Feeling bee-trayed

I want to tell you a story that happened to me almost 30 years ago, but is still quite traumatic for me and will likely expose me as a nerd to the 3% of you who haven't figured that out already. 

I am a former spelling bee champion.

Not just the class kind. Or the school kind. But the kind that competed at the highest levels in the sport of spelling bees...the 1988 New Jersey State Spelling Bee kind.

Yeah, I know. Pretty bad ass. I will give you all a moment to collect yourselves. 

Here's the full story. 

In 7th grade I went on a Steph Curry-like hot streak and spelled my way through several qualifying spelling bees to make it to our state spelling bee. 

This was kind of a big deal, since we were in a highly educated district with tons of future Ivy-Leaguers. AND I BEAT THEM ALL. 

So off I went to Trenton, our state capital, to battle it out with the other district and county champs in an epic showdown of nerdly proportions. 

We all sat on stage under the lights in front of hundreds of people and each went up one by one, spelling progressively harder words. 

The first few rounds were cake walks. Easy words like "appendix" that barely made you sweat. 

The third round was when it all happened. 

I got the word "boomerang". 

"Soooooo easy," I thought to myself. I spelled it quickly. b-o-o-m-e-r-a-n-g. 

I was so confident I actually started walking back to my seat before waiting to hear the judges say "correct"...which is really the spelling bee's version of the mic drop. (It's a baller move that impresses the lady spellers btw)

"Incorrect" they quickly said. "The spelling is b-o-o-m-a-r-a-n-g. Boomarang."

What???! I was out. I couldn't believe it. It was one of those surreal moments where you knew 100% you were right, but someone else said you were wrong. 

I crawled back to my seat and watched the next 40 rounds in a catatonic state as they crowned a new spelling bee champion a few hours later. 

My dad, who was sitting out in the crowd and isn't a bad speller himself, was also in shock after watching me get eliminated on a word he also knew that I had spelled correctly.

So he did what any great dad would do. He got up from his seat and stuck up for his son. 

Now, this was before the iPhone era, before the Internet, hell before laptops (in a related story I am old) and he needed proof. So he walked across the street to the New Jersey State Library, went to the dictionary section, looked up the word boomerang and verified that I had indeed spelled the word correctly. 

He then brought it back across the street and was all up in the judges faces the second the competition was over. 

Lo and behold, in the irony of all ironies...THERE WAS A SPELLING MISTAKE on the judges list of words for the state spelling bee. A typo. In a spelling bee.

In other words, I got hosed. 

This formative experience taught me a few life lessons that I've never forgotten to this day:

1. I have a great dad. And when you see your kid get wronged you do something about it. 

2. Weird things happen in life. Get used to it. 

3. All competitions in New Jersey are rigged. For real. 

But the thing I learned the most from this experience? It showed me how resistant people are to say something or question something when they themselves have something to risk. 

When People Don't Speak Up

Researchers call these types of situations "latent voice episodes" - when people have the opportunity to speak up but they don't.  (You knew I was going somewhere with this ridiculous story.)

Follow me here for a second. 

On stage sat the 50 best spellers in one of the most highly educated states in America.

They were spelling words like "stichomythia" and "eudaemonic" in their sleep. 

And there was an obvious spelling error on an easy word all 50 spellers knew about and no one said anything or questioned it at all (including me by the way).

Not one kid raised their hand and said "Hey wait a second..."

Why? Because they didn't want to call attention to themselves. Or they thought "it's not my place to say something". Or they want to see things fall apart for others. 

They have an opportunity to say something, but they don't. 

These latent voice episodes happen all the time in offices and homes and life by the way. 

Like when employees stay silent during town halls and don't ask the CEO questions during open Q&A time (even though they know about all sorts of projects going off the rails). 

Or when your spouse asks how your day was and you say "fine" instead of the dozens of things that went wrong for you that day.

Because staying silent is often the path of least resistance.

It's something I try and remind myself of when I see something going awry, to speak up and be vocal and not be like those 50 nerds on stage that left me out to dry that day. (Okay, maybe I'm a little resentful still. Whatevs. You get the idea!)

So, assignment for the week:

What's something going wrong at work or at home that you've been silent on? And how can you gracefully shine a light on that situation to help others?

Until next time friends...

Article this week that made me consider taking LSD:

Wired: Would you take LSD to give you a boost at work?

I mean, it kinda sounds good right?

One more thing that annoys me that I forgot to mention in my last blog post about things that annoy me: 


Like many red blooded Americans we do a ton of online shopping in the Bacon house. Amazon Prime. Subscription boxes like Door-to-Door Organics, HelloFresh and PopSugar (Brooke). The works really. 

Which means boxes. Shitloads of boxes. In a neighborhood where recycling only comes every other week.

Which means after a few days our garage looks like this:

Seriously. Can there be a box cutting/removal service out there for power e-shoppers like me and Brooke? It takes me forever to break these down and haul them out on pickup day. Yet another business opportunity I guess :) 

What I've been listening to:

Run by Jonah Werner. 

Full disclosure. Jonah's one of my best friends in life and probably the one guy I'd call if I was ever wrongfully arrested at 3 the morning and needed someone to bail me out. 

There's been a few mornings lately where I've felt a little sluggish (thanks to baby) so I've blasted this song on the way to work and  it gets me going and it's absolutely perfect. Enjoy...