Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Smaht Kid

Writing as I’m about to do has the potential to set me up for a fall. Every grammatical error will seem an indictment, and God help me if I misspell anything. Should my memory be faulty, someone might jump on me with both feet. I also have to be careful to keep my sense of humor, not letting my ego overrun everything. I'll need to throw in a joke here or there to keep things light.

I’m going to write about my being intelligent.

(No, wise guy, that wasn’t the first joke.)

There has rarely been a time in my life when I haven't felt that I was more intelligent than most of the people with whom I’ve been involved. That isn’t to say I’ve always been THE most intelligent person in a particular group, nor does it mean that I'm one of the smartest people on the planet. One look at me standing in the rain without a jacket, on a 40 degree day, smoking a cigarette, would be enough to tell you I'm not Einstein's successor. It's just that, when all factors are taken into consideration, I don't usually feel a need to take a back seat to too many folks in any crowd of which I'm a part.

Does that sound amazingly egotistical? I suppose it might. It’s true, though. I’ve always been in possession of more brainpower than most of those with whom I’ve associated.

(If you're a long-time friend or business associate, and you're wondering if I'm saying that I'm smarter than you, the answer is no. I'm talking about all of my other friends and business associates, not you. You're a genius!)

I suppose now would be a good time for me to trot out the proofs, if I had any. However, my best pieces of evidence aren’t available for scrutiny. You’ll have to take my word concerning them (and I'd say that your doing so would say a lot about your own innate intelligence and character, but that would be too blatant an attempt at flattery to sway someone of your obvious discernment.)

When I was an infant, my mother kept a bit of a journal about me. It was within the pages of a how-not-to-kill-your-baby book published by Good Housekeeping. There was a section in the back for recording your child’s height, weight, accomplishments (reaching for things was one, so the bar wasn’t set very high), and so forth. There was also a section reserved for recording the diagnoses and/or pronouncements of doctors and other health professionals. My Mom recorded, in one of those sections, that some pediatrician had proclaimed me "... slightly more intelligent than most other children" after he had me perform some tests. Perhaps I was having a particularly good day reaching for things. Well, I've always been pissed about the "slightly" part of that statement, but I'll take the rest of it.

As I grew up, I found myself in situations that offered further proof concerning my general mental superiority. For instance, in grade school, I was always the best reader in my class. When the teacher called upon us to read aloud, I knew I could do it more easily, and with fewer stumbles (that is to say, none), than all of my classmates. I was good at it because of help from my mother, father, and other relatives. My mother taught me the basics of reading before I entered kindergarten. My other relatives - somewhat to my outer embarrassment, but very much to my inner pride – would have me read aloud from newspapers, almanacs, magazines, encyclopedias, and so on, every time I visited them. They always heaped inordinate amounts of praise upon me for being able to get through all passages of whatever difficulty smoothly. I owe my current job of voice-over professional to them (and you probably owe them your difficulty in plowing through some of my more painful constructions, as well, since I glide through most anything and thus don't edit as neatly as I probably should.) Back in grade school, however, I was so much better at reading than any of my classmates, I would actually stumble ON PURPOSE once in a while. I was so self-conscious of my superiority that I didn’t want the other kids to be mad at me for making them look bad.

I was a voracious reader as I grew up. I read newspapers cover-to-cover; every bit of magazines, even the publisher's statement and copyright notices; encyclopedias were a constant source of amusement; and nothing could keep me so thoroughly entertained, for as long and with as much joy, as an almanac (but, you knew this already.)

As good parents would, My Mom and Dad fed this desire to learn. Whenever we went on a shopping trip to a department store, they'd allow me to roam off on my own to the book section. There, I'd pick one and they'd buy it for me. My Mom would often come home from work with some sort of interesting science or history book she had purchased for me. I was a frequent patron of our local public library, and I belonged to various book-buying clubs sponsored by the Gilbert Stuart, my elementary school.

For the fourth grade, when I was 8, I was taken from that elementary school and assigned to an advanced school in another neighborhood in Boston. Being smart doesn't always equate to emotional maturity, though, and I cried and wailed and made a general nuisance of myself for the two weeks or so I was there. I wanted to be back in my own neighborhood school with all of my friends. So, my parents being good folks who valued their child's happiness over some abstract future earning potential, they re-enrolled me in the Gilbert Stuart. I was happy as a clam when they did so. However, being assigned to the advanced classes was an ego boost even if I hated being at that school. I was now even more firmly convinced that I was a 'smaht kid', as we'd say in Dorchester.

