1. Playing cigarette chicken leaves terrible burns and upsets your teacher.
2. If you master the art of Looking Attentive, 95% of your teachers will assume you are actually Being Attentive. This is especially true when you went to my high school, which was largely made up of teachers like Mrs. Bra-Strap, Mr. Pervert, Mr. Ca-Ca, and Mrs. Moscow.
3. Don’t eat the cafeteria hamburgers, pasta, or pizza. The nachos are safe.
4. If you hide in the restroom at just the right time, you can elude School Spirit Rallies.
5. On the outside, you’re smiling. On the inside, you’re screaming so loudly that you wonder why no one can hear. That’s because everyone else is being deafened by their own internal screaming.
6. Your algebra teacher will tell you that learning matrices is important. Your teacher is lying. Unless you pursue a career in math, you will never use them again.
7. If you have a long name like I do, the computerized attendance sheet will cut it off at an embarrassing place. For four years, teachers will read off the abbreviated version daily.
8. The classes you want to take are not as important as the classes that will get you into college, and that will circle sad faces on your feelings charts.
9. Sometimes the second hand on the clock will move backwards.
10. The school attendance clerk does not moonlight for the FBI in handwriting analysis, even if she says that she does. A few days spent perfecting your mother’s handwriting, an intense study of grammar, spelling, punctuation, and adult buzz phrases on notes excusing you from class will fool the FBI imposter clerk every time.
In Explanation of 1-10
1. As to cigarette chicken, it was not I but a girl in my science class with second degree burns.
2. The Art of Looking Attentive when one is actually fantasizing about being anywhere but in high school contains several steps. One must set the scene: your notebook is open on your desk, and a pen is in your hand. There is a correlation between where you sit in the room and how much unwelcome attention from the teacher you receive. Sitting in the back is asking for it, for you are assumed to be screwing off even when you are not. Sitting in the front row also makes you a target, because if the teacher cannot find a text or needs to borrow your syllabus, the teacher will interrupt your reveries to use yours. Sitting in the second row is the wisest choice. Simply tune in every few minutes to look at the teacher (who does not know that you are really seeing a sexy lifeguard blowing kisses, or a steaming chicken-flavored Cup o’Noodles and cold soda, or a blood-frenzied Klingon warrior you are battling for your family’s honor in your mind) and scribble down whatever words he or she is saying, and return to bliss. If asked a question (as happens at times) simply track your writing instrument up your notebook and say, “Wait, I know I wrote that down . . .” Flick the page back and forth with notes from another day and let your brow crease with worry and concentration. Apologize for not being able to find it and take your best guess, but often your teacher will have moved on.
3. It’s better not to eat anything from the cafeteria.
4. By sophomore year, I mastered Restroom Timing and never went to a School Spirit Rally again. It is a careful dance with the proctors, who are looking for students loathing to yell, “WHO’S NUMBER ONE? WE’RE NUMBER ONE! WHO’S NUMBER ONE? WE’RE NUMBER ONE!” In truth, we were not number one. Our school was ranked #115 in the state, our sports teams were fair to middling, and I hate being in a room ringing with the noise of two thousand people screaming all at once. But the proctors and I did not see eye to eye on this issue, so I learned to hide behind the chemistry classrooms just as Proctor #1 passed by to search the Shop Rooms, and dart to the restroom next to the geometry classrooms to conceal myself after Proctor #2 searched them. Then one must be very quiet while Proctor #1 and Proctor #2 reconnoiter outside the west wall of the restrooms, and then one is home free to read or do homework or inspect graffiti in the can for forty minutes. If one feels like risking it, one can stand before the mirror fixing one’s hair part to perfection and wondering if anyone will notice in third period.
5. I never thought that high school would end, and I kept a countdown to graduation from freshman year.
6. Matrices? I should have taken Auto Shop.
7. And pity the boy named Benton, who spent four years among snickering students as teachers called, “Smith, Bento? Smith, Bento? Is there a Bento here? Bento Smith?”
8. The ‘stupid’ kids who weren’t going to college took Auto Shop and Home Ec and Life Skills, learning to change tires and oil, sew buttons and cook basic meals, how to create a budget and the ins-and-outs of credit cards. The ‘smart’ kids took calculus and Latin and physics to look impressive on their college applications. If I had to go back to high school, I would take Auto Shop and Home Ec and Life Skills. It would serve me far better in life than matrices.
9. Yes, the clock goes backwards, usually when the second hand is creeping past the 30 or the 0. It is very disturbing, and you will worry that you have been trapped in a time warp that will keep you in high school forever.
10. I should have charged for forgeries. I was that damn good.