Not Another Contest




            One of the main irritations of the spring time is the re-flowering of contests of all sorts, including baseball which I don’t want to mention and am sorry I did. I am not one to run away from a good challenge even though I have skulked away limping badly a time or two.

            It’s always early March when someone comes through the door waiving a pastel colored entry blank for an essay contest. My immediate reaction is to crawl under my desk and wedge myself into the kneehole to avoid detection. Sometimes a persistent messenger waits me out, or better, can draw me out by rolling jelly doughnuts past my office door.

            When finally I’m coerced into reading the entry, I find the essays of late have become quite sophisticated. Not just one that requires 250 words on “My Favorite Meatless Sandwich and Why” or “Puncture the Myth: Hot Air Ballooning’s For Everyone”. These types are childish exercises and can be written breezily on the lunch napkin over a hearty noontime meal. No it’s never one of those!  For example, the one that came to me recently was “Write an essay in the style of Robert Benchley and keep it under 500 words if you know what’s good for you.”  Right off, you can see that some of these contests have a slightly threatening tone of which I disapprove. It does nothing for my creativity or, in this case, running the copy machine. 

            If my recollection serves me at all, I recall a R. Blinchey who wrote romance novels and occasional poems found in those overprice holiday cards that you get in the mail three days late. But that R might be for Roberta. Another possibility (remote) is that R. Blinchey is R. Benchley using a pseudonym. The last time I used a pseudonym, it had to be dug out of the closet and given a good rub with a dust cloth.  After several goings to the library and requisite comings with brief stops at the liquor cabinet each time, I did manage to find the R. B. referred to in the contest. I also found that my empty gin bottles are accumulating at an alarming rate. This brings us to another sore point. Have you ever tried to find a book in the library, old collegiate libraries in particular? Stairways lead nowhere; the shelf spacing is such as to need a sharp intake of air and severe slimming of the waist in order to proceed; the lighting is poor; the air full of dust and mites; and the book you are there for (“The Early Worm” in my case) was checked out in 1954 but has been promised back next week. Hah! It’s no wonder everything is going electronic and why I don’t bother with those pesky essay contents. Robert Benchley so there!