Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Board Feet and the Passive/Aggressive Shop Teacher

This is a placeholder, just the germ of an idea to be fleshed out at some future point. In 7th grade I had a shop teacher named Mr. Mills (I think that was his name). For the sake of argument, let's say he was 5'9", mid- to late-forties, dark wavy hair, horn rimmed glasses, short sleeved white shirts and charcoal pants.Basically, he was unremarkable. Now, shop was something I enjoyed. I like to build and fix things. That's sort of who I am. Engineering is in my genes.

We had two projects I can remember, probably more, but the two I recall were a screwdriver, which we forged in a fire and pounded on an anvil. Pretty butch. The other was a wooden napkin holder consisting of a rectangular base, a rectangular back and a front that was cut on a jigsaw in the pattern of a rooster.

To get started, we had to write an order for our wood, which Mr. Mills would then cut to order and hand to each of us. It was a lesson in board feet, a mathematical calculation that's used in carpentry. I'm not great at math and, although I thought I followed the lesson correctly, my numbers must have been off, because after I handed my order to Mr. Mills and he went to cut the wood for me, he handed me back two pieces, a base that was the correct dimensions and a double thick slab that was the right height and length.

I took it from him and asked, "what's this?"

"This is what you asked for," he replied.

"Right, but it's not what I need."

"But it's what you asked for."

Now, I'm not a trained teacher and maybe I'm off base here, but if I had been in his position, I would have looked at the order slip and said, "Matthew, there's an error in your calculation. If I give you this, you'll have the wrong pieces and won't be able to do the project. Let me show you how to correct it."

Instead, Mr. Mills, being rather dickish, just cut what I asked for and handed it back to me, probably not doing a very good job of hiding a shit eating grin.

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