The Spelling Bee
GLYNN WASHINGTON, HOST:
Welcome back to SNAP JUDGMENT the "All in your Head" episode. Now there's this thing that some people do more than others, it's called, is it me? Go to a place and everyone's acting a little bit off. There's a clown balancing three infants on spinning plates and no one says a word about it. And you're like, is it me or has this place got an odd child care policy. SNAP JUDGMENT's Davey Kim wonders if it's him all the time.
DAVEY KIM, BYLINE: It's eighth grade and I arrive at school. I've been dreading this day all year long 'cause today's the day that each class has its spelling bee. My best friend, John, shares my pain because - well, let me put it this way, I'm not trying to say that we're cool or anything, but we're both part of the skinny jean skaters crew. John and I even just started a screamo emo band called A Dream Deferred.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
KIM: Yep, that's us.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
KIM: But secretly, we're also really good spellers. And it's not cool to be a good speller, but you know what? We can't resist a good competition, so we're going to do this. John heads to his class and I go to mine. We have our spelling bee and guess what? We come out on top. And we're going to regionals. After school, we're high-fiving each other and it just so happened that we were the only Asian kids in our grade, so we joked between ourselves that our Asian power helped us win. A few weeks later, John and I carpooled to the regional level spelling bee. And we're pretty confident that this year, one of us is going to take home the first place trophy.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
KIM: We scope out the competition. In front of us there are four older judges, they look grave and serious. I notice that John and I are the only Asian kids here, again, which doesn't really matter, whatever.
JUDGE: Welcome everyone.
KIM: The spelling bee begins.
(SOUNDBITE OF SPELLING BEE)
KIM: And students are getting eliminated left and right until there's only a handful of us left. Some of the kids who got cut are waiting in the back with their parents crying. The judges look at the word sheet and then they look at each other. Then they take a look at John and start chuckling to themselves. One of the judges then says...
JUDGE: Don't worry son, you'll get this word.
KIM: The entire room is confused, especially John.
JUDGE: Oriental. Your word is oriental.
KIM: The judges start laughing to themselves some more and soon the rest of the room starts snickering.
JUDGE: What are the odds?
KIM: But I'm not. You know what? I get it. How can this Asian kid mess up the word oriental? But still, this is embarrassing for John. John's about to start spelling. He's nervous from all the attention, his knees are shaking and he's fidgeting with his hands. He begins.
JOHN: Oriental. O-R-E?
(SOUNDBITE OF BUZZER)
KIM: And he stops. He messed up and he knows it. He just turns around and heads over to the back of the room. Man, I'm furious now but the only way to get back at everyone is to win this thing. Soon it's my turn again, I wonder what word I'll get. Asiatic, Confucius? I walk up to the front of the room. I'm a little nervous.
JUDGE: Raconteur. Your word is raconteur.
KIM: I have no clue what this word means but I've seen it around so I'm pretty sure I know how to spell it. I rehearse it in my head - raconteur - R-A-C-O-N-T - I got it. I ask for the word in a sentence, I ask for a definition just to make sure. I'm ready to spell it out, but right before I do, I look back and see John. He's not crying like some of the other kids, but, you know, he just looks really sad. I look at the judges right in the eye and begin spelling my word. Raconteur. R-A-C-I-S-T. Raconteur. I don't turn around. The judges, the parents and all the students have their eyes locked on me. I just stand there facing the judges for four very uncomfortable seconds and no one's laughing now. I leave the stage. I go over to my best friend and we walk out of the spelling bee, medal-less, but victorious.
WASHINGTON: All right, snappers, in case you are wondering, a raconteur is someone who tells great stories. Thank you, Davey for telling us that tale of sweet R-E-V-E-N-G-E. Check out our website, snapjudgment.org for other great raconteurs. That story was produced by Davey Kim with sound design by Davey Kim.
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