Smoking, or non?

I did a lot of crazy stuff as a kid.

(This probably shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of you.)

In grade two, Ms. Nolan (full disclosure: I LOVED HER) asked us to bring in props for our “class store.” We were going to learn how to add and subtract integers through the purchase of goods on sale in our shop.

The student buying the products would have to add up the price of their groceries, while the cashier would have to calculate the correct change owed.

As a class, we were darned excited about this math unit.

Now, other kids brought in cereal boxes, soup cans (that had been – responsibly – cleaned and dried), kraft dinner packages, and egg cartons.

And what, you may be asking yourselves, did young Ethel bring to the project?

A jumbo box of Eggo waffles and an (empty, thank goodness) twelve-pack of Labatt Blue.

That’s class with a K right there folks.

For all you non-Canucks out there, LB is a kind of beer. And a pretty bad beer at that. (Actually, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t even exist anymore.)

Ms. Nolan must have been pretty flabbergasted, especially because our grade four buddies had come down to help us set up shop (literally) and bunch of them were play-acting drunk, slurring their words and taking pretend swigs from the bottles.

Needless to say, most of my props went home with me that day.

Though the Eggos stayed.

Flash-forward to grade five. We had a student teacher named Michael, who was wonderful and completely lovely.

He was patient and soft-spoken, was always excited and dressed really well.

(In my memory he’s about fifty-nine, but in reality the guy couldn’t have been older than twenty-six.)

And as a class, we used to make him sweat like long-tailed cat in a room filled with rocking chairs.

And I, I was a chief culprit of this stress (though not of my own volition or intention.)

Like I said, I just did weird stuff!

Case in point:

One of the assignments he got us involved with was a cross-Canada anti-smoking campaign, which was also a competition to see who, out of all the elementary students across the country, could create the best anti-smoking poster and catch phrase.

In order to participate, you had to finish the sentence: “If you smoke – …”

I’ll never forget the winner from the previous year, because my ten year old self thought it was absolutely freaking brilliant, and the poster looked like it had been drawn by a professional artist.

The winning poster read:

If you smoke, you’ll be hooked!

The accompanying picture was that of a really sad killer whale being fish-hooked by an evil (and obviously soulless) smoking henchman.

Aha, I thought to myself. This was what we had to live up to!

So what did I pull together you might ask? Did all my hard work ensure my victory?

Well, I’ll let you decide for yourself.

My slogan was: If you smoke, you’re just a butt!

Genius, right?

I mean, who would want to do anything that reminded them of bums? No one, that’s who!

My poster, while a little avant-garde, was sure to wow the judges.

This is (a recreation of) what I drew:

That’s a border of cigarette butts by the way.

Needless to say, I think Michael may have had a heart attack when he saw this.

He kindly let me know that there was no way, not for all the tea in China, that he was letting me send in a poster that depicted a bare ass smoking a cigarette.

I fought back hard.

Couldn’t he see how much effort I had put into it? Yes he could, he told me. Couldn’t he see where I was coming from? Yes he could, he told me. Didn’t he like my border of cigarette butts? Yes he did, he told me. Didn’t he think that the thought of putting your mouth on a bum would make kids not want to ever smoke a single cigarette in their entire life? Yes he did, he told me.

At this point I remember his face getting really red – not from anger I’m sure – but more from the fact that if he didn’t laugh soon, his entire head would explode.

In the end, I received an A on the project and I got to keep my slogan, but I had to go home that night and make a new poster.

So this was the one I sent into the competition:

(The stars are the cigarette butts – I was too lazy to draw them out again.)

Needless to say, I didn’t win.

But hey, it wasn’t a total wash. In fact, looking on the bright side, I don’t smoke, and if I ever hear someone say that a person has a “smoking ass” – well – only I know the real truth of the matter.

But like I said, crazy stuff guys.

CRAZY STUFF.

26 thoughts on “Smoking, or non?

  1. heehee.. love this. You were not unlike some of my own weirdness as a child. My idea of humour in animation class when I was about 10 was a comic strip featuring a chicken (or more specifically, a chick) crossing the road, that got run over instead, with detailed pictures to illustrate of course. I thought it was a brilliant twist of events. Hey, I even saved it and still have it in a drawer for safe keeping!

    • I think we would have been really good friends! What was the reaction of your teacher? I can only imagine…

      I really love that you’ve saved it – I wish so much I had my original, but, alas, all I have is the memory.

