I don't want to insinuate that my academic performance in elementary school classified me as a super genius, so instead I'll state it definitively: my academic performance in elementary school classified me as a super genius.
Just joking! At best, I was a mid-level genius - but that didn't stop me from thinking I was the greatest mind this side of middle school. Nobody called me a genius, of course (that would have made the other students - the "normals," if you will - feel inadequate), but I suspected my teachers revered my intellect the way ancient Egyptians revered the extraterrestrials who built the pyramids for them. Indeed, I imagined that my teachers donned robes and held torch-lit meetings in the faculty lounge to honor my brilliance by chanting, prostrating themselves before my life-sized cardboard likeness, and sacrificing small rodents.
Being a living legend, however, wasn't all it was cracked up to be. By the time I reached fifth grade, the pressure to maintain my slightly above-average record had turned me into a neurotic misfit. Not only was I friendless - perhaps because I referred to myself in the royal "we" and called my classmates "plebeians" - I also lived in terror of getting a bad grade.
Imagine, then, the sense of soul-crushing doom I felt when I found a math test with a 57 scrawled across it in my classroom mailbox one Friday afternoon. I shoved the paper back into my mailbox, as if holding it longer than a second or two would brand my hand with that unspeakable number, and spent the weekend cowering beneath my bed, weighing my options.
As I saw it, I could either take a job at a Vietnamese sweatshop (where my go-getter approach to backbreaking manual labor might get me promoted to assistant manager by the time I turned 13), or stay home and accept my fate as a dunce with very disappointed parents. Unable to choose between such unpalatable alternatives, I slogged back to school on Monday with my life savings (totaling upwards of $23.48) in my pocket and every intention of bribing my teacher to change my grade.
But it never came to bribery. No, I didn't steal my teacher's grade book and switch my 57 to an 87, and no, I didn't take my classmates hostage and demand a jet to fly me to Vietnam. When I looked at the math test again, I saw that it actually belonged to the student whose mailbox was above mine.
Elated, I put the test where it belonged and vowed never to see a 57 at the top of any of my actual papers. And I never did. As my academic career progressed, I saw quite a few 63s, and even a handful of 42s, but never, thank goodness, a cursed 57.
Dan Leonidas makes shallow observations. E-mail him at email@example.com or read his blog at theshallowobserver.wordpress.com.