by Erik Deckers
American Reporter Humor Writer
March 15, 2001
SYRACUSE, Ind. -- People who know me know that I have an interest i= n things related to construction and woodworking. I enjoy learning about ne= w advances in those areas, and I'm willing to try just about anything as lo= ng as the end result isn't an electrical shock or explosion.
My daughter and I love the PBS Do-It-Yourself shows, and we watch them every Saturday afternoons. We never miss the woodworking shows,"The New Yankee Workshop" or "The American Woodshop," and we have gotten some great ideas from "This Old House" and Hometime."
On a daddy-daughter outing last weekend, I took my four-year-old to Johnson's Workbench, an area woodworking shop -- woodworker's Heaven. We marveled at the array of power tools, hand tools, wood, books, and different gadgets that any enthusiastic amateur shouldn't be without (note to family and friends: my birthday is in a few months, and I think these guys have gift certificates).
As I explained to my daughter what each tool was for, I realized how far I had come in just a few short years. When I first got married, I couldn't even hammer a nail straight, and here I was, seven years later, lecturing a small child on power tool safety and usage. It was a far cry from the scared kid who took Industrial Arts at McKinley Middle School in Muncie, Indiana.
Back in 1980, when I was in the 7th grade (I'm 33, for those of you trying to do the math), I was introduced to the world of vocational training through the required Printing and Drafting class. For those of you who don't know it, printing and drafting are not the safe and glamorous jobs you expect them to be. They're actually very dangerous and have an extremely high mortality rate.
For example, did you know that under the right circumstances, movable type can travel as fast as a bullet? Of course, it needs to be fired out of a gun to reach that speed, but trust me, it can happen. And did you know that when the edge of a T-square is sharpened to a razor edge and swung with sufficient force, it can decapitate a person? I didn't either. But it was something I learned in seventh grade Printing and Drafti= ng.
That's because our teacher, Mr. Ritz, made us watch a film on Industrial Arts Safety, complete with a scene from an actual eye operation, exposed eyeball and all. But it was all for a good cause: the safety of the students in the class. And the fact that I was never crushed by a printing press or accidentally swallowed a drafting triangle faroutwei= ghed the night terrors for the next three months.
Everything was mostly fine that whole year, until I was forced to relive the terrors the following year when I found myself in eigthth grade Industrial Arts class.
"Metal Shop?!?!" I nearly wet myself from panic.
"The guy from the film last year was working with metal!" I thought wildly. "He got hit in the eye with a piece of metal and he had to have a really gross operation on his eyeball and it was hanging out on his face and he was never able to see his daughter grow up and he had to wear those dorky sunglasses all the time and he ... "
Eighth graders tend to think in run-on sentences when they panic. I was in the wrong place. Why wasn't I in Wood Shop where the biggest= risk was a splinter? Why wasn't I in Printing & Drafting class again stari= ng down the barrel of a Movable Type Gun? Why wasn't I safely infront of a hot stove with all the girls in Home Ec? There had to be some mistake!
I died a thousand deaths as I listened to Mr. Woolsey's safetylectu= re. It was the same one Mr. Ritz gave us last year. We even sat in with Mr.= Ritz's class and watched last year's safety film again. I forgot when the eyeball scene was coming up and managed to see the whole thing again.
I didn't belong in this class! I belonged in a class wherebecoming the subject of a film on Industrial Arts Safety wasn't aneveryday risk. Near the end of class, while everyone else was looking over ourclass ma= terials, I walked up to the teacher's desk and quietly explainedmy predicam= ent:
"Mr. Woolsey," I said in a voice low enough the others couldn'thear= . "I don't think I'm supposed to be in this class." I didn't want myfrien= ds and classmates to think I was a wuss. I was going to get my asskicked en= ough during the year as it was.
"Why not?" he asked.
"Well ... uh ... that is ... I'm just afraid of getting hurt." A look of kindly parental concern came over Mr. Woolsey's face,and he as= ked me a question that I still remember 21 years later.
You're not a bleeder, are you?"
His booming voice rang out through the classroom, making the otherb= oys look up with the realization I was a wuss. I wished I could justcrawl i= nto a safe hole while an airplane came crashing into Mr. Woolsey'sdesk.
"I don't think so," I answered.
"Then just be careful and wear your safety goggles," he said, alitt= le more quietly.
That was it. I was stuck there for a whole year, facing theprospect= of becoming yet another Industrial Arts statistic; just anothereyeball ope= ration video to show to other petrified middle school studentstrying not to= wet themselves with fear.
Somehow, miraculously, I made it through the year without ascratche= d finger or perforated cornea. But when it was all over, Ideveloped a perso= nal rule that I live by every day.
When facing imminent danger, if someone ever asks me if I'm ableede= r, I'm going to say yes.