Do you guys remember first grade? Squeaky teacher who wore vests with apples appliqued on them, an alphabet frieze stapled on the walls, nap time? Yeah, that’s the one. On the surface, first grade seems like a pretty good time. It’s definitely the shallow end of the educational swimming pool. Sometimes, there’s even a fun slide. However, the RCS has determined that it’s JUST POSSIBLE the first grade made us the pack of underachievers and general assholes that we are today.
The biggest problem with first grade (aside from all the pee and boogers) is the grading system. There are three levels of achievement in first grade: “N,” “S,” and “E.” “N” stands for “Needs Improvement,” “S” for “Satisfactory,” and “E” for “Excellent.” It doesn’t take very many little kid brains to figure out that the goal here is to get a “Satisfactory.” If you get an “N,” your Mom has to come and talk to the teacher, and that could be bad — especially considering that you might have told said teacher that you went with your parents on their Costa Rican honeymoon, that you have a tank of live electric eels in your living room, and that your actual middle name on your birth certificate is “Lady Hawk.” Moms get really pissed off when their kid intimates that they’re some kind of 70′s style child propagating, pre-marital sex having, jungle whore. She thought the eels were funny, though.
So, that’s what you do. You rock the hell out of the middle ground, bringing home “Satisfactories” and spinning a web of lies that probably STILL has that apple polisher confused. Sometimes you might score an “E” — but only if the category is something you’re naturally good at. I always got accidental “E’s” in reading because the Rev taught me how before I went to school. I was so good at reading, in fact, that I read the entire SRS Reading Challenge box on the first day of classes. My teacher got so frustrated with me that she handed me her Harlequin romance novel, and told me to read it and shut up. I asked my Mom some rather interesting questions that night — probably about manhoods and bosoms — and a nasty phone call ensued. After that, I got Nancy Drew.
The question is, though: “ is ‘Satisfactory’ a good enough goal?” Honestly, I have enough problems in my current life avoiding “Needs Improvements” (I pretty much need improvement in every area except for tv watching — I get an “E” in that). At this point, if I manage a “Satisfactory,”(even in something basic like parking) I do a fist pump and say something along the lines of “WHOO HOO!” Maybe if it hadn’t been for first grade screwing up my expectations, I’d be some kind of awesome person right now — like a super hero or a space ranger — rather than a writer whose go-to punctuation modus could best be described as “pung shui.” Let’s face it, I’m lucky if I can manage to get a fork all the way into my mouth without half of its contents landing on my shirt.
Psychologist Barry Schwartz claims that, “The secret to happiness is low expectations.” Maybe that’s what first grade was trying to give us — crap goals that us dunces could probably eventually achieve. I mean, when the apex of cool jobs in your society is “eraser clapper,” it’s not really all that difficult to get some satisfaction. And perhaps that’s how we should all be thinking: “I may not be a space ranger, but at least I’m not cleaning up the inevitable results of having a bank of coin operated 1982 Sanyo televisions in the porn store arcade.” That’s probably what they meant by “Satisfactory” all along. “Excellent.”