I was a shy kid who never spoke up in class or misbehaved for fear of being sent to the principal [gasp!!]. It can still run chills up my spine just thinking about what might have happened had I acted up. The principals of my era are all extinct now. Relegated to peeling, photographic archives that hang on the walls of pre-60s elementary schools. I don’t remember them being on the endangered species list but I read a while back that fossils of human-like remains clutching large, wooden paddles were found buried near an asphalt playground.
My school was one of those probably built with lots of asbestos and lead paint and all those great construction materials we didn’t know would eventually kill us. Fortunately, I’m still alive to tell the tale of my very first “recording”.
Parent’s night always gave me the jitters but this one was downright nerve-wracking . Our teacher, her name escapes me so I’ll just call her Teacher, had us all read in class one day so she could record it on her big metal tape-recorder (probably shared by the entire school) and play it back for the parents on parent’s night. I wondered if this would tack on unnecessary time to “the big night” and make us all fidgety and irritated. T.V. was a big deal back then and most of us just wanted to get home and watch the latest episode of Bonanza in stunning black and white. I know I did, because I was in love with Little Joe.
There was only one last thing to do after Teacher gave my parents the glowing review of Julie never utters a peep in class and can spell her own name and keeps her hands to herself and doesn’t eat paste….you know, all the really important stuff.
Teacher flipped a button on the hulking device. The plastic spools spun and whirred to life….and spewed forth the most horrifying voice I had ever heard. Turned up to the right decibel level, they could have used that voice in a North Vietnamese prison to extract information from an unbreakable John McCain.
My head felt like it would explode. I think I actually stumbled backward like the words were made of buckshot. I just wanted it to stop. Doesn’t anyone see my ears bleeding? I’m only eight for cryin’ out loud!
Peace finally came and I wiped the blood from my neck.
“Who the hell was that? “That gul can’t say hu awws!” I asked which was the most I’d ever uttered in a classroom to date. The public smack upside the head for using the word hell went a long way in conquering my shyness so that’s the silver lining in all this. I mean, once you get publically smacked by your parents most inhibitions fall away… until the time you give birth which puts the icing on the cake of who-the-hell-cares-what-anybody-sees.
I still hate the sound of my own voice….but I can say my Rs now.