  2. David Eric Cummins says:

    LOL! I think the first poster idea would’ve won… And yes, we still have Labatt here in western NY and it is quite popular too!

  3. You are so hilarious! I think the ‘butt’ thing (that just sounds weird) was pretty clever and the first poster would only serve to really drive the message across :D

  4. mackerelskies says:

    Oh my goodness, between the Labatt’s Blue and the picture of an ass smoking a butt, my tummy hurts from laughing. If I’d ever actually wanted a kid, I’d hope to have one like you. Although let’s be truthful here, if she wasn’t when she came out, she certainly would have been by the time I’d had a 5 year head start on the public education system…

    On a side note, and re: children’s education, let me tell you my Brilliant Plan (and a story that keeps me from ever getting asked to babysit – that’s a side bonus). See, way, way too late in life (I was so very, very, very sheltered) I learned that women only feel sensation within the first (approximately) 2 inches of the vagina. This delighted me for the normal “ha ha boys and their size issues” reasons, but it also gave me a brilliant idea. One day I’m going to convince someone that I should teach sex education to children. And on that day I will teach the little boys that a woman only has nerve endings for the first two inches, and “anything after that triggers the Mantis Effect. Do you know what a mantis is, Jimmy?”

    And lo, I will be on the front page of every newspaper in the country, and I will be laughing like a rabid hyena.

    • Well, I’m glad I could bring the lolz. And as someone who is married to an educator, I read your comment out loud to my husband. He stood there with this blank expression on his face, took a moment before responding, and then just said, “too much”, before leaving the room.

      This in turn cracked me up, and so the laughter cycle continues…

      • mackerelskies says:

        Ba ha ha! The laughter has cycled back to me again.

        “He stood there with this blank expression on his face, took a moment before responding, and then just said, “too much”, before leaving the room”

        It’s amazing how much I get that reaction from people when I tell them my Best Ideas(tm). Out of curiosity, who does he teach? Are they young? Does he know of any job openings? Can I send in my resume and a detailed 40-page essay on my many other Best Ideas For Educating The Young And Deliciously Impressionable? (Seriously, this shit runs in my family. We have a long history of convincing the next generation down of the most amazingly terrifying stuff. I had an uncle that was afraid of the moon for years because his uncle told him that there really was a man in the moon, and that he liked to come down from the sky on nights when the moon was full and steal away sleeping little boys.)

        • He teaches high school english. No job openings unfortunately (this is BC after all – a very unforgiving place to be a teacher.) Although I bet you a hundred bucks if you sent your manifesto into the Province they’d publish it in a heart beat.

          • mackerelskies says:

            I’ll write the whole thing in Dr. Seuss rhyme to confuse them.

            “Would you do it with a bug?
            Watch out if you feel a tug!
            You should not push too far, young tyke,
            Lest off your head come, fast as light!”

            Seriously though, I’d have the best, least-informative sex ed class ever. I’d teach them about cat penises (barbed) and duck penises and vaginas (spiralled) and the bedbug method labelled, so cutely, ‘traumatic insemination’ and the amazingly bizarre (and short) life cycle of the male angler fish. Come to think of it, the pro-abstinence movement would probably love me. By the time I was done with the kids, the ones still even remotely interested in seeing each other naked wouldn’t even know where to start.

            And if you’re asking yourself “okay seriously, why the hell does she know so much about animal sex?” blame a mix of 17 years on the internet and too much nature TV. Or just edge away from the screen and reassure yourself and your husband that since I have no maternal instinct, and I enjoy sharing my ‘ideas’ with other adults, the chances of my getting within hearing distance of kids long enough to inculcate them with my manifesto is about the same as my winning the lottery.

            (If I win the lottery, I’ll let you know. By sending you a signed copy of my self-published sex ed book.)

  5. Christine says:

    You know what, I was just thinking about Michael the other day. He was so awesome. I still have the UBC folder he apologetically gave all of us on his last day, explaining that he couldn’t afford anything else. I’m glad to know you remember him fondly too :)

    • You still have that binder! Holy, good on you! I definitely remember him giving those to us. Man, he was just such a nice guy. Memories of that grade five class never, ever fail to crack me up. What a year.

