The Smartest Man I Ever Knew -Part 1-
I would’t lie to you or exaggerate. I’d never want to deify the dead. But Aaron wasn’t just some guy. He was the smartest man I’ve ever known.
Now that sounds like a funny way to begin a record like this. What I aim to accomplish is to record my memories of a man who meant a heck of a lot to me. And who left this world far too soon.
But I know that some of you may not have known the man. And my first introduction to Aaron was that this guy is exceptionally smart. So maybe that’s a good place to start.
When I first met Aaron, I had already known him by reputation. He was involved in my church. He attended a local bible college, Southwestern Assemblies of God University (aka SAGU my alma mater) and was running the Bible Quiz team. I knew him because he knew everyone by name. Just tell him your name once and he would never forget it.
But that’s not what made him so special. What made him special is that he could recite everyone’s phone number as well.
I recall as he approached my cousin and I. My earliest memory of Aaron.
“Lesley Capehart? Right?” he said.
Before my cousin could answer, Aaron began to recite his cell number “617-8456”
My cousin Lesley, impressed but wary, “I told you that like two months ago”
Aaron “I remember everyone’s number. (looking at me) What’s your phone number?”
The other thing I learned about Aaron before I met him is that he had figured out a way to buy large Little Caesars pizzas for just a quarter. His trick was having an exceptionally large brain.
You see, the Little Caesars in Aaron’s town had a video game installed. It was just like the popular game Simon. Several buttons arrayed on a row. They light up in a sequence. The contestant must wait until the entire sequence was shown to him, and then reproduce it perfectly. Sometime the sequence will be quite long.
The game had various prizes for achieving a high score. If you score a certain amount, you get a coupon for a few dollars off your pizza. If you beat the game on its very hardest level, you get a free large pizza.
Of course these things are designed to make money, not lose money. But they did not design this model with Aaron in mind. Because Aaron was capable of beating the machine on the hardest setting every. single. time.
As I got to know Aaron, I would become aware of many more reasons to admire his smarts. As a 17 year old, Aaron had become the top credit card saleman to work for JC Penney in the entire state of Texas. He made so much money, he was legally able to get himself declared independent. This he did to maximize the federal aid he received in college. And boy did he maximize.
When Aaron got to college, he lived on federal loans to finance his day to day living. But his college was paid for in another way – by scholarships.
You see, Aaron had two years of “full ride” scholarships.
Because these paid for every credit hour – no matter how many or how few – Aaron made a choice. He was going to take as many classes as he can until time ran out.
At a college where the average load is 15 hours per semester, an overachiever might attempt 18 – and struggle to keep up.
So when Aaron attempted 29 credit hours in a single semester, it immediately set a college record.
Of course his grades suffered from the large load.
Kidding. The man had the highest grades on campus. Straight “A”s across the board.
Not for pride but for the practical sense of it, Aaron decided to take on his own record and attempt 31 hours. Which he later tells me was a mistake because he got a B in one of those courses.
Before college, Aaron had been in Bible Quiz – a high-school teen competition. To compete, students will memorize a section of the Bible – sometimes hundreds of verses – and then answer questions about it.
Sounds slow and boring. It is very much not. Bible Quiz is fast paced and exciting. At these competitions, most people have memorized the verses. Perfectly. Not a single mistake, and they can quote them quickly. It’s amazing.
So when everyone knows the material, what sets apart one quizzer from another? Talent. Brains. Aggressiveness. Either team can answer any question, and speed at the buzzer is a deciding factor. The most clever you mind is, the faster you can “interrupt” the question and answer it correctly.
So Aaron took to this competition with vigor. And in short time was able to climb to the top. Aaron ended up in the individual competition at the national level and played all the way up to the championship match. He was bested in that match, barely, by a man considered by some to be the greatest quizzer of all time. In a field of hundreds of quizzers every year, this is saying a lot.
So by the time I met Aaron, he’d been the top salesman in Texas for JC Penny, he’d set school records and memorized books of the bible, and to even his own surprise, he’d managed to convince a woman much more attractive than himself to marry him. And if Olivia was not already with child when I joined Aaron’s Bible Quiz team in the year 2001, she would be soon.
Aaron was living his life at breakneck speed. And that amazed me all the more because he spent a ton of time with us, his Bible Quiz team.
And that is a good place to end what will be a multiple essay series. The next part will pick up where Aaron and I became close – when he was my Bible Quiz coach the year the towers fell.