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Paul Turner: First day of school, take two

Paul Turner (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Paul Turner (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

The first day of school inevitably prompts some of us to wistfully contemplate do-overs.

You know. What would we have done differently back in our own school days?

I won’t pretend this is a comprehensive list. But perhaps a few of these do-overs might resonate with you.

1) Instead of parking yourself in the back of the classroom with the various knuckleheads, goof-offs and cool kids, sit up front and pay attention. At least in classes you found challenging.

Sure, there might have been a social price to pay. But better that than a lifetime of regrets about your own slowness to realize the connection between academic achievement and opportunity.

2) The first time you try cologne, use way, way less of the stuff. Or better yet, don’t splash on any at all.

3) When you are assigned to be the classroom monitor when the teacher mysteriously disappears for a few minutes, try not to behave in a manner suggesting you were suddenly drunk with power.

4) When signing in at the high school office upon arriving late, do not attempt to explain your tardiness by writing “Was stoned” on the sheet attached to the “Late Today” clipboard.

5) When a girl named Jamie in your third-grade class answers the teacher by identifying “Game” as one of the four main food groups, try to maintain your composure so you won’t be sent to stand out in the hall because you could not stop laughing.

6) Do not regard being named to the sixth-grade crossing guards patrol as a paramilitary appointment.

7) Realize many years sooner that being able to make girls laugh is its own kind of superpower.

8) Understand that it is way better to risk getting punched by a bigger kid than it is to keep quiet about something you know is wrong.

9) Let the outcast or new kid sit with you on the bus.

10) Consider actually reading the novel on which you are basing your book report.

11) Don’t assume you have to go steady with the first girl you dance with.

12) Do not give your first-grade teacher ample cause to literally tape your mouth shut.


“Enjoyed your column about school transitions (Tuesday) morning,” wrote John Mraz. “Brought back a few nightmare memories. My little farming community (Colton, pop. 300) did not have middle school. We were grades 1-8 (no kindergarten) and 9-12.

“Upon entering high school, the ritual was to be depantsed and your pants thrown into the dog pen behind Frank Bircher’s local tavern – home to his two ill-mannered Dobermans. Maximum humiliation was on tap when you had to walk into the tavern in your tighty whities and sheepishly ask Frank to retrieve your trousers. All the while the local patrons, nursing their schooners of ice cold Oly, snickered. The damage to my lifetime psyche is incalculable.

“Gawd, those were good times. NOT.”

Another reader, who managed to express his displeasure with me in admirably civil terms, weighed in on the rough initiation to middle school.

“I wasn’t scarred for life – it was an incident I got beyond and one of life’s lessons that helped me grow. But as a result, I most definitely didn’t find your column remotely funny as I recalled something I hadn’t thought of in years.”

By the letter

So my wife noted that the annual Labor Day food fair is back in Riverfront Park. Only she misspoke and called it “Fig Out.”

You know, like figgy pudding or “I don’t give a fig.”

That made me wonder. What other letters of the alphabet could take the place of that first porcine P? A few came to mind.

B) Big Out in the Park could be a celebration of the character from the old TV series “Sex in the City” or outdoor screenings of “Big,” the 1988 Tom Hanks movie.

C) Cig Out in the Park could be a community rally in support of those trying to quit smoking.

M) Mig Out in the Park would have to salute the tail-gunner in the B-52 currently parked out at Fairchild Air Force Base. He was credited with shooting down a Russian fighter plane over Vietnam. (That’s why there is a small red star painted on the side of the bomber on static display.)

R) Rig Out in the Park could be a festival of Inland Northwest truck love.

W) Wig Out in the Park could be, well, it might be a lot of things.