Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Inspired Total Dorkhood

Sometimes I have these ideas that I know are funny in a ha-ha way, but then I get an urge to try them out in real life. When I mention them to my family with lots of enthusiasm for actually carrying them out, they look at me like the total dork I occasionally am.

My usual ideas, if we’re counting by number of recommendations, include classroom activism. I keep urging my kids to ask for homework if they haven’t been assigned any, to ask for more homework if they’ve only been given busywork, or to ask to have some lame coloring project changed to a term paper or research paper. I feel very enthusiastic about this! They are convinced I am dangerously hyperacademic. I also suggested that my daughter motivate all her friends in French 4 to march to and fro in front of the principal’s office class during the lunch period, campaigning for French 5 or a Conversation class. She gave me the look. Hey, the teacher said she’d teach either one if the administration would approve it!

Then there are resurrection ideas – where I try to resurrect something that used to be popular either in my youth or in someone else’s long before my time, but that sound interesting. My neighbors think the idea of a progressive dinner party is the strangest thing they’ve ever heard of. Actually, that works out OK for me because I probably couldn’t afford the maid service hours it would take to turn our house, which looks more like a large college dorm co-op on the inside, into a suitable destination even for just the nuts course. I’m still trying to sell Sock Hops to the teenagers I encounter.

I have to hold myself back from holding forth in the Voice of the People letters to the editor column in the newspaper about once a month. It’s not that I’m looking to rouse rabble, it’s that we have a really lame paper, and I’d like to take them to task for doing less investigation of the facts in their own stories than George Bush did on his college term papers. I could get all worked up about protesting pretty much anything our current government has done, too, but that all seems to involve riding on buses to distant places or sitting in a tent with no indoor plumbing, and I have a weak bladder.

So, my latest dorky idea combines several elements. First of all, I support charities – not single-handedly (har!), but there are certainly a number of very worthy charities around and I like to support them to a reasonable extent. Usually, that involves either writing a check or knitting something, since I’m not very likely to give a batch of perfectly good brownies to anyone, not with three teenagers in my own house. I read in the local paper that the police department is sponsoring a Trivia Night with the proceeds going to Special Olympics. I actually volunteered with Special Olympics in my misspent youth, and they really do a good job making the participants feel good about themselves and promoting healthy activity. The Trivia Night will accept pre-determined teams of 8 or you can pay at the door and join any open table.

My first thought was to get my entire family together and get the three kids to bring a friend each and we’d be our own table. They nixed it. Then I suggested to hubs that he find a friend or two, and I’d find a friend or two, and then, with our kids, we’d be a table. He nixed it. I thought about asking my local sub-chapter of Mensa to get a team together, but the last time I did anything of the sort, it wound up being me and the coordinator, who was late and had to leave early, so that was pretty much of an automatic nixing, since I have no interest in expending as much energy as it would take to find 7 local M’s and then whip them into a participatory mood.

I may have mentioned here before that I live in the “meanest town in Illinois”, as more than one visitor from another country has dubbed it. Lots of newcomers feel the same way, and I have plenty of episodes of my own I could relate, but I would bore myself as well as you by recounting them. Suffice it to say that like most small towns, this one has its fair share of xenophobes and they are vocally so. So, newcomers can be here decades and still feel like they’re not part of the town.

I’ve recently had occasion to encounter a few such newcomers-of-decades, and we enjoy one another’s company, and not just for the purpose of trashing the xenophobes and their –ia, as it were. We converse, we dine, we laugh, and we discuss a wide variety of things. So, now I’m thinking of getting a group of newcomers together as a team for the Trivia Night. At first, in a small moment of nastiness, I thought of designating such a group the “NFM Club”, or Not From Mxxxx Club. But that would be mean and backfire, and we have spouses who work here who would not appreciate any potential slurs.

So, now I’m thinking, hey, why not just go forward in a way that would accomplish the goal without being snarky– making new friends, making newcomers feel welcome, and contributing to a good cause, and offer ID badges that just identify us as “FRIENDLY” for anyone who wants to join a table at Trivia Night. We could fill in our first names underneath, and it wouldn’t matter if you were from town or new or a long-term newcomer, being FRIENDLY is a good thing.

Except, I think I might be being a total dork again. But I’m still THINKING about it!

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