My on again, off again search for a second career has come to an end. I firmly believe I have found an ancillary vocation that will provide me steady revenue in my golden years; or at least enough disposable income to join, guilt-free, the other retirees at my local diner for daily coffee and doughnuts with sprinkles.
I have decided to become a professional spelling coach.
I became aware of the profession in the form of 14-year-old Sylvie Lamontagne, a fourth-place finisher in the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee. Too old to compete in this year’s Bee, recently won by 12-year-old Californian Ananya Vinay, Lamontagne is now willing to offer spelling tips to other potential contestants.
For up to $200 an hour.
That would buy a lot of sprinkles.
Lamontagne’s customers, according to her website, are “ultimately aiming to compete in regional or national bees.” She need not worry about me infringing on her turf for I wouldn’t have a clue how to correctly spell some of the words Vinay and her last challenger, Rohan Rajeev, handled with ease, including “emphyteusis,” “gargouillade” “durchkomponiert” and “cheiropompholyx.” No, I will coach regular Americans who have lost the will and the intelligence to string letters together in their correct order.
Face it, we suck at spelling. One need only read a few of President Trump’s garbled, “covfefe”-laden tweets, to agree. Need more proof? Consider a radio spot I heard for a Lincoln automobile dealership, where I purchased my most recent vehicle. Northwestern University football coach Pat Fitzgerald, the dealership’s celebrity spokesperson, encouraged listeners to, “Visit lovemylincoln.com. That’s l-o-v-e-mylincoln.com”
You read that right; Fitzgerald spelled “love,” in the event anyone first thought of visiting luvmylincoln, loovemylincoln or lahvemylincoln. Case closed.
My spelling pedigree speaks for itself, for I was the 1970 spelling champ at Windsor Elementary School, in Arlington Heights, Ill. The word that put me over the top was “beautiful,” an often used and, therefore, seemingly easy word, but one I’m certain would trip up many novice spellers today due to its three-vowel combination.
Now I just need to decide what type of demeanor I should bring to my craft. For pointers, I could look to the most successful coaches in my hometown of Chicago. Do I channel the fiery temperament of Bears coach Mike Ditka, berating my spellers for missed words and putting my fist through a wall when they fail to execute the simple, “double a final single consonant before a suffix beginning with a vowel” rule?
Do I adopt the Zen-like persona of former Bulls coach Phil Jackson, motivating my charges with quotes from famous philosophers like Friedrich Nietzsche and Sun Tzu? I should probably make my students spell the names of those great thinkers, as well, for both contain a “Z,” one of the alphabet’s trickiest letters.
Or should I follow the path taken by current Cubs’ skipper Joe Maddon, presenting every student with a “Try Not To Suck” T-shirt when they sit down for a lesson? That strategy ended a 108-year World Series drought.
No, I won’t need to play a character. My business will skyrocket once word gets out that, after a few sessions under my tutelage, it will be much easier to distinguish the difference between “their” and “there,” “wear” and “where,” “your” and “you’re” and “are” and “our.” Also, that “A” is the only letter that can double as a complete word.
As profits roll in, I’ll launch a TV ad blitz. Former students will star in my commercials, telling the world my methods cured them of whipping out their phones, typing “Wear r u?” and hitting “send.” Online sales of Lincolns will double.
Finally, I’ll reach out directly to President Trump, offering him a free lesson at the White House. He need provide only the coffee and doughnuts. Before he unleashes his tweets on the world, I’ll make him correct his spelling errors, saving Press Secretary Sean Spicer the task of explaining “covfefe’s” origins to a bewildered press.
I expect the sessions with Trump to be frustrating, which is why Spicer may have to explain the origin of a fist-sized hole in the Oval Office.