Stung By The Bee

As the publisher of a major newspaper, I get invited to some pretty prestigious affairs. They range from political gatherings to charitable galas and celebrity-laden balls. I’m pretty humbled to be able to participate in those, but in all honesty, some of my favorite events are a bit more “close to home.”

Recently, I was invited to attend the 2013 aio Hawaii State Spelling Bee. It was held at the PBS Hawaii studio, and parents and guests were under a tent in the parking lot. Pardon my pun, but the place was abuzz. I felt more like I was at the Academy Awards as the crowd watched in anticipation of an eventual winner.

The one thing that impressed me the most was that the participants in this contest are some of the smartest people you’ll ever know. And I mean people, even though they were all kids. Watching them really impressed me, as I was starting to feel that the youths of today have lost basic intellectual needs like spelling to Wikipedia and spell-check.

No, these kids are wicked smart, but they don’t seem to know it. They’re just regular but charming children, who, until they get into spelling mode, could be your own kids. The winner, Akira Takabayashi, is an eighth-grader from Lihue, Kauai. One of his words was “barukhzy,” and even though I heard the definition (an Afghan hound), I couldn’t spell it if my life depended on it.

Back when I was in the seventh grade, I was in a spelling bee. It was for Mrs. Keane’s English class at Wahiawa Intermediate School. The competition was stiff, but I was holding my own. It came down to me and a girl. I was up first, and I prayed for an easy word. My prayer was answered, as the teacher asked me to spell the word “icy.”

The rest of the class moaned because I drew such an easy word. Confident, I threw my chest out and loudly spelled it out, “I-C-E-E!” Everyone laughed at me because I just spelled the name of everyone’s favorite frozen drink. I never lived that down, although that paved the way for me to learn to spell a word that would stay with me the rest of my life.

That would be “loser,” with a capital “L.”