Friday, June 24, 2011

Alphabetical Order or No One Ever Said Life Would Be Fair

When I got married I moved up in the world. I used to be a W. Now I'm a G. Life is good as a G. Only six letters are ahead of G. There are only three letters after W. And they're X,Y, and Z. So really, W is pretty much last.

When I was in high school, they started what was called Arena Scheduling. In order to sign up for the next year's classes, you were forced to enter the Arena, which was set up in the gym. There you would visit a table for each class you wanted to take (or needed to take), and get signed up. When the spaces were filled, the classes were closed. Naturally they couldn't have every student in the school racing around the Arena at the same time, so they opted, just as naturally, to admit us according to alphabetical order. Well, that seemed fair, right? The kids who had been first at everything for their entire lives got first pick. For those of us who had been last our whole lives, Arena Scheduling was an emotional bloodbath. I remember finally just sitting down on the gym floor in exasperation, wanting to cry.

In high school, home rooms were assigned by alphabetical order, too. One year, those of us at the end of the alphabet had Mr. Malloy.

He was an M.

Right in the middle.

"I've read that people whose last names start with letters at the end of the alphabet are usually a little weird," he told us on the first day of school. "Experts say these people develop a complex from always being last."

He chuckled.

 Not one of us was chuckling along with him.

I surreptitiously looked around the room. Okay, I admitted to myself, there could be something to this. There could be. With exceptions, of course. I hoped with all my heart that the other kids (who were also stealthily observing their classmates) were considering me one of the exceptions.

This past spring I was substitute teaching a class of second graders. I was leading them through the hall to the cafeteria. They were in "lunch line order."

"You lucky boy," I said to the first child in line. "Your last name starts with A so you'll always get to be first."

His eyes got really big.

"Is that why?"

A big grin spread across his face. He'd been first for three years of public school and he'd never known the reason.

When the new school year starts up, I think I'm going to petition that "lunch line order" be redefined to mean alphabetical order from Z to A.

The principal at this school is a T.

He just might go for it.


  1. Ah, but _I_ distinctly remember teachers always trying to be fair and reversing the alphabetical order just as often. So those of us in the middle of the alphabet (I was an L) never got to be first. Of course, we were never last, either, so whatever. I'm glad to still be mid-alphabet.

    1. My last name begins with Z (Peeper G is my penn name, not my real one) and teachers did not do reverse alphabetic in my day.