Wednesday, November 14, 2012

I learned everything from television

The Boy sat at the kitchen table and pouted. When it comes to after-school activities, homework isn’t his favorite.

Second grade staples like spelling, math and reading all rank below saving the universe with Legos spaceships, playing army, and throwing rocks at his sister.

“The next word is ground,” his mother read from his spelling worksheet. Ground? I think when I was in second grade we were still drawing Thanksgiving turkeys by tracing our hand. I’m not sure I could spell “ground.”

“I hate this stupid spelling,” the Boy said, not even blinking at his use of the S-word.

I get spelling. I understand its importance, I appreciate the nuances of its rules that make no sense, and I enjoy correcting someone’s spelling when doughnut becomes “donut,” gray becomes “grey” and theater becomes “theatre.”

Yeah, I’m that guy. But don’t ask me about math; my head doesn’t work that way. I’m afraid the Boy and the Girl are on their own as soon as they advance to fractions.

“Spelling is important,” I said to him, and followed that up with something more boring. “Grown ups have to spell every day.”

The Boy sat silently for a moment, then said something so clear, so insightful, so simple it dragged me back to elementary school.

“I wish I could learn from TV,” he said.


When I was a kid, I came home from school, ate a snack of white bread spread with actual butter and sprinkled with granulated sugar (it’s crack), then sat in front of the TV to do my homework.

Yes, you read that correctly: 1) my mom was trying to poison me, and 2) I watched “Gilligan’s Island” as I studied the American Revolution. And you know what? My grades were just fine; I accredit that to the lessons I learned from TV.

• In life there are pretty people, rich people, stupid people, wholesome people, friendly people, and smart people. And, if they’re shipwrecked together the stupid person will ruin everyone’s life. Solution: Kill him and eat him.

• The villain is always the first person you see in an episode of Scooby Doo. Solution: Be polite to the wandering stranger carrying a circa-1822 candle lamp along the lonely dirt road, then call 9-1-1.

• Untested and insane theories in physics always work when the Enterprise is plummeting toward a planet and the captain just had sex with a green woman. Solution: Green women are awesome.

• I don’t care if you’re a witch, or your father looks like the guy who used to hock Jell-O pudding, you’re the only sane person in the neighborhood. All your neighbors are whacky. Solution: Lock your doors and never go outside.

• Sometimes rabbits dress in drag. Maybe not in your garden or on Animal Planet, but it happens. Solution: Shotguns do not work on these rabbits. Neither do Tasmanian Devils, or explosives. Just ignore him and maybe he’ll go away.

My kids don’t watch much TV. I hope they’ll be OK in life.