I’ve had a knack from way back of breaking the rules once I learned the game.
As many of you know, I’m not so much a fan of “authority,” or “structure,” or “rules.” I am a people pleaser, and I do try to be a good person, but I don’t like to be micromanaged.
Plus, I grew up in a pretty strict school where I learned early on that the smartest policy was “Don’t ask.” Don’t you hate those people, who ruin it for everyone by asking? “Can we do this?” “Is it okay if we do that?” And of course, the most obnoxious cretins of all: “Don’t we have any homework?”
NO. You just don’t ask. You follow the explicit rules, but interpret the rest for yourself. Otherwise you end up getting told “no” to everything, to the point where you rebel in a stupid way, like wearing a turtleneck and a “stylish” blue oxford shirt on picture day, and then you get in trouble. While looking stupid. Totally not worth it.
So I really don’t know what in the world my junior-year English teacher was thinking when he gave me creative license in the important project on Huckleberry Finn. I really don’t.
See, I was famous in my school for not only being a crackhead, but for being a crackhead who wrote raps for any given reason. I’d written an epic rap about Shannon’s love life in eighth grade, and from then on in, “Get creative” equaled “I wrote a rap.” Specifically, about tubeworms for Oceanography.
And Mr. Johnson, my English teacher, knew this. He knew me. I loved him dearly, because he was awesome, but he had to know that if he said to be creative that he deserved whatever he got.
I was not alone in the project. Mr. Johnson had divided the class up and given each group in the class questions about Huckleberry Finn that basically met each student on his or her English class ability. Which might sound bitchy when I say that I was in the top group, but a) it’s relevant to the story, b) I only WISH I could have participated in some bottom-feeding math or science group rather than pretend I had any skill in those subjects whatsoever, and c) Really, few things compare to the financial and societal desperation of English majors, who are basically all Career Students, ’cause it’s our big life skill, school.
So but yes, I was in the top group, along with Dare, a serious, very capable girl who ended up valedictorian, and Bethany, who before she awesomely scandalized herself by dancing at the (GASP) prom and not being allowed to graduate with the class, was quite the teacher’s pet — good at school, nice and respectful. They were both very funny, but usually more serious than I was when it came to these things, and maybe Mr. Johnson was thinking that those two would balance me out.
He should never have underestimated my powers of crackheadedness.
The questions he gave our group were very deep and philosophical, because we were very smart and serious students, you see. I don’t remember exactly what the questions themselves were, but I do remember that rather than address the deep, serious questions in a thoughtful, thought-provoking, well-researched paper? We got sarcastic. We made a newsletter, because when I wasn’t writing raps in school, I was creating newsletters. And man, was this newsletter obnoxious. Basically, we used every aspect of a “newspaper,” and did it in old-tymey style.
The newsletter was actually good, and did answer the questions. But it was definitely obnoxious, like I’m sure Mr. Johnson wasn’t expecting to see his questions answered in Aunt Polly’s Peach Pie recipe, or the gossip column discussing whether Tom and Becky were still together. But that is what happened.
What also happened is that we were not satisfied with simply creating a sarcastic newsletter. We had to dress up in full hoedown gear and throw the newsletter out to everyone, while shouting “Extra! Extra!” and just in general enjoying the excuse to be really loud, something I’ve never grown tired of.
So it was enjoyable, dressing up and yelling with two of the quietest girls in school during English class.
But it was not over.
“Press play when I give you the nod,” I commanded my bewildered teacher.
Dare, Bethany, and I left the classroom. And I gave the nod. And bippity boppity bluegrass music starts playing.
And then we did an interpretive dance.
Not to be gross, but I seriously don’t know how I kept from peeing in my pants that day, I seriously don’t. We kept dancing — pretending to be a river, pretending to be a raft. It was amazing. Because it had nothing at all to do with anything, it was more just like…dude, creative license! Why NOT do an interpretive dance?
So dance we did. And we ended up getting an A. To quote Mr. Johnson, “It wasn’t what I was expecting, but what can I say? You got the job done.”
© November 27, 2007