The next time I played the game, I wasn’t so lucky. We played a drastically different version of the game in the 3rd grade. This time around, before the day of the party itself there was talk and rumors going around. This girl named Michelle really liked this one guy, Eric I think, but it may have been someone else, I’m not for certain, and rumor had it that she was going to bring a special gift that she was hoping he’d get, and also he had bought a special gift that he was hoping she would get. That was the rumor anyway. In this particular game we all sat in a circle with our own gift in front of us, and the teacher read us a story. As we listened to the story, any time the word right or left was said, we would pass all of our gifts to the person to that side of us. Then when the story was over, we got what was in front of us. Admittedly this game isn’t nearly as interesting as the other one because there really isn’t any strategy about what you might get, you just sort of get what you get.

Well it just so happened that everyone was kind of guessing at what the best presents might be based upon their weight, and also everyone sort of knew which present Michelle had brought and which Eric had brought (if that really is the guy Michelle had a crush on), so everyone was sort of watching out for those, including me. Well as the story went on, Michelle’s present was in my general vicinity and it was in my hands quite a bit, in fact it was just a little bit to my right near the end of the story:

He sprang RIGHT to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
and away they all LEFT like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he LEFT out of sight,
Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night!

At that moment Michelle’s gift was in the hands of the person next to me, this girl named Kendra. Come on, just say left one more time, just for the heck of it, I thought. Sure the story was over, but I was so close. To this day I can still imagine how great would have been had the teacher just decided to blurt out, Left.

I opened my gift, it was one of those sliding tile puzzles. Really lame, in my opinion, but anything was lame compared to what Kendra got. She opened her present. Everyone knew it was Michelle’s and everyone watched intently. It was this really cool, really nice Christmas decoration of Santa and his reindeer. And I don’t mean some child’s toy. This was a porcelain decoration that you would expect your parents to put on the mantle. Had I won that, I can guarantee you I’d still have it on display every Christmas. Eric’s present that had been intended for Michelle was also okay, it turned out to be one of those disposable point and click cameras, really not that great by today’s standards, but keep in mind that was during a time when cell phones didn’t really exist.

The lame present that I brought.
I don’t remember much of what I brought to these White Elephant parties. Mostly I don’t think I brought anything at all, since it was almost guaranteed that someone would forget so the teacher would just bring extra gifts. At this particular party I had brought a McDonald’s Happy Meal toy. A Bugs Bunny in a sport’s car/stretch limo. While I don’t know who brought the sliding puzzle that I got, I do know who got my Bugs Bunny toy, it was this girl named Brianna. I saw the expression on her face when she opened it, and I must admit I was a little heartbroken because the look of disappointment was unmistakeable. Basically it was a hard thing for me to give up a McDonald’s toy. I was collecting them, and the Bugs Bunny car was acceptable because I had two of them. I actually felt bad that I brought a gift she was unhappy with, because I knew it was going straight into the trash, much like my sliding puzzle was going to go swiftly into the trash. In retrospect what I feel worst about is the fact that I was kind of angry that I got such a lame present when I myself had brought a dud. I also now realize that I could have brought a better present if I had just asked my mom to get something.

With all this back-story it’s time I explained how all this White Elephant stuff ties into me admitting that I was wrong about something. For that I must tell you about the last time I played a White Elephant game. It was in 10th grade, in one of my classes. We played the traditional exchange game where you pick a random present out of the pot. I wasn’t lucky enough to go last, but also not unfortunate enough to go first. I went somewhere in the middle. There were already a few select gifts out there, so I could have gone for something moderate and then hope that everyone after me would go for higher profile items, but I wanted to live on the edge. I wanted to take a chance, so I decided to grab a present at random and open it. It was a pretty plain looking package. Almost a perfect cube. Not too big to stand out, but not so small that there was no chance it was something interesting. I opened it, and to my dismay it was a denture cleaning kit. A denture cleaning kit! If anything was a dud, this was the dud among duds. It wasn’t even useful. Not one person in that group had dentures. I mean, we were in high school. There was no way anyone in that group would need dentures. I was flat out angry that this was my present. Once you have a dud present you don’t really get to play anymore, because no one is going to exchange that gift with you. I was out of the game, and I had a bitter attitude through the rest of the party. I wanted to drop swear words, I wanted to storm out of the room. I wanted to pout, I wanted to cry, I wanted too... Okay well maybe not that extreme, but basically the rest of the game was pretty boring for me, and I was at least somewhat bitter.

I left the present there, sitting on my desk. I didn’t even bother throwing it away. I wanted the next person to sit in that desk to see the denture cleaning kit and wonder why it was there.

I was wrong, though. And surprisingly, it wasn’t just my negative attitude that made me wrong, though that was part of it. This was one of those White Elephants where I didn’t bring anything. I counted on the extra gifts to cover the fact that I didn’t bring one. Certainly Karma frowned on me for that reason alone. I mean seriously, I didn’t even bring anything, and I expected to have as much fun as the next man? I was begging for a denture cleaning kit. Now that might be enough reason for most people to admit that they were wrong, but it’s actually more extreme than that. That reason is that the denture cleaning kit would have been a good present for me, had I actually kept it. You see, while the product name was Denture Cleaning Kit, amongst the other uses for the product was retainer cleaning and it just so happened that I had a retainer at the time. It was probably in my mouth even I was telling my friend Casey about how disappointed I was. Out of the spite that I gotten a dud present, I didn’t even put two and two together.

A denture cleaning kit. Also good for retainers.
Now, anyone who has had a retainer knows just how nasty those things are. They are in your mouth then they come out of your mouth. Over time they just get nastier and nastier. Eventually a layer of residue just sort of forms over them. Even those that don’t have retainers know how gross it is to see one sitting on someone’s lunch tray. The only method I ever used for cleaning my retainer was brushing it with a tooth brush and toothpaste. How much greater it would have been to actually have the thing sitting in a little tub designed for cleaning objects that go in your mouth. This could have been a great present that would have made my retainer just a little less nasty, and I, out of pride or selfishness or whatever other negative attitude you can associate with my decision, threw away that opportunity. I was wrong, and I know it.

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