Monday, September 17, 2007

Has the Statute of Limitations for cheating on a spelling bee expired yet?

I'm pretty sure I won't get in trouble now. In fact, I know I won't get in trouble. I didn't know I was cheating. The adults made me do it. They gave me the list beforehand. It's not my fault I memorize things so quickly...

I was in 5th grade, and the smart-ass kid who lived down the street from me was finally gone to 6th grade, gone to the next school. When it came to spelling, he was the only kid who could beat me. He was very smart, though his intelligence didn't make up for his orneriness. I didn't lose by much to him the prior year--one word would have made all the difference. But 5th grade... 5th grade was my year to shine.

The class spelling bee was conducted orally. We all lined up on one side of the room and each attempted to spell a word given to us. As people misspelled their words, they sat down in their desk and stared intently at each contestant (in the hopes of overwhelming them with their laser-beam intensity). I forget what the last word was for the other person, but I remember knowing I could spell it right away. No one was surprised by my win.

The school spelling bee pitted me against another 5th grader and two 4th graders. We went to the cafeteria, were provided a pencil and a sheet of paper with twenty lines on it. Each word was said once, used in a sentence, and said one final time. I don't think I missed a word on that round.

Next, I faced the other 5th graders in the city. My principal gave my teacher a list of spelling words for me to study, and instead of helping me learn the words, she handed me the list. I immediately got to work memorizing each word and phonetic structure. I took the list home and had my father go over the list with me time after time. He pulled words from the dictionary for me, and I stumbled quite a bit on many of them. I was 11, after all. A few days later, the principal drove me to the district office where I faced my toughest competition. The boy from down the street was there too, but we were in different categories. His presence comforted me for some odd reason--familiarity perhaps? The district spelling bee was written as it had been in the school-wide bee. Other students got three or four words correct out of twenty. I pulled fifteen and caused quite a commotion among the adults.

On the way out of the building, my principal asked me, "How do you know how to spell those big words?" Um, well, I guess I know how to spell those words because I studied those words all week. My teacher gave me a list of them. He stumbled down the sidewalk, "You knew which words to study?!" Uh... yeah... I guess so. I mean, I didn't know which words would be used, but I had a good idea. He didn't say anything else the whole way back to the school.

Another few weeks passed and I went up to the tri-county level. I spelled against kids from Linn, Benton, and Lincoln Counties. I didn't know which words to study beforehand, and I ended up placing third. The first two places moved onto the State Spelling Bee that summer. Booooo!

You know that kid from down the street? I followed him to OSU, and I see him in passing every now and then. Thirteen years later, I still have a tiny bit of animosity toward him. Just a tiny bit. :)

I'm not sure what the Statute of Limitations is for cheating on a spelling bee is, but I'm pretty sure I can't get in trouble anymore. I didn't mean to cheat. The adults made me do it! It doesn't count, right?