Thursday, December 18


It's not just biology, it's Agri-science; and Rachel has enjoyed this extended-length new class very much. In fact, she has enjoyed her freshman semester and the whole High School experience very much so far. Her agri-science teacher invited her to join a flower-arranging class after school once swim team season was finished. Having never expressed an interest in doing anything with flowers before, we laughed inwardly and signed multiple field-trip permission slips. For a six-week class they sure covered a lot of ground. It was serious business right from the start.

There was a regional competition in Prescott. The competition was surprisingly stiff. They had to wear black skirts, hose and shoes with a white blouse and a blazer (provided by the teacher). Not only were they required to construct a flower arrangement appropriate for a specified occasion and complete it within a given budget and time-limit, but the competitors were also expected to answer pretend phone calls from green-house clients who needed assistance.

Rachel's moment "on the phone" representing commercial flowerdom went something like this:

Judge: "Hello, I'm calling about a plant I recently purchased from your store."
Ray: "O.K. So what's the problem?"
Judge: "I don't think it's getting enough water."
Ray: "Oh. Is this an indoor plant or an outdoor plant?"
Judge: "I'm pretty sure it's an indoor plant."
Ray: "Are you sure?"
Judge: "Yeah, I'm pretty sure. That's what the tag says."
Ray: "Oh."
Judge: "Well, it's dying. How much water should I put in it each day?"
Ray: "Uh, about a cup."
Judge: "A cup! Every day?"
Ray: "Yeah."
Judge: "Well, If this plant dies, can I get a refund?"
Ray: "What? No - I mean, I don't think so. Maybe you could get half a refund..."
Judge: "Half a refund?"
Ray: "Yes. But it sounds like your plant is still alive..."
Judge: "Yes, it has some green still."
Ray: "Um, so it might come back. Or - maybe you could come down here and get a new plant."
Judge: "Well, I don't want to spend any more money...I already bought this one, and it's dying."
Ray: "But we only have the best!"
Judge: (laughing) "O.K. Thanks. Since I'm getting a new plant, I only want to get it from you, because you understand my problem. Are you sure you're going to be there?"
Ray: (beginning to panic since they were instructed to only be on the phone for a certain amount of time) "Oh, yeah - sure. I get off at closing."
Judge: "What time is that?"
Ray: "7 PM."
Judge: "You're going to be there all day?"
Ray: "Actually, 10:45 AM."
Judge: "Wow."
Ray: "Yes. I'm a very busy woman."

At State, things really went down hill. Not only were they required to identify plants on the
spot, but they had to identify common problems and offer remedies one on one with a Judge. Rachel sat down across the table from a Judge. Between them was a paper. It was divided into illustration boxes depicting plant parts and various ailments. She silently stared at the options. The swirling, black void in her brain was a dizzying inner battle of nothingness. This was an exercise the teacher had utterly failed to prepare them for. Rachel had no clue.

She began to smile. The judge said reassuringly, "It's alright. You can take your time. I won't count you off or anything." The uncontrollable smile had become a grin. Sensing her nervousness, he coaxed her a second time. "Why don't you just tell me what's wrong with these plants and how I can fix it." The grin became a giggle. The judge leaned forward. "Take your time..." he said.

Rachel looked at the illustration of a leaf browning on the edges, and another with little holes all over it. Pointing at one illustration, the judge patiently asked, " you have any ideas?"He was chewing his gum real loud. Rachel wished she had some gum. She wasn't even thinking about the pictures. She was thinking about laughing. Which is what happened next. Finally, in a last-ditch effort for personal dignity, she offered: "It looks like something has been eating them..."
Judge: "Well, yes..that might explain the holes."
Rachel:"You can probably put something on the plants to stop the bugs from eating them.."
Judge: (hopefully) "Like what?"
Rachel: (thinking hard) "A NET! Yeah, a net should keep the bugs out?"
Judge: "Right..anything else?"
Rachel: "There is some sort of spray you can put on plants to kill the bugs."
Judge: "What's that?"
Rachel: "Ummm....well...I don't remember what it's called."
Judge: (staring at Rachel)
Rachel: "Yeah that's all I got."
Judge: (laughing) "Okay, thanks Rachel, have a nice day."
Rachel: (wanting to crawl in a hole and die) "You too!"

The construction part of the competition required making a corsage and a centerpiece. Rachel had been absent the day a corsage was explained in class. Now it was do or die. After clipping her 3 blossoms two short and one long, one of the flowers broke. She spent a lot of time trying to wire the flower. With the clock ticking, and the elastic band refusing to accept placement of her awkward looking corsage, Rachel realized this effort was also all she had.

The final element was creating a centerpiece within the limits of the budget sheet provided. Calculations at last completed, this is what she produced:

New-found feelings of satisfaction and self-worth evaporated with a crash once she realized she had misread her final instructions. Her lovely centerpiece (just shy of 4 inches tall), was supposed to be displayed on a 4 foot tall pedestal. Her teammates, having experienced similar disasters all morning long, petitioned their teacher for immediate escape. No one wanted to wait around for scoring results or the awards ceremony. Panda Express seemed infinitely more appropriate to cap off a stressful State competition.

I propose that the world would be a far better place if more people would adopt the Rachel Philosophy: when faced with the bitter and ultimate unknown ~ take your time, and laugh.


Cynthia said...

That Rachel of yours is amazing!! If only we could all be like her.

Yaj said...

What a terrific story! Practice makes perfect. I loved the center piece! If you make one for me, can it include Redskin colors? Do you deliver?

Ray, I have a plant here, a hanging vine kind of plant, that every two weeks or so has a leaf turn brown and dry up. What do I do? And are they good for salads, well, when they're green I mean...

Oh, and Miss Rachel - keep on keeping on! And for those post-competition satisfiers, I recommend the blue Slurpee. Yes, your tongue does turn blue! A cup of water each day will get rid of that... {;-)

two forks said...

ha! i'm dying!! i can just see her toothy grin wanting to break into hysterical laughter. that's how i tend to deal with things too... but sometimes it is not appropriate, like during bambi. yeah, i laughed.

the guitarist from hell said...
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