When I was in third grade, the class’ computing resources consisted of three or four old Apple IIe computers. This isn’t because I’m that old, it’s just because the school I went to was a bit late to jump on the whole computer bandwagon.
The venerable Apple II was sort of the Chromebook of its day, dispensing with such trivialities as a hard drive. More than a few of my generation and older cut their teeth on the green-on-black monochrome displays of Number Muncher, Oregon Trail, and Wheel of Fortune. My class was no different. When we had indoor recess we would be allowed to play games on the computers.
(Surprisingly, I didn’t much take advantage of this. I had better games and a better computer at home, so for me there was not much interest there. I would usually spend recess drawing or inventing stories with my friend Matt or playing with more action-oriented toys.)
In that particular class there was a kid named Nick. At the time I thought he was a bully and a jerk. Looking back, he wasn’t really either of those things, he was just loud and obnoxious and unfiltered. It was probably good to get exposure to that kind of person early, since unfortunately their prevalence is only increasing.
Nick was attempting to play Wheel of Fortune. I say “attempting” because he was not that hot of a speller. This was before my crushing victory at the grade-wide spelling bee, but if I had a reputation, it was for knowing things.
(To be fair, if I had a reputation, it was probably for being weird. But if you asked someone which of their classmates would be most likely to know a thing, I suspect I’d be at least in the top three. Calling it a reputation might be grandiose, but I’ll take what I can get.)
In any case, Nick was stuck. He knew that the phrase he needed was “ocean liner,” but he did not know how to spell the word “ocean.” He had laboriously arrived at O C E _ N, but if he missed that last letter, he would lose. To avoid this humiliating fate, he came to get me.
I told him “put an A in there.”
I don’t know if he thought that I just didn’t know how to spell either or if I was deliberately trying to get him to lose, but he ignored my advice and chose a U. He, of course, lost.
I very clearly remember the feeling of self-satisfied smugness that came from being doubted and then proven right.