It Only Took 52 Years, But I’ve Finally Learned From My Mistake

The Date: Spring of 1969

The Place: A.D. Eisenhower High School Auditorium, Norristown, PA

The Event: the Montgomery County Spelling Bee

I was representing my school, St. Augustine, at the competition. There were close to 100 competitors, and I had successfully spelled my first few words.

Then it happened.

It was my turn again, so I got out of my seat and walked to the microphone in the middle of the stage, staring out an audience of probably  200-300 people (I’m sure not all of them were thrilled to be spending their Friday night at a spelling bee).

The emcee gave me my word, and I didn’t hesitate. After all, it was just a five-letter word.

I knew the drill. You say the word, you spell it, and then you say the word again.

“ALIBI. A-L-A-B-I. ALIBI”

DING! The bell went off, indicating I had spelled it wrong. Seriously? Where did I go wrong?

I still remember that night as if it were yesterday. I’ve often wondered if I’d ever have a chance to make up for that mistake, to prove that I now knew how to spell ALIBI.

Well, today it finally happened, 52 years later, thanks to my latest obsession – crossword puzzles.

The clue was “Proof you weren’t anywhere near the murder.”

Once again, without hesitation, I began to spell the word. A-L-I-B-I.

And this time there was no DING.

I just wish I had been doing crossword puzzles when I was 11 years old…

81 thoughts on “It Only Took 52 Years, But I’ve Finally Learned From My Mistake

  1. Yay! I hope you celebrated on finally spelling it right. 🙂
    Oh I remember being booted out of the spelling bee as well and being so upset for I had studied soooo hard! The winner was going to go compete at the state level. The word was grammarian. The person before me got the word church! Now, where is the fairness in that? LOL!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I got to accompany the school representative to the county spelling bee. I’m pretty sure my student could tell you what word she went out on, but I can’t. She lasted nine rounds and missed the word because it was a proper noun that started with a capital letter. I felt so sad for her.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I used to be an excellent speller. Then computers came along. I rely on spellcheck so much, I’ve lost the ability to spell well on my own. There have been a few times I butchered a word so badly, no alternatives matched what I wanted to say. I had to rely on asking Siri how to spell those to figure it out. And Siri doesn’t always understand my Pittsburgh accent. There was one occasion where I just revised the sentence to avoid the word. It’s embarrassing.

    Glad you finally learned your lesson!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. yes, spellcheck has probably lowered our ability so spell words correctly. But I do like your perseverance in trying to find the right way to spell a word, and if that fails, your creative ability to work around it.

      Sorry to hear about Big Ben’s retirement plans…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks. I’m in mourning. Our offense is going to suck for the foreseeable future. Not that we did so great this year. But still… Our backups are weak. Unless we trade or draft well (and we’ve proven we don’t), I’m not optimistic.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Least you’ll never forget how to spell it!

    Also sort of on topic do you ever find yourself in a situation where you develop a mental block on words you’ve been able to spell fine for years?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Good to know that lessons learned in childhood can eventually be useful! Funnily enough, A-L-A-B-I rang bells with me, as it is the surname of a footballer who has played for two of my teams – Dover Athletic and Leyton Orient. Utterly useless, and he doesn’t have an alibi for his performances…

    Liked by 1 person

      1. No longer our problem! I forgot to include cup competitions in the stats, which make it 1 in 13 for Dover and 3 in 45 for the Os. The general view is that a successful striker scores in 1 out of every 2 games, not 1 in 13 or 15! He’s upped his rate to 1 in every 4.5 for his current team, but his career is full of club moves. Looks like a lot have said bye bye to him!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. That’s quite a story! Enjoyed reading it and thanks for sharing this experience. Since school I have always wondered about the origin of certain English words and especially those starting on al-. Few have an Arabic origin, of course, but I have actually been fascinated with those having Latin roots, like alibi does – meaning “elsewhere” but many other starting on al- also mean “beyond” “other” or “different”, like allergy (“something abnormal”) and alien.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This reminds me of a story about the devil child. I talk about her in one of my future scheduled posts. One of the stories we both remember, and goes to her personality, is that she missed a very easy word in her spelling bee (I think it was 3rd or 4th grade) because she was in such a hurry to get past it that she didn’t take a minute to get control over what was coming out of her mouth! Another story comes from when she was taking the eye test for depth perception before getting her driver’s license. She was in such a hurry to get past that that she didn’t take the time to position her eye correctly on the site. When the examiner pointed out that fact to her, she slapped herself upside the head and said “I’m an idiot.” Her sister, mini-me, and both laughed and have never let her live that down. Her usual MO would have been to blame something or someone else but she took responsibility for this as well as missing the easy word in the spelling bee. That’s probably why we clearly recall both those incidents!

    Liked by 1 person

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