Do you remember the first time you won something? For me, it was probably when I was awarded second place in the sixth grade science fair. Of course, everyone in my class got either a first, second, or third place ribbon, so I wouldn’t consider the moment a biggie.
My science fair topic was Static Electricity. I chose this topic myself, and I have no idea why. It may be because I saw a photo in either my Ranger Rick or Dynamite magazines of something called a Van de Graaff generator, one of those spherical inventions that creates a charge that literally makes your hair stand on end when you touch it. It seemed like a potential crowd-pleaser. The only thing was, how was I going to get my hands on one?
Enter my genius grandfather, who could make or fix anything. I showed him the magazine photo, and he was more than up for the challenge. A few weeks later, he showed up at our house with an exact miniature replica of the generator. It was uncanny, really, with just one notable exception.
“Why doesn’t it work?” I said, turning the little hand crank on the side, and expecting my hair to shock itself straight.
Though my grandfather was probably hugely insulted by my reaction, it was really a testament to my utter faith in him. I truly believed that just by showing him that one photo, he could build me an electrostatic generator. In my eyes, he was that awesome. At the same time, I had a science fair to win, and I was hoping he’d deliver a little more shock value.
For some stupid reason, I decided not to include the faux generator in my presentation, so my science fair entry was ultimately pretty pathetic. On the front of my designated card table, I affixed a sign I’d painted with silver spray paint, on which I wrote the words STATIC ELECTRICITY!! framed by lightning bolts. And I had a basket filled with inflated balloons and different fabrics, which I invited the judges to rub together and shock themselves. The only real shock of the day was that I even managed a second place ribbon.
I know what you’re thinking: I got what I deserved, for expecting my grandfather to do my work for me. I haven’t forgotten that lesson. Though I also haven’t forgotten that two of the first place winners that day were
1. A guy who chose the topic “Surgical Staples.” Convenient, as his dad was a surgeon. More convenient, he dressed in his dad’s scrubs and had his dad’s videotape of a surgical staple demo running on a TV behind him, and
2. A guy who chose the topic “Video Games,” and merely set up his Atari. Talk about a crowd-pleaser.
Another lesson? Nothing in life is fair, people. We all just do what we can (and can get others to do for us) to get by.
Speaking of winners, the chosen entrant for yesterday’s DearReader.com contest is Laurie Lamb. Congrats!