October 5, 2014
Sunday, 3:00 p.m.
Letter #351: Building My Patience
I have you-don’t-know-how-great-I-feel-right-now kind of joy. I am elated beyond words (yet I will attempt to find a few appropriate ones that can help me express my joy on paper for your benefit). It is as if I have been freed at last, no longer bound up in a prison-within-a-prison.
Yes, incredibly, and at long last, Construction Class has come to an end, and I am no longer required to spend three hours of every morning and three hours of every afternoon, Monday through Friday, in that class.
In prison, there are times when you have to really search in order to find something to be grateful for, but not today. No, not today. I am so grateful that the Construction Class in no longer part of my daily routine, forcing itself upon my schedule with the regularity of a baby whose diaper desperately needs to be changed, and just as pleasant.
Now, believe me when I say that (you should never trust anything someone says after the words “believe me”) I have nothing against carpentry, woodworking, or any of the construction trades. To have a project in mind, whether a shed, barn, house, or church, and to draft plans, procure materials, and build it is immensely satisfying, I am sure. I’d love to have a hand in designing and building my own house someday. It isn’t the “Construction” part of the “Construction Class” that was so bad. It was the “Class” part, full of guys who had none, that really became unbearable near the end.
To give you an accurate picture of the classroom dynamic, let me describe some of the students for you: One guy, who sat right behind me, made it his mission to use every opportunity possible to say inappropriate things. When the education building officer would stop by, he’d get her involved, too, the both of them spewing filth to make the others in class laugh.
One guy would snatch people’s folders while they were in the restroom and draw vile pictures on them, one reason I never used the restroom while in class.
Another guy would constantly ask the teacher, a kind gentleman in his seventies, embarrassing and inappropriate questions to make others laugh.
While a few of us were working, putting together the small house, most of the class would sit and talk with each other, making clear whenever possible that they found the class intensely boring. I never saw one of the guys ever drive a nail, use a power tool, or even help with cleaning up at the end of each session. Instead, he successfully read through four books during class time, interrupted only by someone needing him to move out of the way while we laid out the siding cuts around the windows or measured the lengths of baseboard.
Another guy was so slipshod in his work that he got his shirt caught in the circular saw, nearly to the point of him becoming a statistic. Now his shirt looks like he was trying to install a zipper instead of window trim.
We all had the option to take our course books home with us to study, but I never saw anyone else seize that opportunity. And why would they? You didn’t have to know the material to pass the class. The instructor would practically give out the answers to each test a day before the test, while we would take voracious notes.
The tests were all “open-note” tests, but even that overly-generous preparation method didn’t diminish anyone’s need to cheat. As soon as the tests were handed out, the two teacher’s aids would bring out their answer sheets as well, passing them along to each of us to copy down the correct answers.
Besides the unfairness of cheating and the personal peeve I have against cheating, I had one more compelling reason not to do as 90% of the class was doing: the cheat sheets were sometimes wrong! On a few occasions, I’d get my regular homework returned with multiple answers marked as “wrong,” but after I had double-checked my work, I’d go back to the teacher’s aides and prove myself correct. (This story, whether true or not, certainly makes me sound smart.)
I am grateful I got to skip all day classes on Fridays to work with the Community Choir and Wednesday mornings to work with the Messianic church’s worship teams.
One of these days that I was not in class, someone tested the hammer-proofness of the class’ hall window. It was not. This action, ahem, shattered the tranquility of the class even further. Then, someone wrote some true things about the female educational officer on the restroom walls. On another day, someone wrote something untrue about me on the sign-in sheet.
No one claimed responsibility for any of these actions, deeming them not only juvenile but cowardly acts. A simple analysis of the handwriting nailed one of the culprits, who still refused to confess. We were all excluded from class on more than one occasion, simply due to bad behavior by many of the students. Yep, “a companion of fools suffers harm.”
So, yes, I learned a lot from Construction Class. By class end, I’d finished building a complete house, minus plumbing and electrical work. I refreshed some old skills (drywall, molding) and learned new ones (framing, roofing), but most of all I learned that if I plan to build anything in the future, I will need to hire professionals to help me.
One final programming note: those of you who may still read the hand-written version of these letters may notice I’m using a different type of yellow paper, since I’ve run out of the other type I was using … a kind of fresh start as I pass another letter-writing milestone. Whether you read these words as handwritten or typed, thank you for your consistent care for me.