While in the 6th grade, I took the test for admittance to Boston Latin, the only 6-year high school in Boston. It was (and arguably is) the most prestigious secondary school in the country. It was founded a year before Harvard, and Benjamin Franklin was a dropout from the place. Imagine the graduates! Well, I passed the exam and entered the school for the 7th grade.

And now comes the moment when I humble myself. I flunked, miserably. Whereas I had been a straight A student in my neighborhood school, I was straining to attain passing grades at Latin. The main problem was that everything had always come easily to me before, but now I was being asked to apply myself. I did only as much work as I thought I needed to do to keep my parents and teachers off of my back. Because my travel time to and from Latin was 60 to 90 minutes each way, I was constantly more tired than I had ever previously been in school. And being an 11-year-old in a school with kids as big and old as 18 or 19 was not much fun; it was standard for the upper classmen to pick on the "sixies" as were known. I truly hated most of my time in that school.

It appeared I might have to repeat the 7th grade. Talk about having your illusions concerning your intelligence smashed to rubble!

I was saved from being kept back by dint of the fact that Latin was such an amazingly hard school. Had I stayed there, I would have had to repeat the year. However, if I transferred back to my local junior high school for the next year, I would still be promoted. Although there was some argument between Mom and Dad concerning which course of action to take, I was finally transferred, much to my relief, and I was promoted to the 8th grade.

My parents and I didn't necessarily learn a lesson from my first stint at Latin. I once again took the entrance examination for 9th grade (as well as being a 6-year school, students could enter for a more-usual 4-year high school course.) This time around, I lasted half as long as I had the first time. I did so miserably in my classes that I transferred back to my local school midway through the year. Once back at 'The Woody' (Woodrow Wilson Junior High, the neighborhood school) I resumed my coasting in the relatively relaxed atmosphere and graduated easily.

I took another entrance exam, this time for the second-best high school in the city, Boston Technical. I passed it. And I graduated from there, too, although it was a closer call than it ever should have been. By the time I got there, I detested going to school. Whereas before, during my pre-teen years, I found school an alright place to be with my friends - not that I was overjoyed, but I didn't dread it - now all I wanted to get out of school was me. I was high half the time, didn't care at all, and I passed barely enough classes to graduate - after I made up one class in summer school.

Heck of a way for a kid who tested out at a 136 IQ to finish his schooling.

The shame of it is that I loved learning. It was school that I hated. I used to play hooky from high school because I abhorred being in those buildings and being graded, but do you know where I went when I played hooky? Most guys went to a ballpark or to a movie or did something normal. I went to the Boston Public Library and spent my day reading.

And from that reading, and from my devouring of encyclopedias and almanacs and dictionaries when I was a kid, I've acquired great storehouses of haphazard knowledge, most of it useless except for my own entertainment and with just enough unfilled gaps to get me into trouble. Which brings us to the present time and my third attempt to get onto the television show Jeopardy. As I write this, it is now 7:47pm here on the East Coast. In 13 minutes, I will be attempting to qualify for the show via an on-line test. I'll let you know how it turned out, of course.

After I tell you about my previous game show adventures...


i beati said...

aha we are alike in something sk

Buck said...

I was a voracious reader as I grew up.

Therein lies the key. Every "smart" individual I've ever known has this trait. Every single one. Including my oh-so-brilliant-children and their offspring. ;-)

lime said...

i'm going to second what buck said and add my best wishes for a successful jeopardy test.

and i will bow to your intellectual superiority since i only test out at 125. ;)

Kathryn Magendie said...

GMR just tried out last night too - this is the second year....I mean to tell you - good lawd but you have to type fast - which is why I typed and he shouted out the answers - those he knew anyway---LAWD!

of course, I think he knew a bunch of them - whereas I didn't know squat.

Hilary said...

Good luck with Jeopardy, you brainiac. :)

Word verification.. psych

Unknown said...

My husband tried to get on Jeopardy,too. He went to New York and took the test. He passed the test, but didn't get on the show.
:( I wish he had, because he too is very intelligent and a font of useless information!

Cricket said...

Great post. We'll have to chat privately sometime. I could read before kindergarten myself. A funny story:

My kindergarten teacher called my mother toward the end of the year, gushing excitedly "your child can read!" My mother, less than delighted, replied "He could read when he got there." Oops.

Linda said...

