Category Archives: Bubby Spamden


The Dog Ate It

Header Photo: Russell Lee [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Today’s post comes from perennial sophomore Bubby Spamden, perpetually in residence at Wendell Wilkie High School.

Hey Mr. C.,

Back-to-school time keeps getting closer and none of my ideas to skip out on this entire year have worked, so I’m trying to get in the mood to be a Sophomore again.

It’s not that easy, because I struggle with homework. I understand it just fine, but the thought of getting it done and handing just makes me feel kinda like a chump. I don’t get why teachers get to tell us what to do with our time when we’re not in school. Once I’m out of the building I feel free and I kinda forget everything that happened in there.

But my dad says you have to submit to authority if you’re going to get along in the world.

In the evening he likes to have a little drink and that’s when he gets really chatty about work. He says his job at the bank “is like 10th grade on steroids.” “Facing up to your homework,” he said, “is a job audition.”

I told him homework is boring, especially since I’ve been a Sophomore forever and there’s not a 10th grade assignment I haven’t seen.

“Think about your resume’,” he said. “When you apply for that first miserable, soul-sucking job, potential employers will want to know that you can stomach the B.S.. Having your spirit crushed and finishing your stupid assignments is what getting your payday is all about.”

I had my doubts, so I Googled “getting your payday,” and I saw this article about how New York State has more than 13 billion dollars in unclaimed funds just lying around. The money belongs to people who didn’t get paid for one reason or another.

The companies that hold the money (a lot of them are banks!) have an assignment. They’re supposed to try to find the owners. If they can’t, they turn it over to the state instead. And it looks like they’ve turned a lot over.

Some of the people the banks admit they own money to but have not been able to find have names like Barack Obama, Madonna, Tom Wolfe, Jerry Seinfeld and the Dalai Lama.

I don’t know who they have on their staff with the job of finding people, but it sounds to me like they don’t take their assignments very seriously.


Which is good news for me, because I don’t take my assignments seriously, either! So I’m wondering if my track record of not doing my homework is something I should move to the top of my resume?

It could help me land that first job, especially if I get looked at by a bank!

Your pal,

I told Bubby he should never put it on his resume that he doesn’t take his homework seriously, because these documents may never go away completely, and an uncomplimentary paper trail is a terrible thing to have to drag through life. If a particular unsavory quality is an unwritten requirement for the job, letting a prospective employer know that you meet it should be unwritten as well – a knowing wink or a conspiratorial nudge ought to be enough.

How good are you at getting your assignments done?

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False Memory Palace

Today’s post comes from perennial sophomore Bubby Spamden, a more-or-less permanent fixture at Wendell Wilkie High School.

Hey, Mr. C.,

OK, so I get it that you’re not interested in signing a permission form so I can donate my brain to science. I didn’t think you would do it but I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask.

Anyway, that means I’m going to have to go back to school (again) in about a month, and the whole Wilkie High experience will happen to me one more time. Oh well. I guess they’d miss me if I was gone – I’ve been there so long I pretty much have seniority over all the teachers and administrators anyway, and they ask me how stuff ought to be done.

Imagine that – THEM asking ME for advice!

One year in early August Principal Peepers was just starting at Wilkie and he got visited by a delegation of parents saying he should change the lunchroom routine around to “the way it used to be” about 5 years earlier.

They had all heard it was better back then but nobody could recall exactly what was different about it.

The teachers weren’t much help. The youngest ones hadn’t been at the school that long and the old timers had gone through so many different lunch management schemes everything was just a blur to them.

So they asked me, figuring that I had such a famous history of breaking lunchtime rules I must be an expert on every single regulation throughout all of time.

“And your brain is young,” Principal P. told me, “so you can call up the details at will.”

But what he didn’t know is that I’d been pretty much sleep deprived my whole time at Wilkie – at first because I was a late-night-TV junkie, and then from staying up super-late to use the computer on the sly because my folks wouldn’t let me on the internet unless one of them was in the room to monitor my “activity”. So I didn’t remember either. But what was worse – I didn’t know I didn’t remember.

