The Sword Geek

It's all about the swords. Except when it isn't.

Look out! He has a… uh… clock!

In my senior year of High School (1980)  a ‘friend’ gave a plastic case bound with electrical tape to ‘hold onto’ for him. Knowing this guy was a bit whacked I opened  it. Inside was a lump of some kind of putty with a metal tube sticking into it, with wires attaching the tube to a circuit-board and a nine-volt battery. In short it looked like a small bomb.

I disconnected the battery and cut the wires to the metal tube embedded in the putty. That done I quietly bundled it up and told the teacher that I needed to see the principal. I went to the office and asked to see Mr.Kirkendorfer, the vice principle whom I knew was a former Marine.

I told him, “A friend of mine gave me a device which looks like it might be a bomb. I disabled it and I think it’s a fake, but if I’m wrong I’ll tell you who gave it to me.” I pointed out the cut wires and disconnected battery.

He looked it over and agreed that it did indeed look rather like a bomb. “Fair enough. What makes you think it’s a fake?” He asked.

“For one thing this–” I pointed to the tube embedded in the putty, “looks like a stereo plug, not a blasting cap.”

“It does,” he agreed. “How do you propose we find out if it’s really a bomb?”

“Pinch off a bit of the putty and see if it burns. If it burns it’s plastique. If it doesn’t it’s probably Silly Putty, which is what it looks like.”

He agreed that this seemed reasonable, and we went to the science area and explained what we wanted to the chemistry teacher. He pinched off a BB-sized piece of the putty, put it in a pyrex dish and tired to light it with a propane torch. It didn’t burn.  We removed the metal tube which turned out, as I had suspected, to be a speaker-plug (these used to be rather large.)

Mr. Kirkendorfer confiscated the device and told me to tell my friend that his actions were inappropriate and “If he pulled some shit like that again he was going to regret it.”

Now I was not some sort of prodigy or mad bomb-maker. There was no Internet for me to have researched on. I knew the ‘blasting cap’ and ‘plastic explosive’ looked fake because we were shown pictures of common explosives and blasting caps in school so that we would know they were dangerous if we ran across them. Mr.Kirkendorfer had served in Viet Nam so he had a basic familiarity with explosives. Neither of us was hysterical or over-reacted; we were educated enough to know what we were looking at, because in that day and age it was considered prudent to teach children these things so they wouldn’t accidentally blow themselves up if they encountered explosives, such as those that were used in construction etc.

Now I am not saying that this was the best way to handle the situation. It may actually have been an under-reaction. If my ‘friend’ had done a slightly better job with the fake we would probably have called the bomb-squad, and if that had happened I am pretty sure there would have been serious consequences. But note that no one was arrested or suspended for what was basically a practical joke.

Times have changed. We have real terrorist threats, school shootings etc. I get that. But I’ve seen the pictures of Muhammed’s clock. There is nothing there that even remotely resembles a blasting cap or explosives. As a relatively normal 17-year old student I would have realized this. Yet nowadays, when there is a serious threat, even a teacher doesn’t realize that a bomb requires explosives to go ‘boom?’

OK, even back then terrorism was not unknown by any means. The Weathermen, The Symbionese Liberation Army, Red Army Factions etc. were all around and active when I was a kid. The Order was getting fired up about Race and would soon be bombing night clubs and robbing banks. But there was no Internet to spread the fear and provide a public forum for people’s paranoia, racism and xenophobia.

Now people are claiming it was a ‘set-up.’ So what if it was? That doesn’t mean they magically didn’t react like a bunch of dicks. If it was a set-up their reaction sort of proved the point of setting them up, didn’t it?

Good thing he didn’t bring in a potato wired to a light bulb… the probably would have decided it was a laser-death-ray!

September 19, 2015 - Posted by | Podcast