My husband keeps telling me to take the Jeopardy test- and I keep telling him I would never be able to question a single answer if I were on TV.

Good luck to you. And since it is 3:49 pm Wed. now, I guess you wrote this Tuesday? So, how did you do?

Chris said...

Jim, you've just jogged loose a memory that I've repressed and now feel obligated to write a post about. When I was in first grade, I could read virtually anything the teachers threw at me. So one day, my teacher (who I adored, but on this day could've strangled) decided to march me over to a fifth grade class and have me demonstrate my reading prowess by reading a chapter from one of the FIFTH GRADE readers, out loud, to the students in that class.

I felt like the subject of a Rockwell painting. Me reading out loud, my teacher standing there proudly, and three fifth graders loading up their spitball shooters and slingshots.

Superior intellect is a bitch.

GreenJello said...

Learning everywhere, all the time. Except in public schools. Ugh. What an amazing invention to stifle natural learning if there ever was one!

Maggie May said...

Who needs Latin anyway!
We all know you are the Brains...... Suldog!
I will NOT be taking intelligence tests...... I can always appear to be better than I am if I don't!

Nuts in May

CiCi said...

You didn't equate your humor to your intelligence. It's a toss up which shows itself more in your blog.

Land of shimp said...

Ah well, may we all be smart enough to know better, but sometimes stupid enough to do it anyway, eh?

Sol, I really did enjoy your post and I hope that you pass the Jeopardy test, and continue on to great glory, dazzling all around you with your rapid, correct responses.

The older I get, the more I know, the more I realize, how little I know. I know fair amount, clearly you do to.

You know it's funny, I was having this exact conversation with my mother within the last month. We're a family of rather bright people. We were talking about how bright is all well and good, but ultimately there's a lot of value in simple kindness.

You're both bright, and kind. You're already a tremendous success, Jeopardy championships or not.

Jackie said...

I can't wait to hear about the results of the Jeopardy test.
P.S. Einstein hardly ever matched his socks...rarely combed his hair,...could care less about his appearance. He had other things on his mind. Sigh...
I taught gifted classes for several years and I presently administer tests to prospective gifted students. It is a delight to read your blog and shake my head 'yes'...'yes'....'yes' to the attributes of the gifted student (especially the male gifted student.) By the way...just a little tidbit of info..(perhaps for a Jeopardy question to come..)
Most gifted girls have a cat.
P.S. Daddy read the Almanac I gave him. He read it in two days. I knew he would... He'll read it again...and again. Thank you again, Jim.

Craig said...

A story (probably apocryphal) is told of a time when Einstein was seated next to Marilyn Monroe at some fancy dinner or other, when she leaned over and said, "You know, Dr. Einstein, with my looks and your brains, we should have a child together."

Einstein briefly considered her offer before replying, "But. . . what if he gets my looks and your brains?"

(Altho, Norma Jean is reputed to have had a pretty substantial IQ herself. . .)

I went to a Jeopardy try-out in Chicago many (probably about 15) years ago. Passed the test, and spent a year in the contestant pool, waiting for a call that never came. . . I should probably blog about it sometime. . .

(You know what they say about how anyone with a fondness for sausage or the Law should never see either one being made? Yeah, same thing with Jeopardy - "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. . .")

Elaine Denning said...

Third line, sixteenth word - spelling mistake.

Tut Tut.


IT (aka Ivan Toblog) said...

I looked for the so-called spelling mistake. No matter how much I finagled with the browser window size, I could not find an error unless someone doesn't care for the Franklinizing of humour.

I had a similar experience to Knucklehead... Never, ever won a spelling bee again.

Green Jello has the right ideal... and they are improving that process on a daily basis.

Shrinky said...

"The only thing I wanted to get out of school was me." Excellent Suldogerism, if ever there was one.

I loved school, it was my escape from home, and I adored being every teachers pet. That is, until they tested my IQ too, and then dumped me somewhere that actually had the temerity to EXPECT me to work for my praise. Sucked, didn't it?

Anonymous said...

Having worked with Suldog I can attest to his superior intellect (unless we are talking about country music, but I don't want to steal any of his thunder by posting details ;-)) My 14 year-old is planning on trying out for the Teen Tourney... she was horrified the other night when a contestant thought that "Wuthering Heights" had something to do with Carpathians... sheesh!

Karen said...

Oh, I always knew you were smaht, but I didn't know you did, too. ;) Can't wait to hear about Jeopardy!

Unknown said...

