Unemployment has its advantages: it gives me time to exercise, catch up on chores, watch the whole run of The Wire so I no longer feel left out at parties, and my favorite part, time to write. A writer friend once told me that unemployment is one of the best grants an artist can get.
But even with all that, after four weeks, my closet can’t get any more organized, I’ve written 50,000 words of a novel that will never see the light of day, and the only thing left on my Netflix queue are foreign films I only added because I feel like I should see them, but I send them back unwatched after sitting on my coffee table for two weeks. The fun has run out and boredom has set in. I feel jealous of my girlfriend on Sundays when she prepares for a busy week. I only have one engagement on my calendar for the month and it takes place in a bar.
Today, after going for a six-mile run, writing a thousand words and checking various blogs it was only eleven a.m. I feared another day of flipping channels and over eating when there was a light at the end of the tunnel in the form of a Saved by the Bell marathon.
Like the majority of my generation I religiously watched the show every day after school. I can still quote some of the more memorable episodes. One of my favorite being, “I’m so excited, I’m so . . . I’m so scared,” from the episode Jessie gets addicted to caffeine pills. I’m happy to say I’ve lived my life caffeine pill free.
I fixed myself a bowl of cereal. Unfortunately, it’s Special K and not Frosted Mini-Wheats. Fifteen years ago, that was my cereal of choice when watching Saved By the Bell.
In the marathon’s first episode, Kelly gets a zit after being nominated prom queen. Besides the prom queen part, it’s an episode any teenager can relate to. And even at 31 years old I can still relate to the humiliation of acne. After twenty-two minutes of horror and shame Kelly learns the valuable lesson that it’s what is on inside that counts, even though she was awarded prom queen pre zit, because she’s the prettiest girl at Bayside High.
The second episode catches much more of my attention. Lisa’s father rewards her good grades by letting her use his credit card. She ends up going overboard and finds herself in serious credit card debt, another situation I can relate to today. Lisa enlists the help of Zack, who comes up with the plan to pimp her out for kisses. One five-dollar ticket gets you one kiss on Lisa’s cheek. Lisa ends up being accosted by gentlemen callers who, unprovoked, plant kisses on her when she’s least expecting it. Screech buys himself a handful of tickets then comically chases her around a classroom trying to force him self on her. He never successfully plants a smooch on her.
Selling kisses doesn’t seem to garner Lisa the cold hard cash she so desperately needs. She and Kelly come up with a new plan while changing in the girls’ locker room. Kelly looked super sexy changing into short shorts and a tank-top. Since Tiffani Amber Thiessen is older than me in real life I only feel a little creepy gawking at her. They decide that Lisa should sell the clothes she purchased that put her in debt in the first place. Zack turns the high school hallway into a thrift store of Lisa’s clothes. Lisa watches in agony as her designer boots are sold off separately to a pair of twins for well under market value. This is moving along until Mr. Belding discovers the sale and shuts it down. To avoid getting in trouble, Zack claims the clothes are a donation from Lisa to help the homeless. Lisa eventually confesses to her father and learns a lesson on the value of money. The episode closes with Zack talking directly to the camera with a joke about a Lisa credit card: “Always leave home without it.”
I watch a few more episodes, and witness Kelly in a bathing suit three times, eight kisses, AC Slater shirtless once, and countless attempts by Screech to force himself on Lisa, which always ends in failure, but with huge laughs from the audience.
By the end of the fifth hour I start questioning myself. Why am I watching this? Why did I ever watch this? It was not relatable to my middle school and high school careers in any way. I dyed my hair and wore giant jeans that I tripped over walking up stairs. I didn’t fit into a social structure of nerds, jocks and preps. Students at my school weren’t that easily defined. I did think Kelly Kapowski was one of the most beautiful girls in the world, but I didn’t need to sit through a whole show to see that. I could see her in magazines, and if I was watching solely for her, I could have easily taped a few episodes only to fast forward past the scene she wasn’t in. So, why did my teenage self watch the same reruns close to daily for almost half a decade?
Maybe I enjoyed it because it was so unrealistic. After a day of school where I was closer to Screech, minus the sexual predator tendencies, than Zack, I needed something to space out to. And that’s exactly what I did today. For six hours I forgot that I’ve been unemployed for two months and I’m sinking into debt just like Lisa, although my problem won’t be solved in twenty-two minutes plus commercials. Bayside High is a simple place where getting a zit before prom is the biggest crisis a kid endures. I realized then and now that this is an ultra simplistic view of life with no basis in reality, but sometimes you need a break from reality.
- Seattle, Washington,
- April 28
- Steve Barker is the stage manager and co-founder of "Cheap Wine & Poetry" and "Cheap Beer & Prose". In 2009 he co-edited the chapbook "Hill Poems: A Collection of Capitol Hill Poetry." Twice a month he hosts the arts and entertainment podcast Ordinary Madness, which can be heard at ordinarymadness.org.
MY RECENT POSTS
- Reviewing the Reviewer: My
brief experience as a CC
June 20, 2012 10:47AM
- One Player Game
March 21, 2012 04:19PM
- Saved by the Saved by the Bell
March 14, 2012 12:58PM
Steven Barker's Links
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