The Best Day of My Whole Life

“Dad, this was the best day of my whole life.” —Caine Monroy, age 9

If you haven’t seen the 10-minute video about Caine’s Arcade that went viral today, I suggest you do so here (I’ll summarize below the video). Warning: You may cry. I did.

So, there is a boy in Southern California named Caine Monroy. His father runs an auto repair shop in a fairly downtrodden neighborhood, and when Caine’s not at school, he hangs around the auto repair shop quite a bit. During that downtime, he constructed an arcade (think Chuck E Cheese) out of cardboard boxes. He has a whole system of selling chances and distributing tickets and prizes–watch the video, it’s pretty brilliant what he put together.

The thing is, Caine doesn’t have any customers. We’ve all been there as kids. We have these grand plans of running the world with our business that melts chocolate bars together to form new, mega candy bars…but there’s no one for these products. It’s all a pipe dream.

But the dream is important. And so when a filmmaker named Nirvan Mullick happened upon Caine’s Arcade, he became Caine’s first customer, and he asked Caine’s father if he could make a short film about the boy. I won’t spoil the ending, but he puts together a surprise for Caine that he deems “the best day of my whole life.”

I hope each and every one of you has had a day that is so remarkable, so unexpected, that it is marked forever in your memory as the best day of your whole life. I’ve had many, many great days. Days where you know how amazing the day is while it’s still happening. But there is one day that rises above the rest.

This is the story of the first African-American female President of the United States of America. It was the best day of my whole life.

This is me around the age when this story takes place.

I was 13, and it was summer break. August, I think. Every year, the school system in my county hosted this special enrichment day for all the dorky kids in the county. There were a lot of us, and it was very well attended (about 600 kids ages 8-14).

The theme changed every year, but it must have been an election year, because the theme was the national election. We were divided into 5 “political parties” (each group had a different color), and each of the groups was divided into about 6-8 subgroups. The overall goal of the day is that we were going to hold an election, and all of the kids and parents who attended were going to vote on a political party at the end of the day to determine the new President and Vice-President.

In my subgroup, we were told that we needed to nominate candidates for president and vice-president within our group. I was a shy, quiet kid, a follower, not a leader, an observer, a behind-the-scenes guy. So I nominated one girl I knew to be the presidential candidate for our subgroup. Then, much to my surprise, someone I didn’t know nominated me. After quick vote, somehow I became the vice-presidential candidate.

We had to write speeches. I didn’t have the funds for a professional speechwriter, so I wrote my own speech and got some feedback from a few people, and then we were whisked away to a room with the other yellow-party subgroups. It was there that we would elect our political party’s candidates.

The way the voting worked was that all of the subgroup candidates would delivery their speeches, and then everyone would vote on a presidential candidate, and then, separately, a vice-presidential candidate.

I gave my speech first. Essentially, it was a speech to introduce my subgroup presidential candidate, but damn…this was a speech. It was all fire and brimstone–I believe I even led off with, “The world is crumbling around us.” Something like that. And the thing was, although I didn’t have my fear of public speaking back then, I certainly didn’t relish it. I didn’t take pleasure in being the center of attention.

But that speech won me the nomination.

This photo has no relevance to this story, but I saw it in my photo album, and for obvious reasons it needed to be published. It looks like we're in a police lineup after being arrested for dressing haphazardly.

My presidential candidate was a named Melanie. She was a year older than me, very intelligent, and an excellent public speaker. I would not be telling you this story if Melanie was not my presidential candidate that day.

We picked out a few aides to assist us, and the games were afoot. For what felt like the first time ever, on that day I was important. I was someone to be reckoned with. While the rest of the kids ate lunch in the cafeteria, I ate in a private dining room with the other candidates. The press followed us around. We were allowed to smoke and drink. It was amazing!

Even better, during the first presidential debate (for which my role again was simply to announce my running mate–in fact, I’m pretty sure that was my only role all day, but it seemed very important) I looked around at the other political parties to discover that I was friends with a number of the other candidates. I believe the infamous Trev was in the green party.

To be honest, most of the day was a blur. But it was a good blur, a great blur. It culminated in a huge gymnasium where it was announced that my yellow party had won the election. Again, my role was to introduce Melanie, the first African-American female President. But for a little kid who never expected any of that to happen, it was my proudest moment.

My sister and I had a sleepover with Trev and his sister that night, and we probably spent some of that time melting chocolate bars into mega candy bars with hopes of world domination. But that night as I fell asleep in my sleeping bag, I knew that I had already conquered the world earlier in the day. I knew that I had just experienced the best day of my whole life.

I hope you have the chance to watch Caine’s story. It will move you not only because of the child you once were, but also because a filmmaker took the time to tell Caine’s story and give him the best day of his life. It made me want to do that for someone too. Someday. For now I just donated to Caine’s college fund and wrote a blog entry so that you too can share your best day story in the comments.

19 thoughts on “The Best Day of My Whole Life”

  1. Awesome! I haven’t watched the Caine video yet (I’ll watch it later at home), but I too vividly remember Goldmind Games 1994 (in fact, I think I still have a t-shirt from the event).

    I remember that you and Melanie were unflappable and well-prepared, while a lot of the rest of us candidates were not. I still tip my cap to you for that day as a whole (literally, they gave us plastic hats that looked like short top hats with red, white, and blue stripes).

    The highlight of my day was actually getting nominated to be a presidential candidate. I gave an impassioned speech standing on a table in a lunch room while other kids in my group crowded around and cheered. Admittedly, that felt awesome.

    The two other things I vividly remember are the private lunch (which really did make us feel important) and absolute confusion at a Q&A session for presidential candidates. I remember walking on stage with Melanie, Reggie Elam (another person Jamey & I both knew), and 2 other candidates. Someone on my team handed me some note cards right before I went onstage, and then people started firing questions at us. I looked at my cards, but whichever kid was in charge of preparing answers for this part of the day had written some sort of jibberish that didn’t seem to answer the questions well. I was very disappointed at that point and pretty much knew that my party was doomed to be defeated. (Well, that Q&A session and the cigarettes they gave us…even though I didn’t inhale.)

    Ah, memories. If Caine had half as good of a day as we did back in ’94, then I’m sure he’ll be hard-pressed to find another day to top the one from the video.

    • By the way, I laughed out loud at the caption under the picture of you, Emily, and Andrew. One of the best captions ever.

    • I’m glad you remember that day as well! That’s awesome about the impassioned speech. It’s too bad no one recorded the speeches.

      That’s hilarious about the note cards. I remember one point in the day where I had worked out some talking points, but I left my note cards at a press conference or something. I sent an aide to pick them up and got them just in time. Having an aide might have been the best thing ever. I need to make that happen in real life. Maybe it’s time to have my annual summer intern search…

      I hope you and Laura get to watch the video, because Caine definitely had a pretty awesome day too. And he was better dressed than my siblings and I in those photos.

  2. Wow, that video of Caine is amazing! Definitely made me tear up a bit.
    Trev has told me about your presidential election day before. So proud of both of you for your bravery at such a young age!

    • Emily, I think you have photos of Jamey that would require a signed release. But I think Jamey’s shorts are what is getting him in trouble.

      • Oh, I thought you guys did sign the releases! Or maybe those were two random people I met on the street. One or the other–who can remember these things?

  3. Gosh darn it! You make me all teary eye. Where’s my tissue?

    Where did you hear about this little guy?

    I need to look up some cute stuff.


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