All the cool kids do it. The first time I heard that phrase was in Old Mrs. Crabtree’s’ third-grade class. Ever since, I’ve been trying to be one of the cool kids. Why, you may ask? The answer is simple. It’s cool to be a cool kid. Unfortunately, through the years, I’ve always seemed to fall a little short when it came to the cool meter.
In the third grade, you were cool if you had a girlfriend. So I got one — and not just anyone. My girlfriend was the prettiest girl in all of Mt. Olive Elementary School. When Candi walked by, she’d take your breath away. You literally couldn’t breathe. Guess it had something to do with the coconut conditioner she used and coconut perfume she wore.
All the way through third grade I knew I was cool because Candi was my girlfriend. Everyone else would have known also — if only I had told them. This, however, would have been hard — I didn’t even tell Candi until the fifth grade. So I guess I really wasn’t cool after all.
Mrs. Crabtree’s class wasn’t my first ill-fated try at being one of the cool kids. Nope, the summer before that, you were considered cool if you could jump on a pogo-stick longer than anyone else.
I quickly borrowed Preston’s and started to jump. Preston Weston III was the richest rich kid who lived over on The Duke of Gloucester. He was cool without trying to be cool. I guess rich kids were just destined to be cool.
After eight hours of jumping, I learned two things. First, jumping on a pogo-stick up and down Flamingo Street longer than anyone else in history does really make you cool. Second, all the coolness you gained from pogoing drains right out of your system if your brothers have to push you around in a wheelchair because your feet are so bruised you can’t walk for two weeks.
My inability to become one of the cool kids followed me to Briarwood High, home of the mighty Buccaneers. To be cool all you had to do was don a pair of the newest fad: bell-bottomed jeans. Now to many, this would seem a simple way to being cool, but again coolness escaped my grasp. To save money, Mom made our bell-bottoms.
She split our worn-out jeans from the knee down, then inserted a piece of grandma’s old kitchen curtains. For some reason, homemade bell-bottoms with yellow kitchen curtain inserts weren’t considered too cool way back then.
There was one good side effect though; we never had to worry about our bell-bottoms getting stolen like the cool kids did. No one wanted them. And just for the record, because I know that bell-bottoms are now making a comeback, I’m telling all you moms out there – homemade bell-bottoms are still not cool.
Looking back at Mt. Olive Elementary, Briarwood High, and even my time spent at Auburn University, coolness eluded me.
Luckily, about 24 years ago, that all changed. I became a firefighter. Now once every third day, the other vehicle I drive is a half-million dollar ladder truck. If that isn’t cool, I don’t know what is.
[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, has been a firefighter for more than two decades and a columnist for The Citizen since 2001. His email is email@example.com.]