Tuesday, July 21, 2009

From the Vault: High School Presidency

My freshman year of high school I decided to run for class president.

I'm not sure why I had this desire--I came from a small primary/junior high combo school and was unfamiliar with the vast majority of my classmates, I had maybe three friends (only one of whom would probably vote for me), I hated public speaking, and I was a great big dork--but I did and so I threw myself face-first into the shit.

I collected the necessary signatures to get on the ballot from people in my honors classes who couldn't care less. I filed the paperwork. I made ugly little posters in anticipation of the day we were allowed to plaster the hallways, in the home stretch of the campaign.

That day finally arrived and my mom dropped me off at school early. I started hanging posters at one end of the large, three-floor school, planning to zig-zag my way through, weaving up and down the multiple staircases, strategically choosing my placements along some vaguely scientific lines.

Not long after I started taping up posters that probably said things like "Charlie is the best!!!" and "Vote for Charlie!" surrounded by shiny colored stars, my doting guidance counselor spotted me in the hallway and insisted on helping out--"Together we can do it in half the time!"

As we chit-chatted awkwardly--I hate chit-chat; she was my guidance counselor--the halls began to fill with students arriving for the school day. We made our way up the main hallway, doubling back over some covered ground to hit one section of the second floor we missed earlier.

As if pulled from an afterschool special, two big, loud football players grunted, shouted something about how my rival ruled, and tore down all my posters we hung ten minutes ago, oblivious to who I was, what I looked like, or the fact that I was standing right behind them.

It was pretty humiliating.

It would have been bad enough had I witnessed the offense alone, but the presence of my no-doubt-stricken guidance counselor only made matters worse. What was she thinking about me now? What was she thinking I was thinking about me? What was she thinking were her options as far as what to say to me, immediately, in an 'awesome guidance counselor' way? What should I have said to her?

I don't recall what was said; my hunch is that neither of us said anything.

From there, things only got worse.

On Election Day, I was required to participate in four or five debates, held during the four or five different lunch periods at our school during the middle of the day.

The good thing was I was excused from most of my classes for the day. The bad thing was I had to debate a really popular girl from a huge feeder school whose confidence and constituency dwarfed mine as a giant would a fly.

I had prepared myself for all matters of policy, chosen my stance on all potential issues, prioritized the bullet points of my platform...and faced a barrage of questions like so:
"If you were a candy...what kind of candy would you be?"
Her answer: "M&Ms--I melt in your mouth, not in your hand."
By the third round, I didn't give a shit about anything anymore. It didn't matter whether I went first or second--her answer was always better. I'd already been embarrassed in front of my older brother, my teachers, most of my classmates, my friends, my enemies...for what more had I to live?

Cue Senor Palacio, my Honors Spanish teacher and the head of the Freshman Cabinet, who stepped in to watch this round. The pressure should have been on, bigtime, but it wasn't. I had already surrendered, was already defeated before I even stepped on the platform two hours ago, before I hung my first poster.

This girl was from a huge junior high, she was popular, she wanted it badly, and once the debate started, it seemed as though she had practiced for this exact situation. It would be one thing to be beaten in a pure game of numbers--this girl had me flat-out out-played, as well.

By the time the moderator offered up "What is your favorite part of your body?" I had nothing left. The two guys who made fun of me relentlessly for four years, for fifteen minutes every morning, were sitting in the front row and made a suggestion: "Your dick! Your dick!"
"My dick."
The microphone and speakers performed excellently--I thought the word would bring the walls down. The audience was aghast--even my tormentors were speechless, didn't think I would actually say it--and Senor Palacio turned his head, disappointed.

Did I have any regrets? No. I could never have won that election and, thus, it didn't matter what I said out there.

Did I wish I would have devised a more successful campaign? No. Once I realized what the actual duties of the President were, I was relieved they were not of my concern.

I was right where I wanted to be, it turned out--I was the nerdy guy who said 'Dick' into a microphone in front of 250 people at school and got away with it.


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