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Saturday, February 20, 2010

That’s One Point for Me, I Guess

While I’ve never been entirely comfortable with my athletic capacities outside of, say, running madly from scary things and the ability to square dance like a crazy person, I am quite comfortable with my brain.

I like my brain; and while those who have witnessed my efforts to pickle it on occasion may disagree, I persist in believing that I act in its best interest.

It’s a good brain, and despite what you may hear from an unfriendly press – Tiger does too love me! – I have had opportunity to use it several times.

I’ve not always been happy about being smart, though, and at one point in elementary school, whilst moving, once again, from one small town to another, I pretended that I was not.

Raise my hand? Who? Me?

I went from jamming my entire arm into the air every time the teacher asked a question to feigning ignorance to just about everything.

What? Answer a question? Me? Nope. I’m just the new kid.

We stayed at that particular school for a year and then moved again. Tired of pretending that I didn’t know anything, I resumed my question-answering ways.

In my late-20s, I returned to school to become a court reporter; and while there I took several classes I didn’t really need, one of which was shorthand.

The shorthand class was part of the Secretarial Sciences program, a one-year course designed to turn recent high school graduates into employment-worthy receptionists, secretaries, and administrative assistants.

It was, of course, difficult to simultaneously learn two forms of shorthand at once; but I cleverly retained the majority of the manual shorthand for a period of perhaps three years, tops, whereupon I purged it from my brain in favor of more crucial information such as memorizing drink recipes and who played guitar in what band.

The shorthand teacher was a tall, bird-like woman intensely devoted to her students; and the day I walked into class, her bright little eyes positively shone with excitement.

Poor Miz Bird. She was competitive, a Lucille Ball sort of character in her belted dresses and high heels; and it pained her that a court reporting student was taking her class. She very much wanted one of her students to outshine me – not for personal reasons, you understand, as she didn’t know me – but in a we-got-spirit-yes-we-do-we-got-spirit-how-about-YOU? sort of way.

Poor Miz Bird. Her students were, across the board, 18 years old and hung-over on a daily basis. The freedom of leaving home and attending a community college was heady stuff; and they celebrated, nightly.

Me? I had a six-year-old at home and more trouble than I could shake a stick at. I needed this degree.

Miz Bird gave us spelling words every Monday.

It was important that we were well-rounded.

“I know we’re all looking forward to Friday’s test,” she chirped one day. “And I hope that my girls are going to show our little court reporter here how we do it in the Secretarial Sciences!”

Full-time school, child at home, part-time work, I didn’t have a chance to look at the words until Wednesday night; and while I would not say I am psychic, I had a strange feeling about one of the words. I had heard of it, I knew how to spell it, but I didn’t know what it meant. Suspicious and dead tired, I looked the word up and promptly fell asleep on the couch.

In the morning, Miz Bird hopped excitedly on her long slender bird legs from one desk to another. She had a surprise for us.

We weren’t going to have the spelling test Friday. In fact, it wasn’t a spelling test at all! It was a vocabulary test and we were having it today! Surprise!

But judging from the looks on the faces of the other gals in the room – and judging by the way they all turned to look at me – the only one in the class that was to have been surprised was me.

The test was aloud.

Missy, what does “nubile” mean? Patti, what is the meaning of the word “desultory”?

Oddly enough, Missy and Patti, best known for their having lip-synched to Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” at October’s Fall Dance and Cow Patty Bingo Extravaganza, knew both words.

I would’ve bet against it.


I looked up.

“Perhaps you can tell the class the meaning of the word “apogee”?”

It was the word. The word I had looked up last night.

The bright young faces in the class, smiling expectantly, turned to look at me, the Old Lady in the Room. There were only 28 women in the Secretarial Sciences program, and I wasn’t one of them.

“Apogee,” I repeated thoughtfully. “I believe that’s the highest point in an arc, isn’t it? The summit?”

Miz Bird’s face fell, as did the rest of the class’s.

It was a small triumph, but a small one.

And I had really needed a triumph.


SparkleFarkle said...

Whenever I use the word "apogee" (which is at least once a day ~~ EXAMPLE: "Apogee whiz, can you quit hanging your dirty underwear on the doornob?!"), I will think of you answering Miss Bird, when the "smarts" smarted juuust right!

The mad woman behind the blog said...

I got nothing. But I didn't want to lurk AGAIN. Keep 'em comin, Pearl. Thanks for a great Sat. morning pick me up.

Zaedah said...

I happen to like your brain as is. In fact, I have constructed a shrine to its wonder. No bird people can enter and there shall be no Benatar karaoke allowed. I tend to it daily by reading from Websters and never. NEVER. forget to offer some sweet nectar to it at the conclusion of worship.

Anonymous said...

Pearl, my dear, you have a fine brain indeed. In fact, If I had only half your brain then I would be extremely happy.....and maybe a wee bit confused to as my brain tends to like its space!

Menopausal New Mom said...

Shorthand! OMG, I had forgotten I had even taken that a lifetime ago. We took Gregg and believe it or not, I can still do it, just tried to write a sentence and I've still got it. Maybe my old brain ain't so bad after all!

IB said...

I used to want to be dumb. Then I went to college for a coupla years and spent all of my energy killing off as many brain-cells as I could. Eventually I destroyed enough grey-matter to achive my goal of stupidity, which just goes to show, if you are committed, and work hard enough, you get what you want, or at least, what you need.

