Mr. G’s classroom is filled with monstrous, hulking machines that look as if they could chew up teenagers as easily as my vacuum cleaner chews up Lego parts.
Needless to say, Mr. G’s Wood Tech class is one of the most popular electives in the curriculum.
Mr. G: … But if you’re wondering what’s the worst accident I’ve ever seen, I’d say, oh, it was the one caused by improper use of this machine here, the SIDE JOINTER.
(he puts one hand on the steel monstrosity known as the SIDE JOINTER and pats it fondly)
The kid who did it… well, he cut his arm wide open. A huge hole. There was no immediate blood loss to speak of, so we could see inside his arm.
(he puts both thumbs in his jeans pockets and smiles)
It looked like… shrimp.
This safety lecture is known all over campus as “Mr. G’s Death Speech,” the premise being that if students can visualize the kind of damage they can do to various body parts, they might be motivated to use the machines properly.
Kind of a “Scared Straight” approach, only with food metaphors.
Mr. G: This machine here…
(he indicates a slouching beast of steel hardware)
… is a JOINTER.
(the class leans forward to look at the JOINTER)
The blade spins this way … while you move the wood into it … this way. If you use any other procedure other than the one I show you, the wood will shoot out and hit anyone standing nearby. If that person is a boy… well, he’d be hit directly in the …
(the students hold their breath)
(the students’ mouths make little Os)
… at the speed of oh, 108 miles per hour. At that speed, a block of wood could easily FLATTEN a set of testicles.
(the room is so silent you could hear a strip of first aid gauze drop into the sawdust on the floor)
FLAT. (he slaps his hands together and the kids jump)
As a PANCAKE. (he grinds his palms together to indicate EXTREME FLATNESS)
Mr. G delivers the Death Speech as dryly as a bleached out skull and crossbones, interrupting it only with long, painful pauses laden with the promise of trauma.
It’s an effective speech, too. Mr. G had a perfect safety record that lasted over a decade—until it was broken last year.
By a Wren boy.
Mr. G: Now, the table saw over here…
(the students crane their necks as one)
…that table saw will take off your arm.
(several mouths fall open)
You can pick your arm up, wave it at your friends, and take it to the hospital so they can sew it back on.
(the class laughs, but weakly)
Mr. G: The table saw does a nice, clean cut. But the jointer, see…
(he points back at the jointer)
… well, the jointer is more like a… FOOD PROCESSOR. You stick your finger in there and it will suck your arm up to oh, (he considers the distance) about your elbow.
(the kids wince)
… But your arm’ll get ground up as it goes. Just like hamburger.
(all the kids go a little pale)
When Tiger returned to school after his little incident with the Sanding Machine of Doom, he became known as our high school’s version of The Boy Who Lived.
Mr. G took it kind of hard, though. So did I. And now, there’s something new to worry about, but it’s not another machine.
It’s another Wren boy.
Mr. G: One plate of hamburger, made out of your arm. Just like the stuff you get at the supermarket.
Kid in class: (gulps and whispers) Only with a lot more calcium.