(A personal, respectful salute to Jacob Cohen, aka Rodney Dangerfield, Nov. 22, 1921-Oct. 4, 2004.)

I don't get no respect. Babies usually can't roll over until they're about three or four months old. At just a few weeks I managed to roll off the chest freezer during a diaper change, something even my child-experienced mother didn't think possible.

Later in junior high I took up wrestling and football, more out of curiosity and to test what I could do than anything else. I must have had a face that looked like a wrestling mat. Back then, each round and the match itself were ended when a rolled-up towel was tossed onto the mat. In one match the towel hit me in the face. Maybe the timekeeper was trying to send me a message, but where was the respect?

On the verge of getting pinned in another match I took the only chance I had at survival and managed to squirm to the edge of the circle and put an arm outside of it. That automatically caused the referee to stop the match and reset us wrestlers in the middle of the circle. Congratulating myself on staving off immediate defeat, I heard a teammate in the hearing of the rest of the team scorn the maneuver as wimpy and disgraceful. Respect, I hardly knew ye.

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I tried another avenue of competition. I won the junior high spelling bee crown and thus got to compete in a regional contest whose winner would go to Minneapolis. From there, the winner would represent Minnesota in the national bee. I won the regional spell-off by one fewer word misspelled, but one of the judges almost apologetically explained that, although they thought that one word I wrote was spelled right and was an easy word, my habit of dropping the flag on my Os making them look like possible As meant they couldn't give me the benefit of the doubt. It was a tie. I lost the run-off with the second-place finisher by one word.

I murmured to no one in particular (Rod Steiger wasn't there) that I coulda had class, I coulda been a contender, but on the drive back to school the teacher who shuttled me back and forth chewed me out for my sloppy handwriting. Where's the respect? Even the family dog kicked me when I got home.

Many years later I got engaged. I was jobless and between universities. My jolly joker big brother teased my fiancee with the question “What do you see in this big galoot?” She replied, “I don't know.” I tell you, I get no respect.

When I dropped out of law school to pursue my first academic love, I visited with one of the law professors to get a letter of recommendation. He asked where I went to college, and I said “Minnesota.” “Oh,” he brightened up, “the University of Minnesota?” I replied that it was then-Moorhead State University. There was a long pause, then he remarked “Well, you could always teach at a high school somewhere.”

R-e-s-p-e-c-t. Where's Aretha Franklin when you need her?