When I was 11 years old, my parents moved to Utah for 3 years, which really did a number on my friend quotient.
This is one example of what happens when a tween has too much time on his hands. For more stories, go here, here, here or here.
It was Valentine's Day. In elementary school, this was the day to find out just how popular you were. It laid bare the truth of what people thought of you, based on the quantity of Valentine cards and the quality of candy attached.
As a brand new Utahn, I felt a driving need to make a real splash my first year. I knew I was lost in the obscurity of the cliques and carefully arranged social hierarchy.
I also had pretty much every afternoon free from annoying distractions like friends or a social life.
I decided to make the biggest possible Valentine box. The inspiration came from one of the wardrobe boxes my parents used to move to Utah. Have you ever seen those things? For an 11-year-old kid, it looked like you could fit a whole car inside.
I decided to make one to look like the Tower of Big Ben. I used poster board to make the roof, and after drawing on the clock, I knew it needed a little something extra.
That's when inspiration struck. I decided to make a face and have the mouth be the slot for the cards. I also decided it would "Super Fun" if I used light bulbs for the eyes and nose. Then I could have them flash on and off whenever a card went through the slot. (I used one of those long skinny bulbs for the nose.)
Because I still hadn't brushed up on my electrician skills, the only way I could make the flashing face work is if I was hiding inside the box and flipping the switch each time.
I got permission from my teacher to come in early from recess to deliver my own Valentines and slip into the box unnoticed. Once all the kids started delivering their own, I had to flip that switch like crazy. It was thrilling to see how many times something came through the slot. I began to daydream about all the popularity I'd achieved with my Big Ben wardrobe box and how I'd be showered with praise once I finally revealed how it worked.
What I didn't know was how the kids kept testing the light bulbs. They were so amazed that they shoved anything they could into the slot: pencils, pens, paperclips, candy wrappers, garbage.
I had an amazing pile of stuff that year, but half of it belonged to the school or had to go right into the trash can.
And for the record, despite their interest in my box, I still wasn't carried around on their shoulders or invited to any after-school parties.