My first tweet, so to say

I went to high school in a different millennium.

Since I’m driving at a point here, I’ll save the nostalgia and philosophizing for another post. And, I hope you’ll give me I credit for being economic with my words. I deserve it, as you’ll see.

(Nonetheless, my table mate here at this coffee shop is wondering why I’m rocking myself back and forth. Give him 20 years, he’ll find out.)

In 9th-grade Honors English…

We plodded through the standard slate of American authors, books, and short stories. Our regular assignment — was it daily? weekly? — was called Read and Response. Or Reader Response. Or whatever.

I may have found it slightly remedial.

I was a good student, custom built for the assembly line that is the American public school. Not only did I arrive with a fistful of sharpened pencils and my own unadulterated hyper-curiosity, my parents had both been public school teachers.

Across my decades of book learning, Mrs. Jane Nelson was one of my favorite teachers.

Running along ahead

I can’t remember which story we read or the “essay prompt” for that fateful Read and Response that, in hindsight, was my first tweet.

I don’t think it was The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

(If I had a copy of the Texas Assessment of _____ and ____ — which, after several iterations and GW’s presidency, became the template for No Child Left Behind — from 1989 and a copy of the placemat for 9th-grade Honors English, I’m still not sure I could tell you which damn story it was.)

It had something to do with frying bacon. There was a man and woman. That’s all I got. It’s hard to get old…

In the form a of a “Why?” question

Open-ended, lotsa wiggle room. Plenty to trawl out some yarn showing you actually read the assignment and understood chunks, at least, of it.

I had so much homework. Hours-worth every night.

I honestly thought Mrs. Nelson was giving us a gift when she lobbed us this softball question. (Whatever it was.)

I gave her a one-line answer. Again, something to do with,

“Because she was frying bacon.”

I all but wrote, “Duh,” at the end of my answer.

Then I moved on to my stack of remaining homework and didn’t give it a second thought.

Until…

Later that week, she returned our graded assignments. Mine was marked in red with a big goose egg.

WELL. I. NEVER. (No really, I hadn’t ever earned a zero on anything.)

I was so stunned.

Here’s how “cute” I was as a teenager:

  • I marched right up there and trained my tone of voice to be quiet and polite.
  • I awaited her attention and permission to speak, and
  • I said, “Excuse me, Mrs. Nelson, but is it possible that, um, there’s been an error in my grade, ma’am?”

She did me the great good favor of not LOL’ing.

She did, however, smirk at me.

“No, Suzanne, that’s not an error. That’s the grade I give for an incomplete assignment.”

She all but didn’t say, “Duh.”

I may have sputtered.

“You can’t just say ‘because she was frying bacon’ and expect me to believe that you’ve read it or to consider that a complete response. You have to explain what you mean and how you arrived at that answer.”

I wisely didn’t blurt, “Dude, did you read it? It’s Because She Was Frying Bacon.”

She said, “But you know my policy on late homework.”

I did not, actually. Because I’d never used it. See aforementioned about being a super nerd.

“You can turn in homework for a grade up to a week late. I take 10 points off the top for each day it’s late. If I were you, I would turn this in tomorrow, completed.”

That afternoon, I must have laid down 500 words on the story, the plot and character development, the motivations, and the mechanics of the story.

Thank God there wasn’t internet back then. I would have given her a 5-page essay on the author’s upbringing and the geopolitical influences of the pork futures market. I don’t know.

I made a (very snotty) point of Over Answering the Damn Question.

Like only a teenager can do.

Because who else has the energy. Amiright?

But, man, I really showed her, huh?

I got a 90% for the assignment. An A in the class. A degree in English Lit from Texas A&M.

That was my first tweet.

Because you don’t have to give all the pesky background on Twitter, or “social media” for that matter.

Just the upshots.

Highlights.

Bullet-points.

“Top-line it for me. Gimme the toplines,” one client use to say to me.

“Send me shorter emails, no more than 3 lines,” said another, more often, and through clenched teeth.

I’ve gotten much better at TopLining it, BottomLining it, Hitting the High Points, and killin’ my darlings.

I thank Mrs. Jane Nelson for insisting that I take the whole lap around this one.

My Actual First Tweet

Fairly representative of that time in my life and in our world economy…