Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Pomp and Circumstance redux

Every now and then we read about somebody who hatches a scheme so outlandish, so bizarre, so “I can’t believe anybody would actually go through with this,” that we admire the person for his or her tenacity.

I have found that person in Wendy Brown.

Ms. Brown is a 33-year-old Green Bay mom, with an alleged history of identity theft crimes. But her latest attempt to pass herself off as somebody else was, shall we say, “really bitchin.” You see, Brown was recently arrested and charged with posing as her own 15-year-old daughter – a plot she allegedly hatched so she could go back to high school, get a degree and here’s the best part – become a cheerleader.

Brown was actually getting away with this when she was nabbed. She was attending classes and going to cheerleading practice in the morning. Apparently she made the team. I’m not sure if she made it because of her physical dexterity or because she could always drive the other cheerleaders to and from practice.

If the criminal complaint is true, then obviously Brown needs a psychiatrist more than a prom date. But I have to take issue with Wisconsin law enforcement authorities. Why arrest her so early? Why not let her finish out the year and achieve her dream? After all, who was she really hurting? Brown doesn’t sound like the sharpest knife in the drawer so it’s unlikely she was setting the curve on the calculus exams, forcing her fellow classmates to study harder. Also, her daughter was living in Nevada with Brown’s mother and was apparently unaware that Wendy Brown had assumed her identity.

Okay, so the complaint did allege that she bounced a check for her cheerleading uniform but I’m sure she’s not the first cheerleader who has done that. Last Spring I dropped over $150 on a dance costume for my six year old. The outfit was worn exactly once. After the recital it was tossed in the “dress up bin” in our basement.

Personally, I’m rooting for Ms. Brown, whose mugshot is on the right. I want to see her acquitted. And if she is, I may just follow in her footsteps. For there are a few things I’d still like to accomplish at my alma mater.

I think I could pull it off. Sure I’m almost 46 but I still have all my hair. I don’t need to shave every day but even if I came in unshaven for chemistry class, I’d look no less scruffy than the majority of high school kids today. Of course, to blend in, I would also need a few other things. I’d need pants that fell below my waist, revealing my underwear, the latest cell phone and iPod, an energy drink tucked into my backpack and a newfound ability to speak in sentences punctuated repeatedly with “like” and containing at least one profanity. But I refuse to get any body piercings on tattoos. Those look painful.

With my new identity, I would be ready to return to Prospect High School, home of the Knights, in Mt. Prospect, Illinois. The first thing I would do? Take the bus. I never took a bus in high school. I lived about 10 blocks from school and walked every day. No, it wasn’t uphill both ways but the district decided the distance was short enough that there was no need to waste education dollars on my transportation. So I walked. This was okay except in winter when I trudged into school with ice crystals adorning my eyelashes about the same time the bus pulled up and my fellow students took three steps before entering the building.

Once at school, I’d get my class schedule. I’d be certain to take Spanish since I never took that in high school and it’s a decision I regret. I took four years of German but even then I knew it was a language I would never use once I graduated. Several years later I visited Germany with a college buddy and discovered I had forgotten every lick of German I learned except “zwei bier bitte.” Two beers please. Surprisingly, I was able to stumble through the country quite ably using just that phrase.

I’d sign up for a math class, particularly one that requires a graphing calculator. I’m curious as to why a graphing calculator is so necessary today. I’d never heard of such a device when I went to high school. Yet my SIXTH GRADER needs one today. I took one look at it and guessed it was made in China because all the buttons appeared to contain Chinese characters. A graphing calculator allows its owner to brush up on things like “quadratics” and “hyperbolic trig.” Are these worthwhile skills to have today? I don’t know but I want to find out.

I’d also want to take a bunch of science classes just so I could consistently say, “what’s the point?” every time the teacher gave me an assignment. Mix chemicals together and wait for an explosion? What’s the point? Cut open a frog? What’s the point? If I contacted every member of the Prospect High School class of 1980 and asked if anyone had put their frog-dissecting skills to use following high school, I guarantee the answer would be a unanimous NO!

After a morning of education, it would be time for lunch. The cafeteria always intimidated me in high school. It just seemed to be a mass of people, none of whom knew me and vice versa. I wasn’t the most popular guy in high school by any means, a point that got exacerbated in the cafeteria. But I have a supply of confidence today that I never had in high school and it would show. I’d walk up to any table, containing any high school faction, sit down, introduce myself, eat my bologna and cheese and jump into the conversation.