According to, I have an IQ of 143. Not sure I believe it, but I dropped out of college after flunking Materials Science twice... so that at least puts me in good company, with people who hated school.


Jeni said...

Man, does this post ever strike a chord with me! It sounds pretty much like we could be twins -except for the red hair and the fact I am a goodly number of years your senior. But your description of your school days -almost identical to mine from about 7th grade until graduation. Prior to 7th grade, I was the top speller in my class, always on the honor roll, often with the highest grades and yes, I too was a voracious reader then and stayed that way most of my adult life. In high school -I did pretty much only what I had to do and because I had done well in my earlier grades, had a good foundation, I could skate and still get fairly decent grades -mostly B's and B plus with an occasional A thrown in for good measure but those A's came only from classes I really, really liked -not the ones like math or science that I struggled with. Because of my not applying my ability to my studies in high school, my Mom refused to even think about my going to college as she was afraid it would just be dumping money down the drain and that I wouldn't apply myself. (I do think college would NOT have gone that way for me then because I DO think my Scottish genes would have kicked in and made me do enough work so as to not flunk out!) But I always resented my Mom's attitude about my wanting to go to college and finally, at age 46, I found a way to go to college via grants and loans. And I wish my Mom had been alive to see me pick up that precious degree four years and lots and lots of hard work later. To top it all off, in college I even made the Dean's List 3 times -compared to twice in high school! I have no idea what my IQ rating was/is -whatever -and that is a bit immaterial to many things anyway as I know loads of people who are super-super smart, got fantastic grades in any classes they took -even through college -and yet, they haven't a lick of common sense or "street smarts" if you will. (Not that I am overloaded in that department, cause I'm not but, you know what I mean I think.)
I do wish I had worked up to my ability more often than I did in high school, sure. But it's funny too now as frequently, some of my former classmates have come to me over the years for advice, for information and assistance about various things -often even kids who did better, grade-wise, than I did back then. My classmates now -at our class reunions -all refer to me as the one who remembers EVERYTHING we did, or that happened then and where and when things took place,etc. Minor trivial things -yeah, that's more what I excel at now! And they ask -"How do you remember this or that?" and I honestly don't know -just that I do. But sometimes I'm not sure what my name is or what day it is or why did I just go into the kitchen -can't remember squat if it happened yesterday. And that, for me, is frustrating as all get out because, after all, I was supposed to be the one who had "smarts." Must have misplaced them somewhere along the way then. What I do know and recognize though is that it was definitely my Mom and Grandparents doing that gave me the love for reading early-early on and kept impressing that on me by not forcing me to read but subtly making me WANT to read, to learn! Yep! Reading truly is fundamental, isn't it? (I know that wasn't the intended theme of your post but it certainly does prove my point though doesn't it? Peace!

Jazz said...

It’s true, though. I’ve always been in possession of more brainpower than most of those with whom I’ve associated.

It's a smart man who arranges to always be the intelligent one in a group.

And good luck with Jeopardy.

Unknown said...

Wicked smaht at that. Funny, I just wrote a post using our local accent as flair for humor too :-)

So you just raised a memory in me long forgotten. When I was in either 6th or 7th grade I was deemed in the same 'highly intelligent' group. But instead of sending those of us who were in the group off to another school where we could hone our gifts, they sent us to a room in the basement. No I am not kidding, and to make it worse there were no windows, it was not much bigger than the 4 seats and fake wood grain table that sat in it and the lighting was awful. They did this so we could have 1-on-1 time with an advanced studies professor in truly the only space available in the building, but going down there made me feel as if I had done something wrong by being smarter than the other kids, as if they had to hide us and we should be ashamed of our gift. So I started pretending I had no idea what they were talking about. I dumbed myself down so I could get back to my real classroom with natural daylight. The really sad part is that sort of propelled me into a certain course of study for the remainder of my years; college prep instead of honors classes. Wow, I don't think I've ever told anyone this before, its amazing what we allow ourselves to forget over time.

Michelle H. said...

Such a time you had during your school days. I wish my parents had such inclination to care about my learning. Like you, I loved reading about things but detested school. I'm just as surprised I made it out alive. said...

I think I test out + or - 5 on each side of 125, but my math sucks! Had I gotten that gene I'd be making atomic bombs now!

Always able to talk my way out of tough situations, otherwise I would have had several more fights than I did. So I was smart enough for that sort of thing.

Since I wasn't smart, I became a manager! I was good at giving others the credit for their smarts and they seemed to take care of me too!