March 20, 2007


In high school I knew a kid named Landon. Yes, Landon. As in the 1936 Republican nominee for president, Alfred Landon who lost in a landslide, getting only 8 electoral votes and spawning the phrase, "As Maine goes, so goes Vermont." The Landon I knew could have done worse.

Despite having a name straight out of a J.D. Salinger novel he was universally disliked, and dislikable. Oddly enough though, he seemed to have deserved it. [It has been a long time since then though, and there is a good chance he is a totally decent guy nowadays, but all I have to go by is his personality from high school.] For starters, he hailed from Duxbury, the Laguna Beach of Massachusetts. Home of practically every rich, entitled, lacrosse-obsessed douche-bag at my school. I don't know anything about it other than that the whole town must be lined with golf courses and docks. Also, every Duxburyite seemed to alternately fear or wish to return to Duxbury public school, which both groups frequently implied was some sort of bullet-riddled gangland where "you wouldn't last 5 minutes." Well, not with that no-name brand lacrosse stick at least.

Landon seemed to belong to the latter group. Sort of a Napoleon Dynamite without the charisma. Relentlessly negative about every single person and situation he encountered, and with no apparent skills or talents (at least once hockey season started and it turned out his constantly self-touted abilities were only good enough for 2nd or 3rd string). In any case, private schools have a sort of smarmy way of getting rid of kids they consider somehow undesirable but who haven't committed any particular expellable offenses--they are "not asked back" for the following year. This fate inevitably befell him. It was a pretty cowardly way of getting rid of students, but anyone who was keeping me awake with loud rap music from his adjoining room late at night couldn't have been contributing much to the academy.

Anyhow, by the end of junior year he was simply running down the clock. He didn't seem to be too unhappy to be leaving, but the school was still forcing him to go through all the motions of the ordinary "asked back" students, such as filling out surveys and short answer questions for various offices. I think he had something extra to do, maybe for his new school and he came over to my room, looking for a human thesaurus. He was stumped on a question asking for words he would use to describe himself as a student.

"What is a word that would say that I am, like, trying?"
"Like, not that I am really smart or anything, just like, that I show up and do everything."
"Do you do everything?"
"Well, sort of that I try to do everything, when I like, have to do it."
"Obligatory? What does that mean?"
"It means that you put a lot of extra effort into your work. And that you strive to be excellent at all times."
"[Writing] 'I am an obligatory student...' but it doesn't sound like I'm bragging, right?"
"Definitely not."