Hi, I’m Greg. What music do you guys listen to? Lil Wayne? Death Cab for Cutie? Yeah, they’re okay. Anybody here like Styx or REO Speedwagon? Hey, where’s everybody going?

Of course I’d want to attend the Homecoming dance, providing one still existed. According to my high school-aged nieces, kids today don’t necessarily go to dances with dates. Instead, they go in groups, hang out and possibly “hook up” later. Actually that sounds okay by me. I went to two out of four homecomings in high school. Both times I made nervous calls to girls who accepted only after long, uncomfortable pauses on the phone. I dressed in a suit, tied a tie with a massive knot and picked up a girl that I knew would probably avoid me in the halls the following Monday.

This time would be different. I wouldn’t need to pick up my date in my parent’s Ford Torino. No, my lady would be escorted in my black BMW X5 with navigational system and an iPod port. With wheels like that, she might even talk to me until the following Tuesday, especially if I agreed to drive the entire group around after Homecoming.

Like Ms. Brown, I’d need an extracurricular activity or two. Hers was cheerleading. I’d want a few more. I would play for the tennis team, just as I did in high school. I’d only play because I had a horrible loss my senior year that kept me from getting to the Illinois state tennis tournament. I’d work hard, make it to the state tournament and then be forced to default because my 45-year-old body couldn’t handle playing three matches in one day.

I would also join some clubs that didn’t exist when I went to high school. The Computer Animated Design club. The science fiction club. Maybe even the Gay and Lesbian club, which seems to be popping up at every high school. I’m not gay but I’ve always wondered what gay high school students talk about after school? Do they study together? Do you study a different way if you’re gay?

According to authorities, Brown was planning to attend school until she graduated because she never received a high school diploma. I did graduate but that doesn’t mean I can’t do it again, right? And I’d want to give the commencement speech. I’d walk proudly to the podium, mortarboard balanced on my head, gaze out at my fellow students and the parents fanning themselves with programs. And then, I would reveal my ruse:

“Mr Superintendent, faculty members, parents and fellow students, my name is Greg Schwem. You may know me as ‘that new kid who claimed he had a disease which caused some of his hair to turn prematurely gray.’ You may know me as ‘that kid who seemed a bit too knowledgeable when we covered the 1980s in history class.’ You may know me as ‘that kid who occasionally used an American Express card in the cafeteria.’

I am all those people. I also am a 45-year-old father of two girls who aren’t even in high school yet. Thank you for allowing me into your school to see what high school is like today. I have met so many people this past year. And I can honestly say there is hope for all of you providing you stop text messaging and quit spending so much time trying to make your MySpace pages as ugly as possible.

Speaking of which, please try to remember that success does not equate to how many “friends” you have on Facebook. You are not successful just because you can kick butt in an on line poker room. And getting the highest score on Guitar Hero will get you nowhere in the real world. So put down the gadgets, stop interacting with virtual people and start talking with real people. Volunteer at a nursing home, work in a homeless shelter or become a big brother or big sister. Stop relying on your helicopter parents for money and get a job. Think baby-sitting is beneath you? I pay our baby sitter seven bucks an hour – sometimes to watch TV!

Open a savings account, eschew credit cards, keep a journal. Learn how to spell without the aid of a spell checker. Learn to add without Quicken. Do your research in a library and not through Wikipedia. Be nice to everyone and don’t judge people who are different. They may be your boss one day.

That’s all I have to say. Now lets sing the school fight song. Please welcome our head cheerleader…WENDY BROWN!

About Greg Schwem

Greg Schwem is a corporate stand-up comedian and president of Comedy With a Byte. Please visit his website by clicking here

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Go you knights of Prospect, get right in and win that game. Win or loose we're with you, and we'll cheer you on to fame, Hoorah! We'll fight our way to victory, to our team we will be true. Go you knights of Prospect with your navy and blue."
I have no idea way I still know that. I'm sure that space in my brain could be put to better use.
You are hysterical. I have been sitting here reading and laughing out loud. Thanks for sharing and for the endorphins.

Kathy Rodriguez
PHS class of 1980