Reading For Information

By Morgan O’Neill

As a fledgling schoolchild, one of the first things you learn is how to read for information.  It is an important part of how new readers enter the world of literature and a practical necessity for making it to high school graduation.  It’s a mandatory survival techique

First Grade: you head to your classroom to meet your gray haired, ancient schoolmarm, when the bell rings, and she says “Welcome students.  I am Mrs. Donotpissmeoff.  Ahem, you, the buck toothed kid in the back of the room, wipe that smirk off your face.  I know what you’re thinking… all of the time.  Now students, where was I.  Ah, yes, please read the information on the yellow paper on your desk about the supplies you will need for my class. They will be important if you are going to succeed (a teacher’s word for survive) in my class.”  I bet Seal Team 6 never had to go through this sort of training!

During your first cafeteria lunch, the scary, fish-netted, Coke bottle bottom, eye glassed, four-eyed lunch lady points to a big sign and says, “Hey kid, yeah, you with the buck teeth, can’t you read?  It says only one dessert per student.  Put that jello back!”

At least there is recess.  Not really. Some big bully from the third grade walks right up to you and says, “Hey dweeb, read my lips.  This is my playground and if you want to survive you will give me your lunch money each Tuesday or I will hunt you down and push your face into next year!”  Reading lips is an elementary school art form, sort of the highest form of reading for survival.  And it gets worse because that is just the beginning of learning how to read for information.

Middle School is a more ambitious form of survival training; a must if you have any hope of ever going to high school.  Are you listening Seal Team 6?  Now, not only do you have to read for information from the authorities in charge of your academic destiny or from the thugs in charge of your pre-teen poverty, you have to learn how to interpret the cryptic notes passed to you from that girl in the row behind you in math class.  “Who do you like better, Betty or Veronica?  Isn’t Archie cute? Meet me behind the gym at recess!” “Do you like me?”

It gets worse.  I’m only in middle school.  My voice is still at an octave only my dog can hear.  I haven’t even read much beyond Dr. Seuss and Jack London and now I am being told I have to read for information in Spanish.  Little Joe never had to do this at school in Bonanza (Spanish for Bonanza), or on the Ponderosa (Spanish for the Ponderosa) somewhere in Nevada (Spanish for Mexico).

High School was a blur, probably because I was now learning to read for information in Playboy Magazine.  Those articles were great!  All sorts of information!  I just don’t remember any of it.  I was sort of hoping there would be details on how to interpret notes from that girl in math class still sitting behind me but somehow looking way different in that soft pink dress.  My confusion was multiplying.

Moreover, the home front was morphing with the school front.  Sort of like two hurricanes uniting to blow me into adulthood at hyper speed.  My Dad, way more intimidating than the school yard bully was constantly telling me that if I do not read the instructions, or do this, or do that, I would never learn how to do anything. Add my Mom to the mix, 10x more intimidating than any of the aforementioned characters, had an uncanny way of looking at me while chastising at him, “You cannot wash my blouse in hot water.  Read the instructions!   What is it with men!

“I don’t know Mom.  It all started in second grade; or, the second trimester.  I’m not sure.”

Now, light years have passed.  I made it through the “Reading for Information” gauntlet, bloodied but not maimed.  Then somebody changed the rules!  (“OMG, where r u?”)   What the hell is that?  Klingon?  CIA code?  Spanglish?  It is just not fair!

So, consider how my neurons synapsed when I began to focus on the language of lingerie.  My Mother’s girdle is now shapewear.  Underwear has become outerwear.  Jockey shorts and underpants have become Saxx and floss.  What was hidden is revealed.  Hosiery is stockings.  Stockings are tights.  Tights are leggings. Leggings are those things that disappear up a woman’s skirt.  A skirt is a soft chiffon dress on the girl sitting behind me in math class….  Oh, just forget it.

And forget the washing instructions.  Hand wash separately.  Hang to dry.  What the heck?  I am sitting here pondering what to do with the laundry basket piled high with intimates; my wife’s and my two daughters’.  I figure there is enough to keep me busy until the next millennium and I am a busy guy. So, as my male gene pool dictates my pondering concludes that if I read for information like any other normal guy this job will get done much faster.  What does the word separately mean anyway?  And where is the bleach?


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