Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I'm Not Proud Of It

On most days I turn on my computer to find that I’ve been invited to join a contest or have supposedly won one I never entered. Let me be clear: I never win contests* and seldom enter them. I’m a great finder of things, particularly in the homes of people on vacation.

My streak of bad luck at winning contests started with, surprisingly, a win. It happened in the fourth grade when my entire grade school was herded into the all-purpose room for the annual end-of-the-year assembly. In our midst was Captain Satellite, a local celebrity who showed cartoons and Three Stooges movies on local TV after school. For an hour he ran cartoons on a defective movie projector and told jokes.

Coincidentally, Ruthie Cardinas was seated next to me. Ruthie was my neighbor, but she was in the second grade and I didn’t want to be humiliated by socializing with her, at school anyway. Ruthie was too small to see over the person seated in front of her and she squirmed and whined throughout most of the assembly. I was sitting on the aisle and had a mostly unobstructed view, but shortly before the assembly ended I switched seats with her to shut her up.

Shortly after making the swap, Captain Satellite reached for the mike and made an announcement that silenced the chattering mob. He said, “Somebody in this auditorium is going home with a shiny Schwinn bicycle today.”

Scores of mouths dropped open.

“Taking home a new Schwinn today is…” He paused for dramatic effect, as dramatic

as a middle-aged man in a satellite costume can look, “…the boy or girl with a gold star taped to the underside of their chair.”

Kids reached down between their legs and fingered the underside of their chairs. To my surprise, and horror, Ruthie held up the gold star and began shouting, “I won! I won!”

The gold star had been taped beneath the chair I’d sat on throughout the assembly and had given up only minutes earlier.

“Like hell you won!” I said, grabbing the star from her hand and bumping her off her (my) seat. “I won!” I said as she lay sprawled in the aisle. “I only let you sit in my seat for a little while because you couldn’t see.”

I doubt it will come as a surprise to anyone that the principal sided with Ruthie. She got to take home the Schwinn. She rode it past my driveway every day that summer while I pretended to blow her up with my laser vision.

Now you know why I don’t enter contests.

*In January my perfect fifty year losing streak came to an end when I won a contest sponsored by Heather Arundel at My Demon Spirits. Check out her wonderful blog (here). What's the best thing you ever won?


  1. Yes and I came in second in that contest and got a purdy cozy for my Kindle Touch so that it can stay nice and warm.

    I won something in a writing contest in the second or third grade but that story is part of my Origins blogfest entry on the 13th so you'll have to find out then. If the suspense doesn't kill you first...

  2. Bad Ruthie.

    God I love kids and laser vision.

  3. Your principal was a jerk, and he deserved the Laser Vision Treatment. I hope you are still planning your revenge.

  4. Hey! I remember Captain Satellite (and some of the really lame video stuff from his show) on KTVU (channel 2) in Oakland.

    When I was seven years old I talked my mom into entering a drawing for a washing machine at an appliance store in downtown SF. She'd just bought a brand new Bendix front-loader. Anyway, we won. I have no idea what the final outcome was. That's not the best thing, but it's the most memorable.

    1. I remember him. They did that thing with upside down pictures and eyeballs drawn on chins

  5. I don't like Ruthie. Not one bit.

    Have a terrific day. :)

  6. Love this story! You had Captain Satellite - we had Sailor Bob. I don't think I've ever won a contest - except captioning on a blog - and all I got was a photo link...

  7. Oh, the injustice of it all. I wonder what Ruthie thinks about it now and if she has any guilt over it-

  8. I've won a few things, but what I REALLY want to win is the lottery - or even just $200,000. That should do it... Ha!

  9. In New Orleans, we had the Popeye show, and Baton Rouge had Buckskin Bill. Probably most larger cities had such a character.

    Oh, and i've won an occasional book or DVD or pair of shoes. Nothing big.

  10. We had Fireman Frank and, before him, Captain Fortune... and there were a couple of characters before that. One was a tugboat captain the other was just a guy who drew strange pictures and had a carrot named Carl.
    Haven't won anything yet... oh wait. Do blog awards count? I got a couple before I went over to the dark side

  11. "No more Mr. Nice Guy," I'm surprised you didn't become! I once won a bottle of scotch at a fancy ball... As I crossed the dance floor to accept my prize I slipped and fell on the slippery floor -- but of course everybody thought I was drunk, which I wasn't -- that's my story and I'm stickin' to it!

  12. You never know. You might have been riding that bike home, and next thing you knew, a car had flattened you like a pancake. Sometimes, things happen for a reason.

    I won the Author! Author! Rings True Memoir Contest for 2011. I blogged about it here:

    And twice, I've won $1000 on a $10 scratch-off lottery ticket. So I can't complain in the win department.

  13. I won $1200 right before Christmas from the Powerball many years ago. It was great but I've spent probably 10 times that amount since then and the best I've won is probably $7. But I'm going for the big win tonight!

  14. Ah, the Three Stooges. We watched them on Slam Bang Theater, hosted by Icky Twerp. True. Wonder if he knew Captain Satellite?

    Nope, I don't recall ever winning a thing. OK, slight exaggeration; I did win $3 on a lottery ticket once. That hardly qualifies as a "win". :)


  15. Boy, I haven't thought about Captain Satellite in years. Thanks for the stroll down memory lane! Did Ruthie have playing cards attached with clothespins on the spokes of her bike? Hmmmmm, best prize (and you know I enter alot of contests!) was the trip to the Kentucky Derby.

  16. Your place is valueble for me. Thanks!…

  17. Oh Stephen, how awful for you, I can imagine how you must have felt.


  18. A long time ago I won 50 francs when I went to the racetrack in Paris. And you know it was dumb luck since ... I don't even speak French!

  19. I was caller number 92 once and won an ELO album. :-) I specifically remember, however, NOT winning a coloring contest when I was 6 because my four-year-old sister had also won and they thought it would be "unfair" to award two prizes in one family. They told me this!!


  20. I once won four of the seven prizes at a company party. Really made a lot of people mad especially the girl calling off the raffle numbers as she hated me and had to smile and hand me the gifts.

  21. Oh that had to irk. I wonder how Ruthie remembers it..

  22. Oh, the story of the bicycle is too funny. Like, Hilary, I'd love to hear Ruthie's take on the whole thing. I don't have much luck with contests, either; but I did win an Amazon gift card one time from She's an incredibly generous blogger.