By the end of most weeks, you’ve had some successes and you’ve had some failures. But, by Friday, you’re exhausted and often feeling at the end of your rope. It’s at this point in time, whether it’s humility you need or some encouragement, that everyone needs a healthy dose of George Feeny. After all, most of our lives would probably be worse off and definitely be less wise without him. On a blog where we admit that our wisdom is limited, we felt we would be doing our faithful readers a disservice to not provide some authentic wisdom at the end of every week from one Mr. George Feeny.
Happy Feeny Friday, Feeny-ites! Continuing our stroll down Wisdom Lane, this week’s second episode of season one, entitled “On the Fence,” originally aired on October 1, 1993, on the day I turned seven years old. A magical date to be sure… so surely there must be great wisdom ahead!
The summary of the episode: When Cory’s parents don’t give him the money to buy a water gun for the classes water fight. He strikes a deal with Mr. Feeny to paint his shutters and Feeny will give him the money for the gun. Corey rushes through the job and an accident occurs.
Our favorite Feeny-ite, Mr. Matthews, begins this tale having the classic debate in the lunchroom about Superman vs. Batman. Who would you rather be? Who would you rather be your dad? This debate still goes on in lunchrooms today. It’s the truly partisan topic of our time. Even if Washington, D.C. was working, they still wouldn’t be able to solve this one.
Since we’re firmly in the 1990s, the superhero conversation switches to a debate about who has the biggest SuperSoaker. Because I was seven at the time and because TGIF still made wholesome family programming, this is not a euphemism for something else. It’s actually talking about the amazing water guns from our youth.
In this episode, Cory learns about hard work, saving, and capitalism, some of our country’s best values. In the meantime, Eric makes jokes about not being able to see girls naked and not being able to buy Buns of Steel videos with his hard-earned money. I didn’t realize what this meant when I was seven. Moving on…
After failing to convince his parents to buy him a $50+ SuperSoaker, Cory goes to Feeny, who is at the fancy, doing what he loves so much, “immersing [himself] in the tranquility of his rose garden.” After a frank discussion about how “major of a freakoid Ed Poe was,” Cory asks if there is any work he could do.
Feeny: “I do have some shutters in dire need of paint.”
Cory: What’s it pay?
Feeny: “I could go as high as five.”
Cory: Five dollars? Get a pulse!
Feeny: “5 for each one. 5 times 2 shutters times 8 windows.”
Cory: What’s that? Like… 5 times 2 times 8? What’s that? 58 bucks.
Feeny: “58 bucks it is. You are worth every bit of that C+ I gave you in math.”
Cory: Thanks, Mr. Feeny! You won’t regret it.
Feeny: “Oh I have a feeling I shall.”
You know what happens next, faithful reader. These episodes are as inscribed upon your heart and soul as a fear of caffeine pills is inscribed on your conscience. (Thank you, Jessie Spano!) Cory paints the shutters. He gets paid. But the paint went through onto his parents’ fence. After trying to pull a Tom Sawyer and failing, he’s back to work.
Enter our own wise warrior once again.
Feeny: Mr. Matthews.
Cory: “I sold you my childhood for 58 bucks.”
Feeny: A paint drip. An acryllic dribble has appeared on my side of the fence.
Cory: I like it.
Feeny: I don’t. I want it removed.
Cory: You do?
Feeny: Yes. Either that or perhaps you’ll paint the rest of my side to match the offending spot.
Feeny: Oh come now Mr. Matthews. I’ve hardly asked you to descend into the Stygian coal mines of West VA with a pick ax and a flashlight.
Cory: What’s something like that pay?
Alan (walking up): What’d you do to my boy George?
Cory: Overworked to injury.
Feeny: You know, Alan, when I was a boy, my father had a strong puritanical belief in the work ethic. Used to work me from sun up to sun down. And look at how I turned out! (goes inside)
Alan: I don’t want you working anymore… I think your first responsibility is to stay 11 years-old as long as you can. (Shoots water gun at Cory.) Cooool.
Later, Cory comes back soaking wet from his water war. Eric is complaining about his half shift.
Eric: I don’t know how Dad does it. 12 hour shifts, never sits down, eats his lunch standing up. Never stops. It’s like he’s not human.
Cory (dawning upon him for the first time, brilliantly connecting the episode to the opening scene): It’s like he’s Superman. “Superman’s my dad.”
Alan is painting fence downstairs. By now, jolly journey people, you know what happens next. Cory trades in his SuperSoaker 3000 for two SuperSoaker 1500s so he and his dad can have fun together. His mom sprays them with the watergun-thing from the kitchen sink. Eric squeals about not getting his hair wet. Morgan calls 911, telling them her family is shooting the neighbor. Chaos ensues. Laughtrack rolls. Family fun happens.
Like I said, they don’t make them like they used to.
But, since it is Feeny Friday, let’s analyze what we learned from him this week.
1) He taught Cory math. He’s now teaching him English. The beginning proof that Feeny is our very own, modern-day Renaissance Man.
2) Feeny knows Poe. (the growing list of authors and philosophers he discusses gets ever longer)
3) Feeny grew up with a puritanical work ethic, not unlike our Founding Fathers. In fact, this is proof that Feeny is in fact, a modern-day Founding Father. More on this in the future…
4) Feeny works in mysterious ways. In this episode, he was brilliant enough to establish a situation where Cory could get a SuperSoaker (let no man say Feeny is anti-fun!) and also let Alan Matthews be the hero of the show and an excellent father. Feeny trusted Alan to do the right thing, and Alan did. Some would say Feeny was lecturing Alan about how to raise Cory, but Feeny knew what he was doing all along.
And that may be the most impressive thing about Feeny. Feeny didn’t always care if Cory got the wisdom or proper life training directly from him… as long as he got it. Humbling himself, Feeny facilitated Cory’s realization that his dad is, indeed, a superman.
Oh Feeny… you’ve done it again. Until next week, faithful readers…