OK. It's 1978, and I've decided to not go to college. This is applauded by my peers (most of whom have Ivy League parents, trust funds, and Marxist leanings) and treated as a failure by my parents, who are Republican lower-middle-class strivers who figured that my turning 18 would take me off their hands so that at last they could enjoy the Playboy lifestyle....
Athem. I digress.
So it was that I was placed as Electrician's Apprentice, Mark 1, in the Building Trades Division of the Wallingford Board of Education, with a free ten-mile cab drive to and fro my workplace, a uniform, and a million in prizes....that last was a lie, but we were paid twice minimum wage, enough to finance my (a) high life in NYC and partici-pation in the Rocky Horror Picture Show (for which I was given a crew cut, so I could work all week in boy drag and wear wigs as a female drag queen on the weekends), (b)insatiable love for beauty products to pull the above off (self-same crew cut was dyed pink), (c) a similar love for rare and imported recordings of progressive rock, jazz, blues and similar genres, and even (d) more s/f, modern, and classic literature than a person should be allowed to read. (As I said, my life is complex.)Now, all of us had a Project, which was to Maintain the Buildings that we have been charged with (I got a new definition of nipple, in the bargain, and an everloving appreciation of Nikola Tesla in the form of me maintaining many flourescent lights), do a New Project (in which service of, I mixed mortar and moved many cement blocks)...and a Yearly Appreciation of our Progress.
I don't know how I did on the first round.We went to the local community college, spent a few hours listening to self-important types telling us How Much this Meant to the Community, and much more doing Dolce Far Niente, meaning that I got to sit around in the library doing pentomino puzzles and checking up on the latest short stories by John Updike. At the end of this I passed and was sent to Storrs, at the end of the month, with some of the other kids, and Roger, my right hand man.
(Let's memorialize Roger, for a second. I liked him. He looked a lot like Clark Gable, except that he didn't tan well, and wasn't as slim. He liked to do Edward G. Robinson imitations, which I found comical. Only I knew his true soul, and although we pretty much owned the turf, I never made a move on him, for good or worse.So there.)
And so, to Storrs...
Storrs, Connecticut is on the Massachusetts border of the state. It's also where the University of Connecticut is, which features a cafeteria with incredible food, all grown on a University-operated model farm (even meat and dairy) and a showplace garden of pharmaceutical herbs. Of the second I remember taking many samples, and of the former, that most of the participants (and myself) routinely took three and four times the quantity of food we'd be eating... at a time of high food prices, it felt exhilarating to be able to load up one's plate and stuff one's self for free, and even toss some away, just because we could! Now, to the Conference....
We were to hear Secrets of the Builder's Trade, and in service of which, I was to hear "...now, when we have a line four units in one direction, and another, three units in a perpendicular direction...we have a diagonal line..."
"....which is five, sir." I said, rising, from the back of the classroom.
"Please stay after class." I did so.
"Please explain your comment."
First, I gave the proof of the Pythagorean Theorem. Not the proof, just a cut-it-out-with-scissors-and-reassemble proof I'd found easy to memorize, a variant of Behold! Then I showed how, given parameters in a grid, one could find the distance between two points on a WW-II era military map, something I'd learned in a book by George Gamow. (I gritted my teeth on this one: most wargame maps I'd seen used hexes, not squares.) Then two points in three-space (without the curvature of the Earth, I added, as an afterthought). With a final flourish, I said, "Now, there isn't any law against using a fourth term here..." I did so. "...but that would lead us into the theory of Relativity, and.."
"Look, we thought you were just a dumb girl. How do you know this?"
"Tenth grade geometry, some books...your point?"
"Squaring up a building...the theory of relativity, this isn't high school, isn't it?" Somehow, I got the feeling that I'd dropped The True Name of God (or more accurately, the Mason Word) in casual conversation, and much to everyone's wonder, lightning had failed to strike.
"Well, I kind of like math and physics...I figured electrical work would tap into this."
"So, we've all had nothing beyond sixth grade. What in the hell are you doing here?"
"I love my family."
I brought home the trophy for Second Place, as the only female builder in the State, to the tune of ELO's Mr. Blue Sky, which Roger played in my honor ion his car radio, all the way home.
Note: the Theorem is also the short speech given by the Scarecrow in the movie version of the Wizard of Oz after he recieves his diploma. (Thanks, Mouse!)