I was 10 years old when I got it. It was my second year at Calhoun Street Elementary in Anderson, South Carolina and I was in Mrs. Allen’s fifth-grade class. I was very shy after learning in the fourth grade that my thirst for knowledge wasn’t a sure bet for social status. No wait, it was a sure bet to be at the bottom — loathed and disliked for being a brain. I started to keep more to myself.
Back then I was into science. I wanted to be an astronaut — something that was probably left over from watching the moon landing when I was two. No, the real one. The staged one was canceled before it aired by NBC because the effects back then were just not realistic enough so all the networks put up money to shoot the human race to the moon simply to sell commercials. Capitalist pigs. I digress…
We were learning about the weather including a project to keep track of the temperature. Oh, how I loved going out to check the temperature. I shuddered as each hour passed. Tiny trickles of anticipation would roll down my inseam waiting for the minute hand to reach its pinnacle so I could shoot my hand up, volunteer to go out, read the thermometer and write the temperature on the board. Then I would sit down with a fair amount of smugness craving a cigarette and a nap. Oh, yes, meteorology is sexy. Why else would I want to go back to school and study it?
Two years before, my family was living in Randolph, Utah. Randolph? High up in the Rocky Mountains sitting at 6,290 feet covering an entire square mile in the ‘tab of Utah’ is a town known for its agriculture and mining. It snowed there believe it or not. A lot. I just called my mom — who is there right now — who told me that one blizzard while I was walking to school, I completely disappeared under the snowfall a half block up the road. She called me back and walked me to school.
You see, living there you can tell when the snow storms are coming in — the cold, fresh smell of frozen humidity always hits before the storm does. Up there, your senses are important and it’s good to learn to listen to them.
Flash forward again to Calhoun Street Elementary. (Dizzy yet?) I think it’s early December. I’ve already checked the thermostat twice, the weather geek novice I am. The temperature is dropping faster than Florida Representative Bob Allen in a public bathroom. Allegedly! My third trip out, I smell something that I haven’t smelled in two years. It’s that wonderful clean smell of a storm approaching. Walking back in the classroom — each class had its own outdoor patio area — I notice most everyone look at me. I had an audience.
“I smell snow,” I declared with feigned confidence.
Oh, the harrumphing and scoffing that followed that little bomb. Kids screaming “You can’t smell snow!” and “That’s just crazy!” and “You’re a lying sonofabitch!” I may have only imagined that last one. Mrs. Allen called for silence and told the class that if I smelled snow then we would all just see since the conditions seemed to be right for it. The kids all eyed me like I had just reminded the teacher about that pop quiz she warned us about yesterday. I was under the microscope and found myself in the same situation I had in previous years.
Sweating profusely, hunched over and wishing I had never said anything, I prayed that it would snow so I wasn’t ostracized all the more. My hands were trembling. I couldn’t concentrate on what Mrs. Allen was saying. I was doomed. Doomed, I tell you. Doooo…
“Oh my God! It’s snowing outside!” interrupted some kid who obviously has the keen mutant power of observation — it only snows outside, idiot. Wait! It’s snowing? Oh, the sweet taste of a snowcone with validation syrup. All the kids and Mrs. Allen looked outside. I noticed the teacher smile and went to the board and scrawled in dry, white chalk for the entire class to see:
Howard The Snow Sniffer
You may think it’s funny, but I was so proud of that. That is until when I got into my 20’s and told someone the story. They laughed, but only because of the cocaine reference which ruined my childhood memory. Ruiner. I should just change the story to say that I was arrested when my dealers, Lanie and Sharlan, ratted me out and had my equipment confiscated: the Wonder Woman hand-held mirror and the plastic razors from my Fischer-Price Little Grocery Stock Boy set. And as I was dragged away, I screamed, “I’ll get you, you little dancing queen bitches!”. What? It was 1977. Hey, I saw Star Wars and discovered my snow-sniffing mutant power in the same year. I think that’s called Geek Destiny.
Teachers never give pop quizes over at Humor-Blogs.com!
Listening to: “Jealousy” – Pet Shop Boys