Two years ago I couldn’t spell diphtheria.
Last year was so traumatic, I don’t even remember what word I missed.
This year, I was finally going to win it all. Maybe I was the LeBron of spelling bees? Maybe the third time was the charm for me (at this point it’s looking like it might be the charm for him).
Yup, it was time for the annual spelling bee at Intercourse Heritage Days. I got in line and had to laugh right away, I mean, how many times in life can you say you are competing against a jolly Amishman?
My first word? Parliament. Can I just say that it is slightly nerve-racking up there? Speaking to crowds doesn’t bother me, but you’ve got 250 people sitting in lawn chairs watching you as you try to spell out long words. Even if you know the word, even if you really don’t care what you look like up there, it’s still not easy.
P-A-R-L-I-A-M-E-N-T. Got that one.
There’s an older woman, I think she’s mennonite, who seems to win this spelling bee every year. She can barely hear the word as it’s given to hear. Sometimes she makes them repeat it 3 or 4 times. But once she hears it, she’s money.
My next word? Quarantine. Okay, I should have this one. It’s not a tricky word and I actually have to use it from time to time at the day job.
Q-U-A-R-A-N-T-I-N-E. Phew, two-for-two.
I’m not a huge conspiracy theorist, but I swear the moderator of the bee picks and chooses words depending on who’s up there. You can tell he’s jumping around on his list from person to person, and when the person in line in front of you gets a word like ‘system’ or ‘ladle’ or ‘weigh’ it makes you want to scream at him like an NBA superstar complaining about a foul.
I step up to the line and get my third word. Exaggerate. Oh crap. Is there a double ‘g’ or a double ‘r’? I’ve spelled this word plenty of times. I picture the word with two g’s, that seems right. I picture the word with two r’s, that seems right too. Which one is it? People are watching, I’ve got to start…
Am I going to double up here or later? Why am I in this spelling bee, anyway? What kind of idiot am I for doing this every year? Do I do this just so I can get a blog post out of it? Not sure that it’s worth it. I know this word…and yet in this moment I have no idea what I’m doing.
Screw it, you know that idea that hit me in line 2 minutes ago? If I mess up this word I am totally doing it.
Poop. The moderator spells the word correctly for all of us. Thanks buddy, I knew why I screwed up, but I appreciate you reminding everyone how easy of a word that was.
I’ve only got a second before the next person takes my place at the front of the stage so I clear my throat and decide to go for it. “I just want to say,” I announce into the microphone, “Happy Birthday to the town of Intercourse, PA!”
And boom goes the dynamite.
I hear a few scattered snickers and belly laughs, but I think mostly people are confused. The moderator gives a nervous chuckle and probably makes a note to give me the hardest words on his list if he sees my face next year.
I walk over to Erica who is laughing despite a look that says ‘don’t you dare come sit next to me you doofus.” I sit down next to her on the lawn anyway, rejected at yet another spelling bee FAIL. For better or worse, right? Even if I’m a spelling-challenged idiot.
The Amish guy in front of me in line? He lasted an extra word than I did, finally get stumped on ‘deceive’.
The old Mennonnite woman who always wins?
She won again.
Oh well, there’s always next year’s Intercourse birthday bash.