Up the Creek… WITH a Paddle

“Motley”, Mr. Bailey called… but there was no response.

“Motley… is Motley Crew here today?”

The class erupted in laughter.  This was the 2nd day of school and Mr. Bailey didn’t have a printout of his classes yet.  The first day he had passed around a blank piece of paper and asked the students to write their names so he could take roll.  Obviously one of the long haired headbangers was having a little fun with it.  It was hilarious… I admit.

Mr. Bailey was the only teacher I recall having more acne than his pupils.  He looked fresh out of college and this probably was his first teaching job.   I guess this might have been the reason he was given a little more grief than the average teacher.  He was quick to send you to the Principal’s Office.  Football players knew better than to sass the teachers though.  We had someone to answer to.   By the end of the first report card period… he was almost to “just another teacher” status.

Complete dread.  I would compare it just one notch below sitting on death row awaiting your date with destiny… hopelessly waiting for the Governor’s phone call for a stay of execution.  A phone call that seldom comes by the way… and this time would prove no different.  Typically I had never had anything to worry about.  This time was different.  Every football player sat in front of their locker while the coach made his rounds.  It was report card time in the field house.

I had never failed a class before.  Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t an Einstein by any stretch.  I personified the dumb jock persona mostly.  But I had never failed.  The extremely rare D might show up, but usually… I was able to pull it up to a C or sometimes a B.  But Dr. Gunter’s Basic Electricity class… well… it was kicking my ass.

Basic Elect Class.jpg

Do high schools even have shop classes anymore?  It seems like over the last 10 years or more that you never hear about them.  Do they still have Wood Shop and Home Economics anymore?  I have no idea. These were staples of my generation’s high school experience.

Wood Shop was full, and my options were slim to none.  Everything worth taking as an elective shop class was completely full with no vacancy.  Ah… procrastination strikes again.  I probably had no one to blame but myself.  So Basic Electricity was my choice.  How hard can it be to build a lamp or two… right?  Ohms my God was I wrong?  That’s an electricity joke by the way… which you probably don’t get or don’t think is remotely funny.  That’s okay… now you know how I felt taking that class.

Younger generations won’t understand this… but there was a time when terrorism was almost unheard of.  When bomb threats were made to a high school, they were somewhat taken serious… at least the first or second time.  The police would respond, there would be a makeshift search while the students were evacuated.  After multiple bomb threats within a few weeks, it became more mundane.  They actually stopped evacuating and the police did their search while we had our normal classes.  This was a time before Caller ID and the attacks of 9/11 that would completely change things forever.  School shootings were not unheard of… but they were very rare.  Times were different.

One particular bomb threat occurred during lunch period.  To evacuate at this time would have totally thrown off the entire day’s schedule… not to mention pissed a lot of students off.  I remember seeing a few uniforms walking through the cafeteria… as I folded my rectangular pizza with a couple of french fries.  Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw a fellow classmate from Dr. Gunter’s electricity class… peer around the lunchroom entrance.  Was that Trevor?  Who was he hiding from?  I had no idea.  As I chugged my milk, I heard a loud clanking noise.

high school pizza

“Bomb!”, someone yelled.

All at once I saw a complicated looking piece of circuitry sliding across the cafeteria floor directly underneath the faculty table.  Of the entire faculty… only Mr. Bailey jumped up and backed away.  Dr. Gunter apparently recognized it as one of his thingamajigs and walked over to pick it up.  I’m not sure… but I heard Trevor got busted.  Mr. Bailey seemed embarrassed… if not humiliated.

I stood up and handed Coach Tohill my report card.  Coach Vakakes was beside him… holding the paddle.  Again, this is something that later generations will not comprehend.  Kids use to get the shit beat out of them for acting up at school.  This was totally acceptable apparently.  Today, it would be a scandal.  A news story followed by protests and terminations by the Board of Education.  Back then… it was just another day at school.

“A fifty-three?  In Basic Electricity?”

“Yes sir”, I said with as I looked down at my feet in shame.

“That’s nothing Coach”, Coach Vakakes said.  “Rodney Brown made a 23 in that class.”

Ahh… yes.  Hope!  Maybe I would be spared the wrath of the pine board.  Surely he would realize that no jock could possibly pass a course that dealt in ohms and meters and shit.

“Bend Over”

I had whelps for days.  Rodney got it a bit worse though.