Just like everyone else on the internet last week, I watched the the Saved By the Bell (SBTB) Reunion on Jimmy Fallon‘s show and LOVED IT! It instantly brought back a lot of childhood memories of Saturday morning’s spent watching the show and countless more afternoons watching the endless reruns. But unlike a lot of other kids my age, I didn’t watch it just for entertainment value. I watched it as a way to prepare myself for high school. You see, from first to eighth grade, I went to a very small private school, which left me clueless about what public school was like. Because of this, Saved By the Bell ended up shaping way too many of my expectations about what it was going to be like when I finally did start going to a public high school. Here are the six biggest ways it did that:
I thought I’d be on all the sports teams and in all the clubs.
Did you ever notice how every other episode the gang was participating in one school activity or another. Just off the top of my head, I recall Zack and AC being on the basketball, football, baseball, debate, track and wresting teams, and I know I missing about ten other extracurriculars. My private school didn’t have any of these things, but thanks to SBTB, I was fully expecting to do all of them once I got to high school. Little did I know I wouldn’t have the time nor talent for all that stuff.
I thought I’d be hanging out at the Max.
OK, obviously I knew there wasn’t going to be a Max at my high school, but I did assume there would be a cool hangout near school with a friendly waiter and awesome 80’s decor. What I got instead was a school that didn’t allow students off campus for lunch and where the only dinning option was the Getty-Mart up the street that regularly sold cigarettes to my underage classmates and had 99 cent big gulps.
I thought I’d be friends with the principal.
In hindsight, I have no idea why this seemed at all appealing, I think it had more to do with the idea that Belding was easily fooled and that afforded Zack a lot of leeway to screw around. The reality was, of course, I was not friends with the principal. In fact, I never even spoke to him except for one time when I had to go to his office to pick up a prize because I had correctly guessed how many jelly beans were in a jar at a fundraiser.
I thought I’d hang out with a motley crew.
If you think about the the SBTB gang, they were a pretty interesting cross section of humanity. You had AC, the jock; Zack, the cool guy: Kelly, the hot chick; Lisa, the fashionista; Jessie, the bookworm and Screech, the nerd (who was likely a huge perv just like the actor who played him). My high school was nothing like this. While I did have a diverse group of friends (as diverse as it could be given that my high school was 95% white and in a pretty rural county), the reality of high school for me was that it was very cliquish. There were the jocks, the band geeks, the cheerleaders, the nerds,the yearbook girls, the red necks and so on. The reason I had a diverse group of friends was because I moved between a lot of these groups, not because they all hung out together.
I thought it’d be OK to be smart.
Related to the last point, I thought being smart, or should I say, being proud of being smart, wouldn’t be an issue. Jessie and Screech were both super smart, didn’t hide it and they still got to hang with the cool kids. Well, my high school was a bit different, and I learned this early on when I made the mistake of using the term “celestial objects” while talking about how an Indian tribe we were studying in history class worshiped the sun and the moon. The kids in my class nearly had a stroke waiting their turn to make fun of me for my use of an SAT word outside of a testing center. Thankfully, I didn’t let them get to me in terms of actually doing badly in school to fit in, but I sure as hell didn’t go out of my way to flex my vocabulary muscles after that.
I thought there wouldn’t really be any serious issues.
My private school certainly kept me sheltered, but that fell right in line with the clean image of high school SBTB portrayed. The worst thing to ever happen on there was Zack drinking a beer and crashing his car into a trashcan. In hindsight, I can now say the two things were probably unrelated (I mean one beer!? Come on!) SBTB didn’t even deal with sex until the briefly lived series “SBTB the College Years.” Meanwhile, back in the real world, the girl sitting next to me in Freshman year English was knocked up about 2 months into the school year, some of my friends used to skip class to smoke weed in the parking lot and more than a few people famously came to school drunk. However, I am proud to report that no one in my high school got addicted to caffeine pills, which is more than can said for Jessie Spano’s excited ass.