Well, mostly perfect. The school Glee Club was hosting a Valentine’s Day fundraiser, although I’m not sure why they needed to raise money for Valentine’s Day since it pretty much took care of itself, or why they needed to raise money for anything else since I don’t remember the Glee Club doing anything, including performing at any school function. It was a surprise to most of us that there even was a Glee Club.
Anyway their fundraiser was simple but fun idea: for just twenty-five cents they’d come to any class and deliver a message and sing a song for the person of your choice, a sort of Valentine’s Day singing telegram. The messages could be anonymous so it was a great way to for secret admirers to send a message to the objects of their affection, or names could be included, effectively humiliating everyone involved and dooming any relationship.
My friends and I, as far as I remember, didn’t have any unrequited passions, or even requited ones since we were pretty much a bunch of losers, but we did have a simple but fun plan: we’d each pay for three or four songs and messages to be delivered to our teachers. None of us had crushes on our teachers—even losers have standards—but the idea was that if we sent three or four songs and messages that would take up a significant chunk of class time.
If you’re wondering what we were trying to accomplish with this devilishly clever plan that was it: taking up a significant chunk of class time. Sometimes it’s better just to go with it. The clever part was that we’d get the singers to come during the class we hated most, and if you think this is a misuse of the word “clever” give yourself five bonus points for being technically correct.
The other catch is none of us had any classes together, but we quickly realized this was a feature, not a bug, and for once that expression is not being used ironically. The attached messages could be anonymous but the purchases had to be made in person. We reasoned that anyone who sent a singing telegram to their own class was just asking for trouble, and that it would look suspicious if any single person sent a batch of singing telegrams to the same place. During the week leading up to Valentine’s Day all Glee Club members carried clipboards and bags of change, the first and last time any of the Glee Club members—all three of them–could be spotted in a crowd, and we even made sure to approach them separately so our purchases wouldn’t overlap.
For my own class I picked algebra, which was taught by Mr. Stingo, who was incredibly smart and extremely organized. He had an orderly, logical way of thinking which made him an excellent math teacher. He was also extremely intense and terrified me, and it didn’t help that I was extremely disorganized and my own way of thinking was and still is, well, a little more non-linear, which is why I was flunking algebra. I shelled out six bits for my friends’ biology, gym, and German classes, and I was doing a real favor for my friend in the German class where the teacher’s approach was immersive. She only spoke German and, struggling to keep up, he asked one of the older students how to say, “I don’t understand” in German and the next day responded to an incomprehensible question with, “Du bist eine Scheisskopf” and he’d been afraid to go back to class ever since. Needless to say seventy-five cents was a paltry sum to pay for a respite from such pedagogical persecution.
The only downside, I thought, was that we couldn’t choose the songs they’d perform. Rickrolling hadn’t been invented yet, but I would have requested “Hey Jude” with its runtime of over seven minutes, even if most of it is just “nah nah nah”, although I also thought, at more than seventeen minutes, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” would be both a great time waster and a real hoot performed a capella, but that’s another story.
Valentine’s Day arrived and I was giddy with anticipation, paying even less attention than usual. Fifteen minutes went by. Then half an hour. Then forty-five minutes. Finally with just ten minutes left in the class there was a knock at the door and two members of the Glee Club came in. I have no idea what they sang, only that it was mercifully short and had more keys than the janitor’s belt, thus solving the mystery of why no one had ever heard from the Glee Club and would never hear from them again. My friends and I would later conclude that the shortage of club members forced them to limit their performances and we couldn’t ask for refunds because we couldn’t find any of them.
Mr. Stingo, meanwhile, was very confused, and even more confused when word somehow got back to him that I was the source of his Valentine’s Day serenade, although I think it might have contributed to my just barely passing algebra and never having to take another class with him again, so that did work our perfectly.