Saving a snowball in your refrigerator all winter, then hitting someone with it in the middle of July: This actually worked just fine. But the successfulness level was undercut by the crushing realization — coming very soon after you had hit an unsuspecting six-year-old in the back of the head with a now-rock-hard iceball — that you were a jerk. Grade: B-minus
M.A.S.H.: No, not the horrible sitcom. This was the future-predicting game where you put down hopeful future residences, wives, cars, jobs, etc., and circled them at random. (The name of the game came from places to live — mansion, apartment, shack, house…) The game worked for certain categories; for example, I have lived in both “apartments” and what could also affectionately be termed “shacks.” However, as I have never married either Miss Piggy, Jennifer Brown from homeroom, Cagney OR Lacey, or any of the Los Angeles Lakers cheerleaders, I kind of want my money back. Grade: C
Sticking a thermometer under a hot light in order to make it look like you were sick (and thereby getting to stay home from school): Just like Eliot did in E.T.! This actually worked as advertised. I know ’cause I did it. Repeatedly. However, the dark side of this particular trick was that you then had to pretend to be really sick for the rest of the day, lest you be revealed as a faker. In fact, you had to act much sicker than anyone ever does when they are actually sick (theatrical coughing, soft moaning, really bad fake sneezes).
So, in retrospect… kind of not worth it. Pretending to sneeze all day is actually slightly less fun than going to school, unless you’re that girl from Welcome to the Dollhouse. And plus, when Eliot pretended to be sick, he used his time to save E.T. and improve Earth/Interstellar relations. I used my time to sit on the couch and watch Three’s Company. Depressing. Grade: C-plus
Sticking millions of metal thumbtacks into your sneakers in order to become, in the words of a friend, “Super-slidey, like Iceman in Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends”: A big disappointment. Even with a freshly-waxed school hallway, sticking lots of thumbtacks into your sneakers merely upgraded you from Not Slidey At All to More Likely To Trip. Oh, the shame of it all… Grade: D-minus
Generalized kid get-rich-quick schemes: These were generally so unsuccessful that you would’ve had better luck committing suicide and hoping that the big spinning wheel of karma reincarnated you as Ricky on Silver Spoons. However… the most popular format for a kid get-rich-scheme was a lemonade stand: lemons, sugar, water, and mothers to purchase and mix them for you being readily available at the time. Those who bought lemonade only did so out of a lingering sense of pity, and you rarely cleared the $15.00 it cost your mom to buy the damn cups and lemons anyway.
I didn’t go in for lemonade, though. My own personal get-rich-quick scheme (for which I enlisted my friends) involved, according to the terms of our mission statement, “Manufacturing high-quality mud pies for the U.S./Canadian market.” To do this, we dug a big trench in the side of the hill leading up to the school tennis court, and threw a lot of dirt around. Never made any mud pies, though. Also, by digging the trench, we destabilized the foundation of the school tennis court, which then needed to be repaired at a total cost of $22,000. It actually was $22,000, because I can still remember my dad yelling at me, “Twenty-two THOUSAND!” Um. Let’s move on. Grade: C-minus
Telephone made of two cans connected by a piece of string: I must have been the first person since the early 1890s to attempt this. My friend and I got the tin cans and the string. You’re probably supposed to bore holes in the tin cans using some ancient drilling device, but we just taped the string to the cans. I sure hope that didn’t affect the sonic vibration levels or create too much reverb for the purposes of the experiment.
And you know what? Couldn’t tell if it worked or not. We could hear each other just fine through the cans, but then, we only had three feet of string so it wasn’t like we were standing at opposite ends of the block. Plus, once we had made the “telephone” we started to get this real depressed, Lil’ Rascals, Tin-Can Alley, Depression-era, is-this-all-there-is? kind of vibe. Luckily a friend of ours came by at that point to see if we wanted to go to the arcade and play “Zaxxon,” so we were like, screw it. Grade: B
Running away to China with all your belongings on a stick: I remember always getting down in the dumps about the fact that I could never find an actual red-and-white spotted hanky to tie to my stick the way that actual hobos in actual cartoons always did. It was a little thing, but it lent an inauspicious aura to the whole running away concept, to the point where you started to wonder if hitching your way to China was really a good idea.
Plus, since I could never find the proper hanky, I was always like, well, screw the stick then, and without the hanky and the stick, you were pretty much just a kid walking down the street with a backpack, so that no one could even TELL that you were running away, which sort of defeated the original purpose of sticking it to your parents for being generalized meany-pants. Feelings of hopelessness and despair generally started to set in at around this point. Hopefully, around this time, you’d run into the same retarded friend who always wanted to play “Zaxxon,” so that you’d go to the arcade with him, instead of going any further down the street so that you ran into some kindly yet helpful stranger who would give you a lift in his car and then take you to the woods and kill you. Grade: C-plus , if you survived.
Subcategory – What did you take with you in your backpack when you ran away? My list always included lots of comic books and whatever was in the pantry at the time, which generally was the same bottle of maraschino cherries that I had taken with me the previous time I ran away. So, clearly, I was planning on living some kind of nomadic, sundae-based existence. Mini-grade: A
Side-note – As a concept, hitching your way to China was one step up from digging your way to China, which I also attempted. (I’d like to thank “Looney Tunes” and a Mr. Wile E. Coyote for planning this concept in my brain.) Digging your way to China resulted in unpleasantly dirty fingernails and the hope that oh God won’t Mom please call me in to dinner soon? Mini-grade: D
Carefully placing a bucket full of water on top of a door in order to fall on your nemesis, who, coincidentally, was just about to open that same door: This worked less well than anything. I just cannot emphasize enough how poorly this worked. Compared to this, Napoleon’s decision to invade Russia, Ricky Martin’s decision to release a second album in Spanish, and Mariah Carey’s decision to give the ol’ acting thing a whirl were perfectly crafted master plans of infinite wisdom. Problems with the bucket o’ water on top of the door plan included…
- You’re a kid. Doors are tall. How’re you going to get the bucket of water on top of the door? Are you really going to go dig out the old rusty ladder from the back of the garage? Really? Okay. Go for it, genius.
- While trying to carry a heavy bucket of water up a rickety ladder, you drop the bucket.
- Post-mopping, you successfully carry a bucket of water to the top of the ladder. While trying to balance the bucket on top of the door, you drop the bucket, hitting yourself in the face with the bucket.
- Even if you do get the damn bucket on top of the damn door, what potential enemy is not going to notice a bucket on top of a door, especially after the whole ladder/dropping/hitting yourself in the face fiasco?
- So, rather than springing your trap, you merely crouch around the corner down the hallway from the door, engaged in your lonely vigil, as minutes drag to hours, and hours drag to an entire afternoon, as your early excitement turns to stark depression, then rage, then moroseness, then introspection, and then, hey! Is anything on TV right now? Grade: F, for sure.
Pretending to ignore/being mean to a guy/girl on the playground, in order to get him/her to like you: …And it continues to work to even to this day… Grade: A-plus/F-minus