Every school I've had the privilege of speaking at has given me a great experience. Some have given me a great story, too.
“Dork in High School”
In the closing Q&A portion of my presentation, a student asked what inspired me to be a cartoonist.
I said that the first character I remember drawing is Scooby-Doo. I was seven and copied a picture of the detective dog from TV Guide. That opened the Doo floodgates. I began to draw Scooby relentlessly, and when kids today ask me what my favorite cartoon is, the first Scooby-Doo season from 1969 still gets my nod (tied with Super Friends).
From the back of the room, an eighth grader raised his hand. “Were you a dork in high school?”
The room, of course, rippled with laughter. You know how crowd sound can have a personality? The pitch of that laughter was between “that’s hilarious” and “that’s humiliating.” I wasn’t wearing my glasses (and the only time I’ve worn contacts was on my wedding day), so I couldn’t discern the expression of the boy who asked. I couldn’t tell if—but did assume—he was making fun of me. All I could make out was that his tie had a colorful design.
Answering specifically could endorse labels, so instead I tried to be funny. I asked “What’s the difference between a dork, a geek, and a nerd?” This got more laughter—and also became an entry in a book I would write the following year, What’s the Difference?
After the presentation, as the kids filed out, some stopped to say hi or ask a quick question. One nervous-seeming boy was lingering behind the others, waiting for his chance. Finally, he was last man standing and he stepped forward.
Without trace of irony, he asked for my autograph. “Your talk inspired me.”
His tie, a blur of color to me before, was now clear—pictures of Scooby-Doo.
When people ask what I like about school visits, I tell this story.
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