There’s this new research that explains it – they say being sleep deprived really opens up your mind to retaining false memories. So like your mind is really open to suggestion and you take something totally fictitious and buy into it like it’s real. My dad says Sara Palin has this same problem, so I know I’m in good company. Famous company anyway, which I think is pretty much the same thing.

Anyway, here are the rules I told them we’d had for lunch five years before. They questioned me pretty hard about it, but I stuck to my guns.

  1. The lunchroom lights must be kept super low.
  2. Everyone comes to lunch in costume.
  3. Extra points for extra appendages.
  4. Talking is allowed in as many languages as possible.
  5. Food and drink should be served smoking.
  6. There’s live music, but the band only plays one tune.

Anyway, nobody in the administration stepped up to “champion” my version of the rules and they wound up going with something pretty standard about keeping your voices down and your fingers off of other people’s plates.

Later on I realized that the “rules” I remembered were not from Wilkie High – that was a false memory I picked up from the Star Wars cantina scene.

Oops! My bad, but we almost had an awesome cafeteria that year!

Your pal,

When have you been convinced a false memory was true?


Brain Strain

Today’s post comes in the form of a letter from perennial sophomore Bubby Spamden of Wendell Wilkie High School.

Hey Mr. C.,

Well it’s past the Fourth of July and the back-to-school sales are about to begin, which got me thinking about starting yet another sophomore year at Wilkie. Some years I wonder if it’s worth the effort. I know lots of people who say it’s a scandal how I keep getting held back in the tenth grade over and over again, but the standards there are high on purpose and there always seems to be a good reason why I shouldn’t advance.

A long time ago I became the poster child for the campaign to end social promotion. So for a lot of families at Wilkie I’m their guarantee that the school is serious about achievement. “As long as that Spamden kid stays a sophomore,” they say, “I’ll know my kid is expected to perform. Imagine! A sophomore forever!”

Anyway, holding me back is now something everybody has gotten very used to, which is maybe the most major reason of all why I’ll never get to be a high school junior. You know how it is when you get into a routine.

So that got me thinking that maybe I need to do something crazy and different to shake things up, which is why I’m writing to you to ask if you could forge my dad’s signature on a form that I have to fill out before I can be allowed to donate my brain to science.

I guess minors need the consent of a parent or guardian to do this, and even though I’m way, way NOT a minor anymore, as soon as they find out I’m a high school sophomore they INSIST I fill out the form. Don’t worry though, you won’t get in trouble because it’s probably not even a crime to pretend to be my dad on a permission form when I’m almost thirty years old!

Did I just say that out loud? Geez, now I’m even more sure there’s something wrong with my brain.

And scientists from all over the world are working right now on solving some of the most complicated mysteries that happen between your ears. So there’s lots of money in the field, and everybody’s arguing over how to spend it.. Some bunch of European brain experts have signed a petition to say the big Brain Project they have going on over there is “too narrow in focus,” which is an odd thing to criticize because when I start flunking tests my mom always TELLS me to focus in on one thing rather than letting my brain “squirm like a toad,” which is a phrase I think she picked up in the ’60’s when people’s brains were really weird. Because toads don’t squirm, they hop. At least they do these days. Maybe things were different back then.

So anyway, they’ll probably decide to do even more research just to keep everyone happy, which is great if you have lots of education in, like, neuroscience and stuff.

I don’t have that education, but I DO have a brain to sell. I’m willing to bet they’ll want to take a really close look at one that couldn’t get out of the tenth grade, just to see what’s wrong with it. I’d like them to take it as-is. I’ve done as much with it as I can and I think the timing is right. Besides, Artie Richter is the smartest kid in 10th grade and he says they won’t have to remove my brain or anything, but I do think if the researchers buy my brain I’ll get to lie around a lot inside MRI tubes, listening to music, which would be an awesome improvement over Mr. Boozenporn’s class this year!

