Saturday, October 20, 2012

Invisible for a Day

I think many people re-define themselves at various times in their lives. Sometimes it's deliberate and sudden—you show up at school with newly spiked hair and a bunch of head banger music in your iPod. Other times I think it just happens over time—a mean bully that slowly realizes his victims are actual human beings and not punching bags.

When I was in high school, I decided to change everything about me, including my name, for one day. I became a nerd, or what I thought was a nerd. Back then, nerds weren't cool like they are now, and I wanted to be the most un-cool person in the school. Of course, I wasn't very cool to begin with, so it wasn't that hard.

I found some old clothes, most of which were too big for me, and a pair of my dad's old horn-rim glasses (which were very much NOT in style then). I put some tape on the glasses for good measure. I carried a dictionary around with me. You remember dictionaries, don't you—those thick books with words in them? I also carted a record album called Beginning Square Dance, along with all my text books, which I normally left in my locker. I had a whole fistful of pens in my pocket, a dorky ball cap, and a Snoopy lunch box.

I was as nerdy as I could be. And I became Fenster McNabb.

When I got to school, I purposely avoided people. I stared at the floor and slinked along the edges of the hallways. A few teachers recognized me and got a good laugh out of it. But several times, I walked into class and the teacher politely asked if I was a recent move-in, usually in a "I don't want to frighten you" voice. The other kids found that pretty funny.

The principal stopped me when I was late to one class. I think he was a little confused about whether I was for real or not. My friend Stitch got a great picture of the encounter.

It was interesting because most people really didn't know who I was that day. I had a couple rude or teasing comments directed my way, but I found that few people purposely picked on me. Rather, I was just ignored. It kind of made me wonder what it felt like for kids who were ignored every day.

I don't know that I came away from that experience with any great revelation. I just did it all on a lark. But thinking about it now, I realize there are a lot of invisible people in the world—people who are invisible even though we see them every day.


  1. Perhaps you were not as invisible as you thought. I remember this. I am sure I never said anything to you - but I didn't that often because I thought you were way cooler than I was.

  2. I'm glad there's a picture of this for posterity's sake

  3. As the tag-a-long photographer for the experience I remember Fenster. I remember how Fenster's actions reminded me of a few people in our school who were actual Fensters. One was a Janitor. His name was "Ted" if I remember correctly who would try to be as invisible as possible as he worked to keep our school clean. For the most part most of us were mean to him and as a reward he would mumble "damn kids" all the while taking our abuse and our trash away with him. Some memories aren't always memories of our best deeds.I deserved the "damn kid" label. There are quite a few Fensters I owe apologies to. On a more uplifting note, I do think I captured Mr. Curtis' best side for the picture.

  4. Ha. I think I made a copy of that photo and gave it to Mr. Curtis. I also recall Ted would say more than just "damn kids." There were definitely a few other adjectives thrown in there—and we deserved every one of them!