Note: I’m a columnist for the Reader Weekly, an alt-weekly newspaper in Duluth, MN. Every Monday I post a new column.
I thought it was a spam e-mail at first. “Progress Report for Armando.” But I still looked, because if someone has an awesome name like Armando, I’m 93 percent more interested in whatever they’re selling. If a guy named Chad tried to sell me Viagra, I’d say no because I don’t need it. But with a guy named Armando, I couldn’t help but think it would make my lovemaking a little more Hispanic.
Sadly, the e-mail didn’t address passionate Latin lovemaking at all, and was instead a student’s weekly grade report from a teacher. She had sent it to my e-mail address by mistake. I’m not sure how the parents of a kid named Armando have an e-mail address that in any way resembles “paulryan”, but perhaps the teacher has a drinking problem.
This theory seemed ever the more promising after I responded to alert the teacher to her mistake and she replied with “Ok. Gotca.” I can only assume she meant “gotcha”, as in “I understand what you’re saying and will fix the problem immediately.” Yet in the following weeks, I continued to receive updates on little Armando’s progress.
It was with great sadness that I realized little Armando – gifted with such a legendary name – was perhaps the dumbest student in the history of our great nation. His grades were not those of a child who would soon become the next Benicio Del Toro, as I imagined, but more those of a child who would become the next Jimmy Smits. Just look at these NYPD Blue-esque classroom scores:
Classroom participation: 0.
Journal #1 – Describe yourself: 0.
Vocabulary quiz: 9.
I thought little Armando did quite well on the vocabulary quiz until I realized these were scores out of 100. My young prodigy – whom I had never met and might be stabbed by if I did meet – was a total dunce.
Every week I begged and pleaded with the teacher to stop sending me the reports, not because I care about the privacy of others or the lack of beatings his parents could give without concrete numbers, but because I couldn’t bear to see Little Armando ruining an otherwise striking first name. At the rate he was going, I would never feel comfortable buying Viagra through e-mail from anyone.
There was nothing I could do. The e-mails didn’t list the name of the parents or the school, so I couldn’t contact a higher level of authority about the mixup. Since children don’t have their own listing in the White Pages, it would be impossible to find little Armando’s house and stealthily replace the meth lab inside with a large collection of books. My noble cause of helping children I personally believe will be cool someday was stalled.
“Don’t worry,” said my friend Melanie. “That kid’s smarter than you think. He gave the teacher a fake e-mail address so his parents couldn’t see his grades. He’ll probably keep giving her fakes until he finds someone who doesn’t rat him out. That kid’s a genius.”
I found it hard to believe that a “genius” could earn a single digit percentage on a basic vocabulary test, but Drew Barrymore is now a movie director, so I suppose it’s not the stupidest thing that could happen this year. Despite my desire to see little Armando do well, I was still convinced his teacher spent most of her weekly paycheck on Wild Turkey and whichever brand of chewing tobacco goes best with that class of bourbon.
After the fourth straight e-mail, it became clear that little Armando enjoyed treating his academic life, and my dreams, like his own personal toilet. I was fed up. I e-mailed the teacher back and demanded that she either accidentally send me the e-mails of a smarter student with a cool name, or stop sending me e-mails all together.
She seemed surprisingly sober when responding this time, managing to properly spell and punctuate all words. This gave me hope that she had perhaps downgraded her alcoholism from 101 proof rye whiskey to a less damaging addiction to mojito-flavored wine coolers. I’ve always highly recommended this plan, as it worked well for all the teachers in my high school. They never cared, but they were very friendly and usually smelled of mint leaves.
So I no longer receive weekly updates on little Armando’s grades. I have to admit I’m a bit sad about it. He’s moved on to being parented poorly by his actual parents, which I find to be an inferior solution to being parented poorly by me. Either that or he’s now being parented by someone else with a Paul Ryan e-mail address, perhaps even Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan.
On the bright side, I can think of no one with more experience at polishing a turd.