So what do you say, Mr. C.? Will you help me shake things up and change the script this year?

Your pal,

Of course I told Bubby that I would not help him avoid going back to school by forging his dad’s signature on a document that allows him to donate his brain to science. But the fact that he thought I might do it suggests there’s some weird chemistry going on inside his noggin, and it would certainly yield some interesting results if the researchers could only get their hands on it.

What could be learned if you donated your brain to science?


Mulch Ado About Money

Today’s post comes from perennial sophomore Bubby Spamden, a permanent fixture at Wendell Wilkie High School.

Hi Mr. C.,

Well, here I am in the middle of Summer with nothing to do, as usual. There’s no regular work so I’m doing odd jobs around the house for pocket change. Just last week my dad paid me $1 a bag to spread cypress mulch in the planting areas of the back yard. I had to ask my mom to keep taking me back to the garden store because we have lots of planting areas and 2 cubic feet is not as much mulch as you think.

I loaded everything in a wheelbarrow, rolled it to the spot, dumped it, opened it, spread it, collected the bags and went back to the car. Over and over. It was pretty hard work but I’m happy with the way it turned out.

However my dad didn’t realize it was going to take sixty eight bags. And I probably could have done it with less, but I’m convinced bark mulch is a waste of time unless you lay it on really thick.

Especially when I’m only getting paid $1 a bag!

He forked over the money though, which is all that counts. But then he asked me what I was going to do with my windfall and I said I was going to go see Edge of Tomorrow, that new Tom Cruise sci-fi action film.

That’s when my dad said he was disappointed that I was using his money to pay for something by that weenie Tom Cruise, and just the thought of his hard-earned dollars supporting “that wacko” gave him a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach.

That kind of confused me. I told him I wasn’t giving his hard-earned money to Tom Cruise, I was giving MY hard earned money to Tom Cruise.

See, I thought money was mine as soon as it was given to me but he said “No, there are complaining rights that belong to the person who just gave it to you. They’re free to slam you if you’re doing something stupid or objectionable with it, and even to take it back if they can.”

So I asked “What if the person who gave you the money was a Scientologist who got it from Tom Cruise himself? Wouldn’t they have complaining rights too?”

“No,” he said, “complaining rights only last for one transaction.”

So then I called him “small-minded” and said a bunch of stuff I don’t remember, but it probably had to do with the whole economic system being at risk if the person who employs you can dictate your behavior.

And that’s when he snatched a ten out of my hand and told me has a deeply held religious objection to children who contradict their parents.

“Honor your father and your mother”, he said. “Matthew 15:4.”

When I said “Hey!” he said “Take it up with the Supreme Court!

People sure get weird around money.

I don’t know if I want to own a company some day. It would wear me out to keep up my complaining rights on all those salaries and benefits. Not to mention the complaining I’ll have to do about taxes!

I think maybe it’s easier to lug around all those bags of mulch!

Your pal,

I told Bubby I don’t think he’ll have to worry about owning a company some day, but complaining about what other people do, especially if it’s none of our business, is one of the great pleasures of adulthood and he shouldn’t be so quick to give it up.

When does your money stop being yours?


The Not So Lazy Days of Summer

Today’s post comes from perennial sophomore Bubby Spamden.

Hey Mr. C.,

Even though school is almost over for this year, the work never ends for us kids!

That’s right, it’s summer job time again, which means me and my friends have to sweat bullets to come up with a fresh list of reasons for why we don’t have summer jobs!

This is good practice because it helps build up a life skill – deflecting unwanted questions.  And that’s tougher now than it was in the olden times, like two years ago. Back then all you had to say was “tough economy” and everybody was like, “Well, yeah!”. But now you say “tough economy” and they say “I heard it was getting better”.

And maybe it is, but not for teenagers!

