Awards are pleasant things, and are handed out for rescuing children from a burning building, discovering a cure for a disease, or for having perfect attendance at work.
I was subbing one day in a teacher’s class and saw a long line of awards on his cabinets. It was very impressive. I wanted to give him an award for having the most awards.
They were all for perfect attendance.
I have received degrees and certificates of achievement, but I can’t remember ever getting an award. When I was young, we had a Great Pyrenees named Beaucoup. He won a trophy for Longest Tail in a local dog show. I wanted him to win for Biggest Dog, but the politics in these things are rough. I saw Liver Snaps changing snouts right and left.
The idea of giving awards to people began as far back as the Vikings. These manly warriors would sail home from battles and raids with the body parts of their fallen enemies. Body parts take up a lot of space on the mantel, and the little woman, who, being a Viking chick, was never little, got tired of the smell, and of dusting them. Plus, they were covered with dried blood. That’s why the color of the carpet at award ceremonies is red.
Viking wives, rolling their eyes at the idea that these were trophies, and wanting to get rid of them, gave them to the neighbors. The neighbors liked to pretend they had won them in a Viking poker game. These poker games were pretty rough for the uninitiated; Vikings used real hearts, and real clubs and spades, generally on the opposing players. The diamonds were just lumps of coal.
The Vikings, fresh from a successful raid, would tell their wives and neighbors to dress up in their best furs and leather, and join them at an awards banquet.
They named the first award at the ceremony Oscar, to honor a guy named Pete. Pete had stolen the most stuff, at least according to his agent. The whole thing began as a joke, but when a guy named Sydney wandered into a Viking village one day, he offered to film them at work and play.
Sydney was half as tall as any Viking, but he was very likeable. The Vikings used to leave him behind to watch the village when they went on raids. They didn’t worry he’d get funny with their wives, because he did not have a penis. They modeled the Oscar trophy on Sydney’s unfortunate anatomy, or rather, lack of it.
The Vikings feasted through the night during the awards banquet. They handed Sydney a huge cup of mead and dared him to drink it. He naturally got drunk, but the next morning he was up and ready to write down his adopted family’s exploits. Sydney named all his characters Pete, which is why naming the Oscar, Oscar, is a great example of Viking humor.
Inventing the Oscar, and giving awards to each other, turned out to be such a hoot, and Sydney’s stories and home village movies were so good, that the Vikings then invented the Pulitzer. They thought only losers read books, but they wanted a record of their exploits, so they hired Sydney to write a book and a screenplay.
They gave themselves awards several times a year; for best warrior, best supporting warrior, best raid on a peasant village, best Viking costumes, etc. Their costume designer was a gay man from Des Moines, Iowa who grew up dreaming of wearing the horns from the family steer. He stole his sister’s riding bowler, and pretended he was Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet.
Thus, was the Viking helmet born.
There are many ways now to get an award, or to show the world what a bad-ass you are, all of them originating from the mists of history. Vlad the Impaler kept the people he impaled in plain sight as a warning to other invaders.
This was the equivalent of winning a bunch of awards for fighting. It was also a great way to placate the wife, and keep your body part trophies off the mantel.
It also marked the beginning of unattractive lawn ornaments. Vlad was always getting in trouble with his homeowner’s association for having a really messy yard, but after putting a few HOA presidents up on spikes, they stopped harassing him.
Some Native Americans kept the scalps of their victims hanging on the walls of the tee pee. These ancient trophies have little to do with awards for perfect attendance, but showing up for battle counted for something.
If you didn’t show up, someone would come looking for you. If you left early, you were severely punished, and had to polish everyone’s armor for a month.
I had never seen anyone, other than a student, who had awards for perfect attendance. It’s nice when students can make it to class every day of the school year. I never even came close to getting one.
I was always claiming to be sick, so I could sleep in, read my books under the covers, and watch Peyton Place, a show that was strictly off-limits, unless my mom was gone. I don’t think she needed to worry; the book was much racier, and no one ever told me I couldn’t read it. My parents really didn’t think the whole question of parental limits through very thoroughly.
If I showed up for work, my reward was a paycheck. That generally was enough for me; I knew by the figures on my bank statement that I had shown consistent goodwill, and it was a visual reminder of the motivation to continue showing up. I was not inclined to frame those pieces of paper; that would have made them useless at the grocery store.
I don’t mind if people miss work. I can’t miss them if they are never absent. Furthermore, I dislike having to breathe the same air as a person afflicted with a cold or the flu, but who insists on coming to work just the same, so that their record for perfect attendance is safe.
If all I needed to get a regular job was an award for perfect attendance, then I should have printed one up, to join the others ranged on my mantel: My Pulitzer, my Tony, and my National Book Award.
That last one really makes me proud. If you can’t find the book, don’t worry. I lent it to my Viking neighbors, who probably haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, because they are busy trying to win the World Poker Tournament. They scared all the other players away, so winning should be a shoo in.
If they don’t win, they just take the money, anyway.
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