That picture actually makes me a bit nervous. I don’t do rodents. No, Sir. We’ll get to that in a bit, though. I was thinking today about what sticks in your memory from when you were a kid. I don’t know why you remember certain things more than others, but I’ve got this one story in my head from when I was in elementary school and the reason I remember it is because I was a pretty selfish and awful little 11-year old. I was powerless to stop what happened, but it still happened. And, I still kind of feel bad about it even though it happened a long, long time ago. So, if some kid named Jamie that went to Sugartown ever stumbles across this blog, I’m sorry Boss. In Andy Reid speak, our teacher didn’t put us in the right positions.
I spent a portion of elementary school years banished from my regular classmates. I was like, scary, Asian-kid good at math (also possibly a detriment to the overall group dynamic) and so I was siphoned off to hone my skills. Look at what it’s made of me today! The moral of that very short anecdote is, just because you can do multiplication tables in your head doesn’t mean you’re going to turn out to be a rocket scientist. Anyway, I got to do all these things in my tiny “math” class that the commoners down the hall slaving away at long division didn’t get to do. I played simulation games, I played computer games, I made videos, I showed off my Apple II-C skills, and also did some math. I was bombarded with word problems the length of epic poems and then I’d be observed meticulously while I tried to work them out. It wasn’t all fun and games, DAMN IT! It was like 84% fun and games.
I was obviously more than happy to partake in all of this until the moment the maze came out. Probability lesson? Not quite, Junior 3-PT, we’re training rats. I might have been 10 or 11, but I’m pretty sure I said, “Oh f*ck me.” Like I said, I can’t do rodents. Won’t do ’em. In college I walked out of a psych lab instead of holding my rat. Was not going to happen. I’ll suck it up and take chemistry before I pick up some diseased sewer dweller with those freaky tails. As a fourth or fifth grader, I quickly assessed the scene. Luckily for me, at this point the school had identified another math loser or two to keep me company. Among this group was the aforementioned Jamie.
I really hope that was his name. Don’t remember his last name, but we hung out a bit (bonded over word problem circuit) and this kid was reacting to the rats like it was a gosh dang wagon full of golden retriever puppies on Christmas morning. Immediately I relaxed a little bit, because Jamie was obviously a different type of nerd than me. He picked up the rodent/reptile/insect gene which I had thankfully dodged. You’d never see me shopping for a terrarium, for example, but I’m pretty sure Jamie had a reptile for a pet and he was all about handling these rats. It looked like I was going to be in the clear.
During our rat experiments I always took the role of “timer.” This meant that I could stand a safe distance away from the rat and the maze and just fiddle with a stopwatch. I could literally be sitting across the room playing Below the Root and when someone yelled “time,” I’d just hit that button. The great thing was that no one wanted to be the timer, except for me. Timer is boring. You don’t even get to touch to the rats. Exactly.
For the sake of drama, I’m going to say we were almost done with our rat “unit.” How long could it possibly last, right? And, I still hadn’t been forced to interact with the rodents. But, then came that fateful day that I remember so well. Jamie, who had only become more comfortable with the rats, was showboating a little bit. That’s my excuse. I think he was carrying two of them at a time? And, he was also walking pretty close to me. Whoa! I need a wide berth here, but I also had not made my terror of the rats known. It was more of an affinity for the stopwatch than it was a phobia of the rats as far as everyone else was concerned.
At some point between the cage and the maze Jamie started having trouble. He lost control of a rat. He was about to drop it, or something equally horrifying and the rat he had a good handle on started to freak out and claw him up nice and good. Rats have claws. Boom. You learned something. So, in attempt to not drop the rat, etc. etc. Jamie tries to get me to take one of them off his hands. He’s kind of in pain at this point and I was standing right there. Did I step in and take a rat off his hands? No. I did not. I acted like my Mom was calling me for dinner and just walked away.
Somehow, Jamie got both rats into the cage and survived with only superficial claw damage to his arms. He was a brave kid, and I’m sure is probably like the new Jack Hannah at this point in his life, but on that day I was offering no help. Like I said, not a proud moment, and I probably remember it, because I was such a a-hole to old Jamie, but there was really nothing I could have done. What’s the moral? My phobias supersede your physical well-being. And, there it is.