People always think we can go get work in some fast food place, like there are suddenly thousands of open jobs as soon as school lets out because teenagers are hanging around all day to eat more and more fast food in the summer. But we don’t eat more fast food because we don’t have any money because we don’t have jobs. And if the fast food joints hired us so we could have money, then we could buy the food but we wouldn’t because we can already eat the spillage and wrong orders and leftovers behind the counter during our shifts!

Economics sure gets complicated!

The only other people who would have more time to go to a burger joint between June and September are the teachers, but when they place an order with a kid behind the counter who is also one of their students, the teachers kinda expect to get their fries upsized for free. And the kids do it because who knows if that teacher is the one who will hold your whole future in her hand when she decides whether you got a “B” or a “C” on that essay?

That takes a real mental toll, trying to decide if it’s ethical to bribe a teacher with french fries. It’s almost as taxing as writing and rehearsing that no-job excuse.

Speaking of which, here are some of the best ones I’ve heard so far:

  • I’m going to summer school to (catch up on / get ahead of) my regular classroom work.
  • I’m doing super-honorable extracurricular volunteer stuff to pad my college application and make me seem like I’m a much better person than I am.
  • I’ve taken an unpaid internship so I can get experience being overworked and under appreciated.

People tell me that last one will really prepare me for life in the adult world, but they’re all good excuses. One bad thing, though. They all require extra explaining because adults will pepper you with questions like: Where are you going to summer school? What are you studying? Where do you volunteer? What colleges are you going to apply for? Where is the internship? How awful is that boss? Etc, etc, etc.

More work for us, because making up things is hard, especially when the stories have to be believable.

So whenever you see a report that says American teens don’t want to work, you should ask us what we’re doing with our time this summer. You’ll see us working pretty darn hard to deflect that question!

Your pal,

I told Bubby that I agree – using your brain to be coy can be great practice for life in the real world. Unfortunately, the only field I know of where you can get paid specifically to deflect questions is politics.

How do you answer the uncomfortable question?


A Brief Pressing

Today’s post comes from perennial sophomore Bubby Spamden.

Hey Mr. C.,

I thought it was pretty cool the other day when that kid from New York who got accepted into all eight Ivy League colleges held a press conference at his school to announce that he had chosen Yale.

That’s a pretty awesome decision.

I don’t mean the decision about going to Yale. Ho hum to that. I mean deciding to have a PRESS CONFERENCE at your SCHOOL!  And one that real reporters would actually come to!


It got us talking in 5th hour Life Skills about what it takes to get attention from journalists and how each of us would handle the pressure if we knew we had to face the press.

Mr. Boozenporn said the key is to know your message and state it clearly. And take only a few questions – the minimum needed to give the impression that you care about what the press wants to know, which of course you DON’T.

You want to make them think you’re being open, you hope they swallow your bull, and then you go home.

Then he assigned us to write a two sentence opening statement for a press conference that could be about anything we want – world issues, personal statements, the weather, etc. And to make it as much like the real thing as possible, we had to get up and read our statement while a guy from the A/V department set off strobe lights and then our classmates got to shout angry questions at us for one minute.  

It was pretty cool.

Here are some of the statements kids came up with.

“I called you all here to confess that the rumors are true. I have been rejected by all eight Ivy League schools and have decided to attend Hamburger U. in the fall.”

“After an in-depth review of electronic records, I have decided I am going to un-friend Derek for the fifth, and final, time. If he tells you we are still ‘friends’, you will know he is a liar, which is something I have known all along but I have only recently decided to believe 24/7, rather than only every once in a while.”

“I have called the world’s press together to announce that I, too, have decided to put a ring in my nose, because piercing is our generation’s way of expression our unique individuality. And besides, everyone’s doing it.”

I’m surprised at how nervous I got when it came time for me to make my statement. But I swallowed hard, got up there, looked into the lights and said this:

“I called this press conference today to publicly challenge Alicia Erickson to a date, at a time and place yet to be determined, and under the rules of the Geneva Convention. I will name a delegation to negotiate the details with her representatives during tomorrow’s second hour study hall, where I have spent the last eight months staring at the back of her head, wishing she would turn around and speak to me.”

