I am a fan of the contest. I just plain like the concept that for the trouble of sponsoring my own entry into it, I have earned the privilege of getting X chance in millions of winning whatever thing it is that I covet. It’s a tiny taste of exhilaration, made all the smaller by my intellectual understanding that I’m probably not going to win bupkus. But in the years of me entering contests, I have walked away victorious a few times. It’s like a siren’s song, drawing me back, distracted by whatever bauble or accolade is dangled in front of my head.
A stuffed snowman. In 1983 I won a stuffed snowman, hand-knit by some other 8th grader’s mother. The real hook for me was the black hat on its head—inside, curled into itself, was a second scarf, in a different color, and you could change them out. Sweet! A snowman you could dress! For a kid who didn’t give a fig about Barbies, this was for some reason extremely appealing. Tim, a big bully of a kid, had bested me earlier in the school year in a campaign for class security guard—I don’t know how he beat my motto, Shoot for the Moon, Vote for Maroon—and had, upon the afternoon of his victory speech, insisted everyone passing him in the hallway should bow to him. Oh, how my fellow classmates rued their collective decision then! Tim saw me buy a raffle ticket for Mr. Snowman and like an arrogant parent, unrolled a loop of raffle tickets like baby pictures out of his wallet. I would never win, he said. Ruffled by his heckling, I capitulated and bought one more ticket. This doubled my chances of winning, I figured. Ah, 8th grade math. When the principal called my ticket number over the loudspeaker, I squealed and ran down the three flights to get my prize. And I’m positive I loved that changeable snowman far superiorly to Tim, would he have won.
Mill Road Camp Camper of the Week. I have no earthly idea how I earned this prize other than the counselors gave it out on a rotating basis and I just hit my number one week. I didn’t even enter or otherwise make my interest known to the day camp staff. I was just wasting my time perfecting my tetherball skills. Mad skillz, I say. But I still have the brick red banner with white lettering.
I have won roughly $200 in bowling league money. That I have bowled in a league at least 6 times reveals my sad-ass bowling skills. Even the last team in most leagues will walk away with something at the end of the season. But it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about having the coolest shoes in the league. Which I have.
A Panasonic stereo and 25 CDs. This was the strangest contest to enter in my personal history with contests. Sponsored by Dodge and Mothers Against Driving Drunk, or whatever it is they’re called, entrants had to guess how many CDs (in their cases) would fit inside the M.A.D.D. Music Mobile, a van that apparently was roaming around my college campus, hunting for drunk drivers, or something. That really sounds like an unsafe practice, but okay. I went upstairs to my dorm room, called 800 information (there was no Web, people!), and got the number for Dodge headquarters in Detroit. After a series of phone calls, I had the cubic dimensions of the van’s interior. I also, at the time, owned 12 CDs. I pulled two away so I would have an even 10, and I measured the cubic area, did some rough math—math keeps being so important! damn math!—and then went back down to the lobby to put in my guess. I’d all but forgotten about the contest when I got a letter in the mail, saying I’d gotten first prize. I’d missed the grand prize, which was oh, a sports car, but what would I do with a sports car in the snowiest place in New York? Crash it into the Music Mobile, probably, or a Delta Delta Delta on her way back from a drunken formal.
Employee of the Year. This award took me a bit by surprise, and without a doubt meant the most to me of all the things I’ve ever had the pleasure of winning. The vice president announcing the award at the annual dinner did the traditional, “let me tell you about this person before I give you the name” thing. I’m fond of that approach, actually, and not just because it reminds me of Sesame Street’s version of This Is Your Life. I had my suspicions that I’d be getting the award, but it was still great to get called up to the podium and accept it. Sometimes I think it’s silly to get so excited about a wood and brass plaque, but well, I worked hard to have that on my office wall.
It’s with this short but fun history that I entered the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association literary contest, submitting my affable memoir last spring. I’d known upon entering that finalists in each genre category would be notified by early June, so when 6/15 rolled around I presumed I was not among them. But opening my email yesterday, I saw an email from PNWA with the subject line, PNWA Literary Contest: Congratulations! My very first thought was, “well, I guess I’ll see who the finalists are, since I must not be one of them.” Imagine my surprise when I read: “Dear Everett, Congratulations!” Say what? Holy memoir, I’m a finalist!
Susanne wanted to know why the blood had all gone out of my face. I told her, rereading the Web site details about the contest, that so far I’d won a “Finalist” ribbon to put on my conference badge when I show up at the event in July. I bet it’s red. I love a nice, red ribbon and I have no idea why. As it stands, there are 8 finalists in each genre category, and a first, second, and third place winner. So I have a 3 in 8 chance of winning something beyond my lovely strip of satin. Whatever happens, I’m excited and thrilled.
Contests are damn fun.