Smokey the Magnificent

Failing the Turing Test since 1986



Me, I dunno, ten or so, at a school camp talent show, playing on a piano of the kind of quality one would expect in a school camp hall: “Mr Hockin, this key won’t go down.”
Mr Hockin, from far away in the audience: “Just keep going.”
Me, several bars later: “Mr Hockin, this key won’t go down either.”
Mr Hockin: “Just keep going.”
Me: “…That was the last one.”
[Exit with dignity. The applause was surprisingly enthusiastic. They may have thought it was a skit.]


Me, twelveish. A Chinese girl who doesn’t speak much English has come to our school, and a socially-conscious teacher has handpicked me to Be Her Friend, on the grounds that I’m too meek to object and my friends docket isn’t precisely overbooked. So far our terrified, polite exchanges have gone no further than her showing me a photo of her dog on her cellphone.

After school one day, I see the girl hugging her dog. Nobly, I approach her and shout slowly into her ear “What a cute dog!” She smiles politely back, and as the engulfing silence descends upon us both, I cast about frantically for a way to prolong the conversation. “It looks so much cuter than it did in the picture!” I gush.

It is not the same dog.


I have left the school. I am now thirteen and homeschooling. I run into a friend from school at the foodcourt. I am wearing a black turtleneck and a pair of dark blue jeans. I have recently started growing my fringe out, so my forehead is exposed.

Weeks later, I hear she has told everyone at school that I’ve gone Goth. I am simultaneously flattered that anyone would believe I’d do anything so daring, and dimly aware that buying foundation in my shade is going to be a lifelong struggle.


I am in the doctor’s waiting room.

Practice Nurse: “Smokey the Magnificent?”
Me: “Whoa. That was quick.”
Practice Nurse: “Oh, I’m just the practice nurse. Before the doctor sees you I’d just like to weigh and measure you.”
Me: “Huh! That’s a thing now?”
Practice Nurse: “It’s just a screening service we provide, to make sure nobody’s getting too…”
Me: “…”
Practice Nurse: “…”
Me, thinking: Should I help her out by saying ‘Short?’
Practice Nurse, realising there’s no coming back from it now and it’s almost the weekend: “…fat.”
Me: “Excellent.”

  1. Ryan