08 December 2010


A Robot 6 column by Brigid Alverson alerted me to Caanan’s webcomic Max Overacts, and one page struck me particularly. It starts with young Max returning to elementary school after four days away with an allergic reaction to someone’s perfume. Here are the last three panels of nine; click on the picture to visit the rest. I did almost the same thing as Max’s friend, back in junior high. No, I didn’t get bored and spread extravagant rumors about a pal who was absent for a couple of days. I got bored and spread a very mild rumor about a pal who was absent for one day.

Aaron was in a minor car accident, I told one or two kids. The doctors wanted to observe him to make sure he was all right. No one else was hurt. He’d probably be back very soon.

By the time Aaron appeared in school the next morning, the whole grade was convinced he’d been on death’s door, limbs broken and family wiped out. And I hadn’t done anything.

Well, I did tell one or two kids I picked out because I was sure they’d spread the rumor. And I repeated the same story to anyone who bothered to ask me. But all the exaggeration—that happened on its own. I had no idea who spread the rumor into the teachers’ lounge.

It was a terrific lesson about human nature (if life in junior high counts as human). A few years later I was able to use that knowledge for evil. Well, mischief.

Which in turn led to a fine college essay, if I and two university admissions offices say so ourselves. Indeed, I can’t say I’ve hit the downside of this lesson yet.

(Here’s Max’s funny overreaction to the allergen scratch test. I had the same questions back when I was his age, but didn’t express them the same way.)


Glenn Whidden said...

That happened to me in jr. high school. I was out with a cold for three days. When I got back everyone, teachers included, were surprised to see me up and about so quickly after open heart surgery. I never did find out who started that one, but I'd like to shake his hand.

J. L. Bell said...

Wildly exaggerated rumors—they’re not just for celebrities!