"Save $500 on bread this year -- click here!"

"'My math teacher is low-key terrified of all of us,' the tween in my house told us tonight at dinner. And then she explained why."

So, apparently, about a month ago, the tween (who asks to be known to you as Max) decided to start an active, participatory meme amongst the entire seventh grade.

"Save $500 on bread this year -- click here!"

Max, who apparently has unnatural, cult-like leadership qualities, persuaded a core group of friends to whisper this phrase to everyone they saw at school one afternoon. And they complied. All the 40+ 7th graders in her middle school.

How did she come up with this phrase? From the teeming maw of creative chaos that is her brain. It's not a reference to anything. It is purely random. An act of reckless dadaism.

It took about a month for the phrase to achieve complete group saturation. At the end of the month, one of the 7th graders -- Max doesn't know which one -- wrote this phrase down on a piece of paper, and placed it on their math teacher's desk before class one day.

Now, at this point, it's just funny in the normal way. Students decide to confuse their teacher by flaunting an in-joke. Happens all the time, I'm sure. Teachers get used to being mystified by their students.

Max and the other 7th graders come into math class one day, and the teacher puts the note up on the overhead projector.

"Save $500 on bread this year -- click here!"
The children are silent.
The teacher waits. Silence.
He gestures toward the screen. "So...what does this mean?"
The 7th graders burst into laughter.
"No, seriously, one of you needs to explain this," he says.
And the class falls silent. Because... you know. There is no explanation. Except that Max is both random and charismatic and apparently they all do her bidding.



Max stands up at her desk. She stands very straight and tall (she demonstrated for me and her mom at the dinner table) and places one hand behind her back.

"Kind of like when you put your hand over your heart for the Pledge of Allegiance," she explains to us.

She then proceeds to read the note from off the overhead projector, in a solemn, declamatory manner.


And then


(and keep in mind, this was, in no way orchestrated in advance)

all the other kids put their hand behind their back.

"At what point, exactly, did they do this?" I ask, when I can breathe again after laughing for approximately 20 minutes.

"As soon as I said 'click here'," says Max.

The students are quiet. Staring at their math teacher. Max is still standing. The teacher stares back. And then, quietly, Max sits back down, and her followers resume normal posture.

"What did your teacher do then?" I ask, breathless with fascination and admiration.

Apparently, he then phoned the front office to apprise them of the situation.

"Why did he call the office??" I ask, baffled.

"So they could call kids to the office and ask them questions."


"Because it could be taken as a threat or some shit? I don't know, my school's weird."

Many adults in school administration see kids as chaotic elements that must be rigidly controlled or else everything will fall to shit. Any "unusual" behavior worries them and makes them act like tyrants.

But here is what is hilarious to me: The principal might ask questions. They might get some kids to tell them that some other kid passed them a note that said "Save $500 on bread this year". But nobody -- nobody -- is going to be able to explain to the administration or the teachers what happened that day. It wasn't planned. At all. Max was improvising the entire time, and the other kids just...followed her lead.

Students passing a note around is normal. Students spontaneously acting on the cue of one of their peers is not normal. Max is not normal. Max is a fucking genius.

Even I might be willing to admit, from a school administration standpoint, that it is slightly...concerning that one 12-year old can effortlessly bend THE ENTIRE SEVENTH GRADE to her will.

But. whispers that's the part of the story they'll NEVER find out about.

No matter what questions they ask, no matter who's willing to talk to them... what are those kids going to say? "Max did a thing, so...we all just did the thing."

They don't know why they did it. MAX doesn't know why they did it. She doesn't know why SHE did it.

Imagine a middle school administrator of average intelligence and no particular creativity, trying to wrap their heads around this situation.

I expect great things from Max.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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13 Responses:

  1. Nick Lamb says:

    "Pleasing Slaine, specifically, became very important to people; to the AHAIs, she was just another human, and she knew that."

    The short story "Swift as a Dream..." by John Barnes posits that AIs guiding humanity to be its best self and facing lower than replacement level reproduction decide on balance to take a risk. Slaine is the consequence of that risk, her intentions towards the rest of humanity are unspecified but she makes sure the AIs won't be there to stop her.

  2. Karellen says:

    great things... or terrible, terrible things. Or both, at the same time.

  3. Doctor Memory says:

    The kids are alright.

  4. Rich says:

    You cannot know how pleased I am to read the word meme in the correct context.

  5. Bill Paul says:

    I expect DNA Lounge to start serving a drink called "SAVE $500 ON BREAD THIS YEAR. CLICK HERE." at some point in the very near future.

  6. thielges says:

    “If you see something say something“ - an imperfect slogan for a serious concern. Most people read that slogan as “If you see something unusual say something“ but what it really means is “If you see something threatening say something“. Identifying something as unusual is easier and more intuitive than identifying a threat. An abandoned duffel on a BART platform could be a threat. Stickers with Dadaist phrases are not.

    There are signs to look for in dangerous people and hopefully schoolteachers at least know the basics. Goofy teenage nonsense is not a warning sign.

    • Nick Lamb says:

      The implied threat of an abandoned bag in the public transport system is crude and small scale. The bag might be a bomb, the bomb might kill or maim a few random citizens. People really do this, although not so very often. They may not really understand the consequences of their action, but the universe doesn't care.

      The implied threat of "Save $500 on bread this year -- click here!" is YGBM technology which can be much more subtle and have way larger effects. The ability to compel other people to believe things. They may be compelled to kill for these things they believe, to devote all their resources to them, or even to re-shape the rest of society to reflect their belief. People really do this too. They too may not understand the consequences of their actions.

      The Roman Empire fell, but the YGBM technology that helped engineers its downfall is still kicking around far more dangerous than any unexploded bomb. Today some guy tricks a few gullible fools into paying for his bizjet and a nice house on the coast, and a thousand years later he's long dead but people are still fighting wars over whatever he said.

  7. jerry cruncher says:

    That's totally Rufus.

  8. Will Scullin says:

    Sounds like the real life version of Daniel Pinkwater's Young Adults

  9. tfb says:

    I'm fairly sure that this is the screenplay for the first act of quite a good film. If it's not, it will be soon.

  10. Joe Crawford says:

    "In five years we'll all either be working for [him]... or dead by his hand." - Jack Donaghy on Kenneth in 30 Rock, but applies better to Max.

  11. Jason Kaczor says:

    Every generation has to find their own:


  12. wow. just wow. any thoughts conserning the sanity of most adults have all been wiped from my mind. (the verdict was not reasurring that the people with control are sane.)

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