You ever been on the Midway among all of the barkers goading you to spend your money? I always like the guy who guesses age and weight. You know this guy—he makes you step on the scales after he gives you the once-over and writes a number on a piece of paper. When he gets you for a buck and is within two pounds of what you thought was a secret because you wore black, he says he’ll guess your age for double or nothin’. Whoa, Nellie.
Two minutes later he has another few bucks from you, he gives you a cursory, “Thanks for playin.”—and you are dismissed as he begins barking at his next mark.
Second graders can be like this.
A group at Pleasant View allowed me to share the stubbornness of characters in Dr. Seuss’s “ZAX” story. It is a brief tale that plays second fiddle to the title story in the old favorite, The Sneetches. Zax are obtuse characters whose behavior sparks a great talk among elementary classmates. We finished our discussion about the wisdom of getting along, and as usual I asked the kids about their reading choices, whether or not they have siblings, and other fun small talk that helps me know our schools’ bright and curious seven-year-olds (most of whom sport partially toothless smiles).
Just as our twenty-minute session was about to end, a little guy sitting near the middle blurted out, “How old are you?”
Doh! I should have just given him the accurate, if not flattering number.
Almost as though it was someone else, I heard myself say, “Well, how old do you think I am?”
Halfway through my ill-advised answer to the young man’s question with a (stupid) question, I felt a sinking feeling in my gut. Here it comes.
Thoughtfully, the young man looked me over for a few seconds that seemed to last a long time.
His words were not meant to be unkind. As I watched him talk, I could imagine him in grad school describing the assigned fact situation in a contract law class.
“Um. Well. You look like* you’re about 67, but I bet you’re older.”
Other kids nodded slightly, as though to concur.
Kid stuff. Priceless. Happens here every single day.
Superintendent of Schools
*I called my wife from CVS while on the way home that same evening. I asked her if she could help me buy a suitable face cream that would reduce wrinkles and rejuvenate my skin. She hung up on me, but that’s a story for another blog post.