Laying Down Some New Facade

For those of you have been following this column since its conception (an elite group that includes my mother, my grandmother, a girl named Dolores, and maybe my editor), glancing at this week’s attempt at humor may shock you — it’s longer than usual. This seemingly irrational decision on the part of my editor (a lovely man whose name is also Eric) is the result of several bio-chemical experiments performed on the Common Sense and Good taste portion of his brain without his knowledge, and it will be interesting to see if I have to waste 100 words like this every week in order to wind up with 850 total. We’ll see.

With your permission (like you can stop me!), I would like to relate a more or less true exchange that occurred just after school started involving me and some guy.

SOME GUY: Hey, Eric! You know that column you wrote a few weeks ago criticizing the school administration?

ME: Who are you?

SOME GUY: Just some guy. Anyway, about that column…

ME: Shouldn’t I identify you?

SOME SLIGHTLY ANNOYED GUY: No! Now, in that column, you only talked about bad things. Why not talk about the good things the administration does?

ME: I write a column?

SOME VERY ANNOYED GUY: (Moans, emits vulgar epithet directed primarily toward my parents, walks away.)

But all kidding aside (yeah, right). The reasons I don’t mention the good things the administration does are 1) There aren’t that many, and 2) The ones that do happen aren’t funny. So how about some more criticism?

It seems that as far as Elsinore High School is concerned, the district (or whoever is in charge) has taken a very relaxed attitude, so relaxed, in fact, that if Elsinore High were a person, it would either be dead or Jack Nicholson. Upon the commencement of my junior year a few weeks ago, I noted that the school, in general, looked as though, in the middle of August, someone had said, “Hey! Let’s throw together a high school!” and Elsinore was the result. You want examples? I got examples.

The most obvious one was the school’s decision to 1) level out the large area of grass in the center of the school, 2) install sod instead of regular grass, and 3) do it all a week before school starts so that no one can walk on it for two weeks and everyone will be crammed into the quad.

Now, levelling out the ground was important enough. I currently have a 3.83 GPA, but if the ground had been level for the past two years, I COULD HAVE A 4.0!!! It’s about time they eliminated that education-hindering slope!

But doing it the week before school began was a little silly, and Dennis Price, who swears up and down that he’s the principal, didn’t know why it happened that way. And if he can’t tell me, I don’t know who can. The result of this mysterious action was that for the first two weeks, most of the 2300+ students were jammed into the quad during lunch. This resulted in squished bodies, ill tempers, and several accidental pregnancies.

(The funny part about the whole thing is — a lot of the grass is dying, most likely because of loneliness. It just didn’t feel needed.)

Another example of the school’s unpreparedness is the book situation. Quite a large number of students (I’d say between a few dozen and a whole lot) didn’t get all of their textbooks until the third or fourth week of school, and some of them (like, say, me) still don’t have them all.

The reason for this, so we’re told, is that there were far more new students than the school had predicted, thus, there weren’t enough books to go around. What I want to know is — did they really think they could precisely predict the number of students? Shouldn’t they have ordered some extra books anyway, just to be sure? I can just picture the school board holding a seance at their board meeting, trying to find out from the God of Elsinore Growth how many new kids there would be this year.

I was recently talking with Jodi Anderson, who is about as omnipresent at school as Vick Knight is everywhere else. She’s a varsity cheerleader, a representative in student government, and a junior, which makes her all the more noticeable because the junior class is by far the most obnoxious. Anyway, we were talking about the condition of the school in general, and she said that it looks a lot better now than it has in the past. Having already written most of this column, I was afraid it would once again be steeped in ignorance, so I asked her exactly what she meant. She mentioned how the doors had been repainted, the outer part of the school black-topped, the new sod — all external things. But what about the things that really matter to the education system? Sure, in some respects, the school is greatly improved. But in many other areas, it leaves a lot to be desired.

The purpose of this column isn’t to put down the school. I don’t know what the purpose is, but that isn’t it. And I certainly don’t mean to put down Jodi, even if she did refuse to go out with me one night under the guise that she had to baby-sit and I still have not recovered from the emotional trauma of having the first girl I ever asked out say “no.” But when you’re an aspiring journalist, you tend to notice things that maybe normal people don’t notice, like how the 400’s, which have been at Elsinore for 10 years, still don’t have an intercom system, which means you can’t hear the bells when you’re out there, or the announcements for that matter, which some people are kind of grateful for.

At any rate, maybe Jodi’s right — maybe the external, superficial things are more important. It doesn’t matter. My 850 words are up.

Along with being moved to the editorial page (mentioned in conjunction with the last column), my column now had another change: the editor wanted it longer. He said about 850 words a week. I wrote this column that long -- then, ironically, he had to cut out the first paragraph, where I talk about it being longer, to make it short enough to fit. He had apparently mis-calculated how long the column needed to be.

This was also the first week that my photo accompanied the column. The photo we took was actually very funny, though you may not realize it. It was of me looking off to the side, with my hand to my chin, looking very wise and ponderous. The joke is that it was a parody of the photo that accompanied Ray Erlenborn's column, which ran right above mine on the page. If you saw them together, which readers did every week, you would see just why it's so dang funny.

My photo ran for one week, at which point it got lost for two weeks, and they ran a generic silhouette instead. We took a new photo, which ran for one week, at which point they found the first one. That lasted a week, at which point it got permanently lost (until it re-surfaced again six months later). They ran the silhouette again for a week, then took a new photo of me staring at the camera, bug-eyed. This lasted quite a while, though they could never settle on a size. Some weeks you could see most of the upper half of my body; other weeks, it was pretty much just my eyes and nose. I liked the old "ponderous" photo, so we took another one, but that only lasted a couple weeks, at which point they went back to the bug-eyes for a while, and then they found the original ponderous one again. They used that one almost exclusively for the rest of the time I wrote for them, except for one purposely-goofy one we used just for one week, just for fun, and except for another time, when they put the box there but forgot to put my photo in it (prompting one reader to write in that it was the "best picture of (me) yet!"). We took a new picture just before I left for BYU; they used that for the three or four columns I wrote from BYU before the paper went out of business. And there you have it -- the photographic history of Eric D. Snider.

As for this column: pretty decent, I think. I made a few valid points, came off as pretty sarcastic even though you were kind of forced to agree with me, and made a few nice little jokes, although even I'm kind of shocked at the "accidental pregnancies" line. (When I pieced together a home-made book of my first 25 columns, I changed it to "gunshot victims," even though it had said "accidental pregnancies" in the paper.)

You wouldn't get the reference to Vick Knight, but trust me, how was quite the gadabout. I honestly don't know what he did for a living, but he was everywhere. He was on the school board, had a talk show on the local cable channel, and always played Santa Claus at elementary school functions. He was an author, sort of, and was probably involved in real estate somehow, too. My guidance counselor told me that after this column ran, Vick Knight called him, wanting to arrange a meeting with me, but we never did. I think he was flattered that I considered him omnipresent. "Annoying" was more like it, but "omnipresent" sounded better.

Also in this column, near the end -- the first of many references to the pathetic nature of my life, socially speaking. I really had asked Jodi out, and she really had been busy. Man, that was tough. I think I got over it, though, eventually.