Thursday, June 4, 2009

I Was A Smart Kid...I Think.

"If Ian's goal was to coast through high school with minimum effort, then he succeeded admirably."

This is more or less a direct quote from my father's memoirs...and I love it! The fact of the matter is that it's utterly true. I coasted in school but I tore through the after school program. Every day after school I'd hop on my dirtbike and meet up with my dirtball friends in the UNB woodlot. We'd send dirt spinning under our knobby tires in the woodlot's gravel pit. Most of my dirtball friends are now businessmen and doctors.

My father, whose income paid for my dirtbike (thanks!), has his PhD and is a lifelong lover of learning....a true scholar. He's a great role model in terms of higher education, with one exception: Dad refuses to acknowledge that Wheel of Fortune is educational/enlightening. No one is perfect, with the exception of Pat and Vanna. I have one brother who skipped two grades and entered university at barely sixteen years of age. My other brother is a doctor with three degrees. I believe that the long forgotten television series, Doogie Howser, M.D. was loosely based on the lives of my two brothers.

I can't think of any television show that reflects my childhood, though if I could pick one I'd pick the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off. I never jigged classes or sang in parades or interacted badly with the school Principal (one exception, grade four), but I've always thought of Ferris as a role model. I made it through high school with very average marks, but I had fun like brĂ¼der Bueller.

I did manage to get a degree of my own, but it took fifteen years and it spanned two centuries. I guess I traveled the coastal route to get to my University of Toronto graduation ceremonies in 2000. I did get on the Dean's List along the way, so my poor high school performance wasn't a reflection of my intelligence, it was more that my gas gauge of maturity was on empty during high school.

I'm not sure where my (lack of) high school aptitude came from. My mom never finished high school, but only because she was a child growing up in Scotland during World War Two. It was the norm, at the time, for girls to leave school and go to work at the young age of fourteen. I'm pretty sure that mom would have gone on to something bigger and better, if nothing else she might have become the Scottish national ping pong champion, while finishing her doctorate in Italo-American cuisine. Mom makes the best lasagna I've ever far. Mom's lasagna was so good that my brother, the doctor, would lick the last remaining piece in the pan to ensure that I wouldn't get it (he always was the smartest one, though I can lick him at ping pong now).

Amazingly, ping pong had it's origins in England during the 1880s. I always thought that it came to us on a container ship from China, like everything else. I assumed that it was first discovered on a back shelf in some dollar store. Boy, was I wrong. I guess that ping pong just sounds Oriental, though 'table tennis' sounds decidedly British. The term 'ping pong' was coined after the sound made by the ball, and not after a Chinese chicken ball or anything that would be found on a pu-pu platter. The Chinese just took the game to a whole new level, then sold it back to us.
They've reached the top of the manufacturing game.

The picture above shows me masquerading as a Reach For The Top high school student. At the age of forty-three, I would have been the world's second oldest teenager (damn you Dick Clark!). In fact, one of the teams at the Reach For The Top nationals had a player called Ian, I saw this as the perfect photo-op. It was the closest I ever got to being a smart kid.

As I write this I'm wearing shorts, my feet are up on the table and my hair is a mess. My former dirtbiking friends are stuck in the morning commute to work, looking in the rearview mirror and adjusting their ties.

I think that I'm the smart kid now. I may not get a pay cheque. I may not receive accolades from my colleagues or live in a big fancy house. I may not drive a sporty car but I am coasting through life quite nicely, even admirably.

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