IB said...

I meant "achieve". See? dumb after all.

Marla said...

I wasn't the pretty girl, the popular girl or the smart girl. I did my best to be invisible. Hanging out here with you, Pearl, is exciting. I am in the cool girl group.....finally!!

Kavi said...

Brain and achievement dont go well together. Some of the super achievers are real dumb ! And some really super folks have nothing to show.

Now..what do i do ? For i believe anything can happen

Barbara Blundell said...

I thought an apogee was what you gave to people when you had offended them

Amber Star said...

You have the cleverst people commenting on your blog...I swear. Like someone I was very bright when younger and turned to acting stupid followed by drinking myself stupid. One day I actually wanted to be smart again, but I was only halfish smart. Hopefully that will be enough...actually I'm not sure at all. I looked away from the computer to the tv and then your awards caught my eye...and well,by then I'd forgotten what I wanted to say. :)

powdergirl said...

Thats just beautiful !

I'm a word-nerd, can't read a word I don't understand without looking it up.

In the sixth grade I had a very competitive English teacher, she wanted the definition for 'epitome', I hated her,she hated me, and so it was with great delight that I first corrected her pronunciation of the word, and THEN defined it for her : )

(she said 'epee- tomb" smirk.)

These little old victories still make me smile : )

CatLadyLarew said...

I took Gregg shorthand in high school... back in the days when women were destined to be secretaries, teachers or nurses. (That is until they could snag themselves a husband and stay home and tend to their families.)
I ended up opting for none of the above and got a degree in Therapeutic Recreation just to be different. But eventually I ended up as a teacher anyway, ten years after graduating from high school. Not a bad gig... especially since I sucked at shorthand.

Chantel said...

Triumph rocks. An absolute apogee in career of distinguishment......er, what?

Love your brain.

Brian Miller said...

i use that word all the time...glad to know what it finally means. nice points. smiles.

Lynn said...

YOU! Hit them with your best shot!
Way to go!

Douglas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Douglas said...

Brains are very sexy things, Pearl. Or at least lusty. Put something lacy and sheer on it. I knew that word, apogee, well because I was well acquainted with the early space program where they sort of threw the astronauts up in the air and they fell back before attaining orbit. I still know it because it seems to show up a lot in crossword puzzles. And, of course, the apogee of my golf shot is about where it hits the limb of any tree nearby so I see it often enough...

The Retired One said...

I love that!!! You showed them Pearl!!!
I was an Air Force Brat...we moved a lot too...so I know all too well what it was like being the "new kid" at all those schools. Looking back, I don't know how I did it...
looking back, I understand some of my personality now because of it (both good and bad).
But we are SURVIVORS, no????

Lo said...

Hi, Pearl
Just want to tell you that I have nominated you for the Beautiful Blogger Award. Love your blog.
Don't stop.
Love, Lo

Anything Fits a Naked Man said...

YES!!! LOVE it!! Pearl RULES!!!

Cloudia said...

Yea, Pearl!!!!

Aloha, Friend

Comfort Spiral

Anonymous said...

Great story Pearl. So glad YOU won that round... I too remember those shorthand lessons... Oh - and touch-typing class too.

Jimmy Bastard said...

Shorthand... isn't that what the kids use these days when they text? Or am I getting confused with the word 'Gibberish'?

Roses said...


Who needs brain cells? They just get in the way of the alcohol.

I loved your triumph. Good to see you still do.

Mrsblogalot said...

I love a good take-that triumph story!!!!! Awesome!!!

Gaston Studio said...

Great use of the old bean! One of the reasons I love my Kindle so much is the builtin dictionary.

Anonymous said...

I never could understand what shorthand is or why they used it. It is obsolete now, isn't it?


Warty Mammal said...

I almost feel sorry for Miz Bird. Almost.

Pat said...

Summer of 1966...I was 18 and I had Miz Bird in a community college shorthand class. She gets (got) around! I'd been accepted to UCR (Univ of Calif Riverside) and thought shorthand would come in handy for note-taking in college lectures. I used it every now and then but never transcribed it, so it wasn't of much use to me and I forgot it all except for how to write Pat. I'm still really good at writing Pat in shorthand...like riding a bike.

WrathofDawn said...

I used to be quite good at Gregg shorthand back in the Jurassic era, but would be pretty rusty at it now.

The Miz Birds of this world toast my buns! What is WRONG with these people that they can't stand a person trying to improve their lot in life? Do they WANT to teach nothing but hung over teenagers? You'd think she would have been pleased to have encountered someone with a bit of enthusiasm.

I ran into a similar situation in business college. Never wanted to be a secretary but figured it was a quick course and would put food on the table until I figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up. And yes, still working in an office, although technically not a secretary.

So. Had already taught myself to touch type (nerd) and taken a year of typing in high school (because they wouldn't let girls into the drafting class back then) so was a half-decent typist when I started the secretarial course. This pissed off the typing teacher (in actuality the owner of the school, who had kept the typing teacher on just long enough to teach us the basics, then fired her - he couldn't teach his way out of a wet paper bag), who questioned whether or not I was cheating after EACH and EVERY timing test because I was doing so well. Hated his guts. It was especially galling since most of the class WAS cheating at every opportunity and I was one of the few who wasn't because a) I didn't need to and b) I'm not lazy and c) I thought I might actually NEED the skills they were teaching when I got a job.

Grrr... Issues? Moi???