Everybody at one time or another pretended to be sick in order to stay home from school, or gave it their best try. My mother had a pretty good policy to thwart these mock-sickness attempts, and it simply consisted of taking our temperature. If after 5 minutes of awkward under-the-tongue placement, the thermometer didn't show a fever, we were going to school. I made a few unsuccessful attempts at pretending to be sick that were defeated in just such a way. But one morning when I tried the, “I don't feel well” and the thermometer was stuck in my mouth, I had an idea. When my mother walked into the kitchen to prepare my sister's lunch, I took the thermometer and held it up to the lightbulb of the lamp next to me. I was so proud of myself for thinking of this tactic. It was genius. But wait… What if it gets too hot and the temperature is too high to be believable? What if lit light bulbs are actually cooler than our internal body temperature? It might not work! I heard my mother returning and quickly put the thermometer back under my tongue. She reached down and pulled the thermometer out. I looked up at her with the best sick/tired/pleading look I could muster, plus a forehead full of nervous sweat, which I think helped my case. 102 degrees Fahrenheit. Success! I was staying home.
Why did I want to stay home so bad? Did I really dislike 3rd grade (or 4th, I can't remember) that much? No, I actually quite enjoyed school then. The truth is, I wanted to stay home and watch the TV shows that you can only watch on those sickdays or snowdays… namely, Family Feud and The Price Is Right. We all watched these shows when we were younger (and I'm sure a few of us still watch them when we can), but the only times we could possibly see them was if we weren't at school. The week-long stretches of the flu or chicken pox were the best, when you'd get day after precious day of gameshows. In all honesty, I much preferred Family Feud to The Price Is Right. I mean, as a third grader, did any of us have a fucking clue what a washer/dryer set costs? I'd always end up guessing $100 for everything, because I couldn't conceive of a boring washing machine and clothes dryer costing any more. But Family Feud was different. “Name the top five things you might find at a picnic.” Even as a third grader I had a chance at this one. A blanket, a basket, sandwiches… Yeah, yeah, but what about ants! Somebody guess ants! I was always best at those not-so-obvious answers. Family Feud was great, but one thing that The Price Is Right did have going for it were the showcases. Those enormous prize packages that the two winners get to bid/guess on. New cars, sailboats, jetskis, trips to Europe, Hawaii, etc… I did always feel bad for the guy that got stuck bidding on the “New dining room” showcase while his oppenent was playing for a chance at 4 cars and a supermodel. The price guesses for the showcases boggled my mind even more. While I would guess $100 for pretty much everything else, I'd get outrageous and guess a whopping $1000 for that showcase. And then the contestants rattle off numbers like $22,460.19, and my jaw dropped. “Mom, how much is $22,000?” Oh well, there's a rerun of Family Feud on, I'll go back to that.
“And the number one answer… surveeeeey saaaaaays… ANTS!”