Okay, first things first: I'm probably not the most logical choice for science fair judge, even if the science fair is at an elementary school. I like science, I know how to spell it, and, technically, my doctorate is in comparative medieval science as much as it is in anything not otherwise labelled "whackadoo." (In fact, next time someone asks me what my doctorate is in, I'm going to say "whackadoo.") But still, let us be clear: I am an insane person. I am a writerly person. I am a person who believes that no one is bigger than the story--even if that story happens to be about how maybe batteries work.
Knowing full well that I was an imposter, I spent quite some time this morning making sure that I had "science" hair--a neat chignon, no wisps, sprayed into place. I might have rearranged things so that the white covered the last brave strands of whatever colour you call that. . . .rodent? Old people are good at science. Hello, Marie Curie? Einstein? Rex Morgan, MD?
I wore "science" clothes, too: a dark sweater reminiscent of a lab coat except that it was black, not white, had a ruffled Elizabethan zipper effect up the front, and featured a sparkly 1940s Sherman paste brooch. But other than that? Dead on science.
I was filled with confidence. I didn't even need one of their lousy rice crispie squares to help me gnaw away nervous tension. I could handle Grade 6 Science. Rational, equilibrium-y and very clever in an unassuming sort of way: that was me, entering the gym.
The first little boy that I was to judge--blond, blue-eyed, wearing a tie and a checked shirt--was the double of my son. Science? It went bye-bye and I helped him fix his hair, congratulated him on his printing, taught him how to use regulated breathing to control anxiety, and noticed that in the photograph of his sub-sub-zero temperature tests, he appeared to be wearing only a thin hoody. Was he trying to catch galloping pneumonia? Where was his common sense? Did he know how this kind of self-destructive behavior hurt his mother? My judgey partner, the bad cop, came over all intelligent, asking questions about data spikes and controls. When he raised a question about Blond Science Boy's data, I snarled "CAN'T YOU SEE HOW HARD HE WORKED ON THIS?"
An uncomfortable science may or may not have followed. I was busy fixing the kid's tie.
In the end, I gave him a perfect score. The girls who reminded me of the mean girls in elementary? Not so much. It might have been that their science wasn't up to snuff. I mean, it probably was because of that.
Next year, they might want to think about maybe asking someone less properly turned out and more completely tuned in to do their judging for them. It could be me. In a year? I could maybe do that. It would be kind of a neat experiment.