  6. Bahaha! “The Mantis Effect”. Be afraid, educators of the world – be very afraid!
    Ethel, my lovely – I can just see you walking into class toting your waffles and your 12-pack! Awww, bless! If it had been me, I’d probably have taken a tin of corned beef and my dad’s fag-packet.
    (I bought some Labatt’s, years ago – ack! Gassy pipi-water! You know how some lagers are SO over-gassed that you feel you’re inflating like an unwholesome helium balloon?) Actually those commercials are considerably better than the beer…
    You should have won with the first poster! LMAO The master stroke was the fact that the butt was actually smoking a cigarette! HILARIOUS!!
    This tops my school excesses by some distance. I do remember failing O-Level Geography and being incredibly resentful about it because Mr X (I can’t actually recall his name), our young ‘n’ groovy Geog teacher whom I had wowed at every turn throughout the year with my witty comedic turn of phrase, told me to knock the laugh-lines on the head for the exam, because the examiners probably wouldn’t appreciate humour in exam question essays. I dutifully did as he said – and actually FAILED a subject that I’d been predicted an ‘A’ in! Ack! I was SO fed up – I’d muted my natural style on his professional advice, been bored out of my skull for two whole hours writing tedious po-faced drivel, and been rewarded with a big fat zero! Life lesson, people!

    Actually, the first time I really grasped the fact that I could make people laugh with my writing was not long before that, when I was in Middle School (a stupid educational experiment that happened in the UK in the mid-70s, where instead of going to junior school, then leaving at the age of 11 to go to High School, you went to Middle School for three years, thus doubling the upheaval. I think it was the bee in the bonnet of some government twit that got shoved through. Needless to say, mine was the first year that got whacked with this monumental Fail Whale of an idea. And somehow, it fails to surprise me that Northumberland still has Middle Schools! Strange, but true.). ANYway, I was 11 or 12, and our form teacher wanted some peace and quiet after she announced our annual Christmas outing, so she said we’d have a poetry-writing competition. We had to start with the same first two lines, which are engraved on my memory because they were penned by my serene best friend Susan (there were a lot of Susans in our year): “We are going ice-skating on the fourteenth of December, / It will be a day that we all will remember.”
    There was profound silence, broken only by the frantic scribbling noises of thirty kids mutilating line-endings. I stared at the lines for a long, long time, obediently but fruitlessly trying to think poetic thoughts, then there was a kind of mental ‘click’, and my pen-hand crept forward to add the following: “To watch the teachers pile up, / In a mound of groaning dead.”
    I’m not entirely sure what I was thinking – if I’d engaged my critical faculties even for an instant, I would have realised that this was NOT going to be the poem that won the prize and was read out in Assembly next week. But I just couldn’t stop. I lampooned the staff mercilessly, from the Head to the lanky music teacher, to the toad-faced, whiskery, humourless Needlework teacher Miss Stubbs (“Miss Stubbs, whiskers bristling, / Gaily whistling all over the ice. There she goes again, merrily sliding, / Past Mrs Boocock, snootily gliding.”).
    A week later, my form teacher Mrs Williams (Nicest. Woman. Ever.) called me to one side after registration, handed me my poem back (it was folded very small, and looked worn around the creases) with a conspiratorial smile, and whispered, “It’s very good. We’ve been passing it round the staff-room all week! But perhaps it would be best not to submit it to the competition.” I didn’t. The prize was won by a much more suitably poemy poem. But I didn’t care. I had felt that first warm awakening of the writer’s secret joy: I had made people laugh. Adults. Teachers, no less.
    And that was another life lesson!

    • Thank you so much for sharing these stories! I love, love that your teacher no only loved the poem, but that all the teachers loved it! Such a great way for the writer’s fire to be sparked! Although that is some weird crap about your geog test. Seriously, that is a teaching fail 101 right there. I guess that’s why you’re a writer and not a cartographer though, in the end? Which makes me happy, because as much as I would love to see maps drawn by you, I think I like your radtastic writing a bit more!

      I think my love of making people laugh naturally evolved from always doing crazy stuff. I just learned how to control the level of crazy so I could function in society and not end up in the looney bin, or incarcerated. Haha, I could only imagine if the two of us had come into the classroom together carting our shop goods – social services would probably be called! (Either that or our teachers would really want to party with our parents…)

      Ahhh, Ms. Kinetikat, you never, EVER, fail to bring a smile to my face!

  7. Great slogan! A friend of mine always says, “The only thing that I smoke is weenies on the BBQ!”

    Oh the scenarios our young minds get us into! The teacher must have got such a laugh over the kids acting fake drunk haha.

  8. This is seriously awesome! How could you not win for that poster?! I love that you still have it too. The student teacher must have been dying to keep a straight face…

    And the Labatt Blue, if only you had known how inspiring you would be to those 4th graders. ;)

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