"I want to win a contest," she blurted, an impulsive confession slipping through her lips at the same time the desire arrived in her consciouness. "I've never won anything before."
Bernetta had only met me this once, for a few brief minutes, when all of her internal tension erupted right on the heels of her disclosure that she would be just as happy if all kittens were born over fish tanks with stones tied to their right forepaws. "You don't like kittens?" I asked, thinking I could help her with that by sharing the gender identification method I recently learned. I didn't feel as confident about the contest business.
Someone else questioned, "You mean like a beauty contest?" to which Bernetta sassed, "No, I don't mean like a beauty contest." She meant a "real" contest that "real" people enter to win "real" prizes, like money and psychic ecstasy.
I tend to feel guiltily responsible for ensuring other people's happiness; a self-imposed burden that presented a problem: Part of entering and winning a contest is knowing one's strengths. Only aware that my newly acquired friend does not aspire to win a beauty contest, yet not informed about her exact interests and skills, except for that of hating kittens, I generated a variety of possibilities.
One thing she might try is Cell Phone Throwing in Finland. Competitors channel frustrating can-you-hear-me-now exchanges to maximize distance, using either the traditional over-handed toss technique or developing their own freestyle routine.
Entering a contest like this might seem ridiculous until Bernetta considers the other part of winning something: To improve her odds, she must select a contest that not just anyone would enter; therefore limiting the number of opponents. Black-Pudding Throwing in Lancashire, England meets this second criteria. The goal is to clear a platform piled high with sausage stuffed with congealed beef blood by hurling sausage stuffed with congealed beef blood at it.
Like I said, however, I don't really know Bernetta. She may have other hidden gifts. In that case she might either try to win the Gloucestershire Cheese Rolling Competition or an Extreme Ironing event. In cheese rolling, heats of entrants race 200m down a steep, muddy hill in pursuit of an 8lb cheese wheel. Whoever catches it first receives the prize. Extreme ironing combines the domestic arts with high-risk sports. Bernetta would be required to deftly manipulate a hot iron and her husband's white oxford while free-climbing, base-jumping, or cliff diving.
On the other hand, maybe Bernetta is more of an armchair athlete and would do well in a Thumb War Championship. Reading The Way of the Thumb, by previous champion, Oscar Villalon, before making the trek to San Francisco would give her an edge. It offers tips and tricks for taking down an opponent with a single digit flick.
If she possesses musical inclinations, then the Armpit Serenade at the Dublin, GA Summer Redneck Games would make a good choice. But then, some people deny the thing they want very most in the world. The Miss Miscelaneous Contest in Ocean City, NJ offers Bernetta the perfect chance to wear a sash and win a title while also saving face since it technically isn't a beauty contest.
Alas, in my opinion, Bernetta ought to stick to what she likes to do: disdaining kittens. At DocsOnTheWeb.com she can enter the Name the Kittens contest, in which, from the comfort of her own home, she would submit cleverly diabolical names for the kitties pictured. Even if she doesn't win that one, she will at least enjoy the satisfaction of how she played the game.
(Lucy Adams is a syndicated columnist, freelance writer, and the author of If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny. She lives in Thomson. E-mail Lucy at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit her Web site, www.IfMama.com.)