Trophy Strife

Being named the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop’s “Humor Writer of the Month” for November 2022 is an honor that seems a bit outsized for what I’ve produced in my humor-writing career – but I’ll accept it graciously and no give-backs.

You can count the number of prizes I’ve won in my life on the fingers of one hand, even after losing a digit to a chainsaw mishap, and here’s the comprehensive list:

  • I secured 3rd Place in my community’s Punt, Pass & Kick competition, 7- and 8-year-old division. Out of 3 competing. When I punted the football, it actually landed behind me.
  • In 1970 I won 2nd place in a poetry writing contest, celebrating “National Apple Week” as promoted by a morning show on WJZ-TV in Baltimore. Each entry was to start with the line “Mary had a little apple,” and I still recall my poem:

Mary had a little apple,
Ate it and became quite ill.
Was operated on to move it,
And died when she saw the bill.

Odd that a verse suggesting eating an apple could lead to one’s death was considered prize-worthy by a trade group promoting fruit consumption. But what really was of note here is that the host of the morning show was Arnold Zenker, who some of you may recall substituted for Walter Cronkite on the CBS Evening News for 13 days during a strike by AFTRA in 1967.

My prize was an apple – one solitary apple – that came via the mail and was sent directly from the headquarters of the apple industry lobbying organization. I was, of course, terrified to take a bite out of it because I feared their retribution.

  • I ran for President of the Student Council my senior year of high school, losing by one vote. A classmate who was one of the vote tabulators noticed similar handwriting on two different ballots. The person who was suspected of but never proved to have stuffed the ballot box won the election, beating me for the position by virtue of his second self-vote. This individual was later appointed to the United States Naval Academy (true), and later married that tabulator (really). Therefore, I am more inclined to believe in voter fraud conspiracies than one might think.
  • I spent a number of years working for a large telecommunications company, whose upper management was fond of running various contests as part of their employee engagement strategy. For one contest, every employee received a ticket and names were chosen at random for a variety of prizes: water bottles, tote bags, and the like – but the grand prize was a large-screen color TV. Lo and behold… my name was chosen! However, I was unaware I’d won because, earlier that day, I’d been laid off from the company and immediately escorted off the premises. I never received the TV.

And that’s the list. So, this history may explain why, although I did receive notification a few weeks ago that the humor writing recognition was pending for November, I made mention of it to very few people because, based on my track record, the odds were 50/50 that some confluence of circumstances would negate the honor.

Therefore, I am very pleased to see this actually come to fruition. But I’m not one to rest on this laurel – in fact, right now I’ve got to get started on a comprehensive social media search to see if a certain former midshipman and his female co-conspirator are still scheming together.

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