Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Good Sir, Why Do You Start?

Sometimes I wonder how on earth I managed to survive into adulthood.

Today’s edition of Our Little Town’s newspaper has an article in it detailing the trouble a high school student recently got into here in The Land Of The Free (tm) for bringing a paring knife to school so she could cut up the apple in her lunchbox. Although there is some question as to whether this actually was her lunchbox or her dad’s, and thus whether she intended to bring in this paring knife or not, there is no question as to the fanatical overreaction being visited upon the poor girl, who will likely be jailed for life, placed on the No-Fly-Ever-Not-Even-As-An-Earthquake-Refugee List, and/or deported to Afghanistan for further interrogation.


I once brought a WWI naval bayonet to my high school.

These things were designed for boarding parties. It had a blade about sixteen inches long and a serviceable hilt, so you could actually use it as a short sword if you so desired. And, in fact, that is what I planned to use it as.

You see, that year I was taking a Shakespeare class.

Trust me, it makes sense. Hear me out.

The teacher for this class ended up getting sick for quite some time in the first quarter, so he sent in a lesson plan that called for us to divide up into small groups and work on independent projects that we could present at some point when presumably he was feeling better and could evaluate them. We were left pretty much on our own as to the nature of these projects. So long as they had something to do with a play by Shakespeare, we were good.

Now, understand something. This was an Honors class. It was full of the sorts of people who later became lawyers, professors and psychiatrists – people adept at finding the grey areas in directives, in other words.

Accordingly, it took us all of a day to realize two things.

First, that nobody in the class was happy about the fact that we were not going to be studying Macbeth that semester. We liked Macbeth.

And second, that several small group projects could, with a little work, be arranged into one large group project.

As an added bonus, we figured out that we could combine these two things and solve all of our problems at once.

So we decided to work together to stage various scenes from Macbeth for an audience to be named later. The substitute didn’t care, really – we were working quietly on Shakespeare-related projects as far as he could tell, the details of which could be filed under Not His Problem. And our regular teacher wasn’t there to tell us no. Plus, I rather suspect he was pleased with our initiative. He was one of those teachers who knew when not to see things and just let us go.

So we rehearsed in class, and when the end of the quarter drew near we rehearsed out of class as well. And since a good percentage of the Stage Crew was in that class, we worked it out to present our scenes on stage one evening, with lights and everything.

We needed props.

Swords, in fact.

So I brought in my dad’s old bayonet that he had found somewhere in the Philadelphia Navy Yard a quarter century earlier, and stuffed it in my locker where it sat all day doing nobody any harm. I took it out at the end of the day and marched it over to the backstage area, where someone else had done the same thing with an actual - and rather larger - sword. We rehearsed a bit, and then locked them up in the lighting cage so nobody would take them before adjourning for dinner.

We had invited quite a lot of people to the show, and the house was fairly full by curtain.

And when showtime came, there I was on stage – Banquo in Act I, Scene III, with my short sword in my hand. I even had time to sheath it properly during the scene (of course the bayonet had a proper scabbard - don't be silly). The girl playing Macbeth had the big sword, as was appropriate since she had the big part. And all through the evening we traded those blades back and forth so that the appropriate characters were appropriately armed.

The only comment I got about it was from my English teacher, who was also one of the faculty sponsors for the school plays. I’d been working backstage for several years by then, and he decided that the poise I showed up there in taking my time to sheath the bayonet was a sign that I should try acting as well. As I recall I thanked him for the compliment without seriously considering that as a possibility. I liked it better backstage.

I cannot imagine doing this today.

Not even with an apple as cover.


tellthestories said...

I have thought of this issue recently in discussions about the lunchroom with munchkin.

Apparently, the designated utensil provided in the lunchroom is the plastic spork. It is said to be near impossible to spread butter or any other substance on one's bread with said utensil.

Because our children will not survive with even flexible plastic knives in their possession? I seem to recall metal utensils - fork, spoon and butterknife - lurking in my molded plastic lunch tray. The horror!

David said...

You spread butter with a spork by grasping the spork firmly by the round end and using the handle to do the actual spreading.

Our grandchildren will someday ask us about metal utensils the same way we ask ours about radio drama.

I remember when Midwest Express Airlines used to give you not only metal utensils, but little glass salt and pepper shakers. Apparently only terrorists use such things.

Beatrice Desper said...

After our wedding, I asked my brother in law to take an unidentified gift back to France. Well, it got identified on the x-ray machine near the gate of the plane. An eight inch cake knife. "Really, I didn't know it was there" he said with his café au lait skin. They were good about it... they checked it... this was pre 9-11, or my BIL may have been sent to Gitmo.

David said...

I once went through airport security with an 8" crescent wrench in my backpack that I had forgotten about. They asked me about it, but let me through. What was I going to do, unbolt the wings?

And yes, this too was pre-9/11, so I doubt they'd let me do that today. Because the wings, you see. Terrorists unbolt them.