Well you can imagine that I got a lot of questions after that about what makes me think somebody as cool as Alicia would go out with me (nothing) and what do the Geneva Conventions have to do with dating (lots), but I said as little as possible and then sat down.

When Alicia got up and gave her press statement ten minutes later it was about pesticides, so I was happy she didn’t include anything about my date challenge in that. But she did look at me a couple of times and she might have smiled once, so I’m feeling pretty hopeful about it.

Your Pal,

What is your two-line opening statement?


A Punishing Defeat

Today’s post comes from Wendell Wilkie High School’s perennial sophomore, Bubby Spamden.

Hey, Mr. C.,

Thought I’d better tell you how it all went down in the big debate in Mr. Boozenporn’s class yesterday. Me and Alicia Erickson went toe-to-toe in what will probably be our only-ever thing that we do together, arguing about whether there should be a maximum wage to go along with the minimum wage that got signed into law by the Governor yesterday.

I could tell I was in trouble from the start. Alicia had two big loose-leaf binders on her desk crammed full of papers and there were three of her brainiac friends sitting right behind her, just glaring at me. People had been saying on Facebook that she spent the whole weekend cramming factoids and statistics into her memory – stuff she found in macro-economics and labor relations textbooks that she got from her parents, who are both trial lawyers.

And I think her mom is also a ninja.

It made me kind of sorry that I spent all my research time on Sunday looking into the history of the word Woot!, but it was too late to kick myself over that. I had to go first and make my best argument for the maximum wage, so I launched into my speech that I wrote on the bus this morning and I have to say that I think it was pretty good.

I said a bunch of words about how some people are so good at economic stuff they manage to get a whole lot more than they need. Which is fine, I said, until it gets ridiculous and they have so much they can’t even think how to spend it.

And then I threw in a quote from “Grapes of Wrath”, that I caught Lester Wells saying out loud in the seat next to me on the bus. He was supposed to hand in a book report today in Ms. Hecubensen’s English class, which he had all written except he needed to add something to make it sound like he had really read the whole thing rather than just looking at parts of it online.

And it just so happened it really lined up with my project too:

“If he needs a million acres to make him feel rich, seems to me he needs it ’cause he feels awful poor inside hisself, and if he’s poor in hisself, there ain’t no million acres gonna make him feel rich, an’ maybe he’s disappointed that nothin’ he can do ‘ll make him feel rich.”

Which set me up for my big idea – capping personal income at 10 million dollars a year and then giving individual over-earners the WOOT! title – Wealthy Oligarch Opportunity Titan! Kinda like getting a knighthood, except it has the extra responsibility of using your money smarts to lift up other people.

Some of the kids in the class answered with “Woot, woot, woot” and every time I said it after that more of them joined in until Mr. Boozenporn told them they had to stop. But that was a cool feeling. Like I was winning them over!

So then Alicia gets up and I figure she’s going to come at me with studies and numbers and probably the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, both.

But instead, she says …

“My whole case comes down to gold and silver, two things the super-rich covet and collect. I’d like to see a show of hands. Who thinks there should be a maximum wage law to limit the income of those greedy super-rich people?”

Just about every hand in the room goes up. I’m feeling pretty good.

“And who thinks there should be a law to limit how much YOU can make?”

Nothing. It was the raised-hand equivalent of crickets chirping.

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” she says, “And do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you.” “The golden rule and the silver rule. You can look it up.”

Then she sits down. And everybody says WOOT! Game over!

So I felt bad for a while but a bunch of people told me that I did better than they expected me to and they didn’t really disagree with me, they just weren’t ready to totally give up the idea of being super-duper rich someday themselves.

“But as soon as my hope dies,” said Jennifer Goff, “I’m on your side.”

That’s what friends are for!

Your pal,

Do you follow the rules?