Archive for April, 2021

How I Got My Only “A” In Algebra

April 30, 2021

Since my theatre reviewing days on Stage Door St. Louis have diminished last year, I decided to take a few instances from my life that my readers may or may not find interesting.

Something inherent in my psyche has always been a fascination for anachronistic stories, jokes, etc. I had written essays about history and other items in grade school (Sts. John and James in Ferguson) and the more frivolous ones I always added some faux fact such as the only person who got a picture of Custer was a young lieutenant named Kodak who got killed in the massacre. When they took away his body, they discovered a little box that said “Brownie” on it. Since they didn’t know what this silvery paper was inside of the box, they just threw the whole thing away. So imagine my joy when I was in an Algebra class at St. Thomas Aquinas high school and the following happened. Ideas immediately started to bubble.

As most right brain folks will tell you, the terms “algebra,” “trigonometry” and “calculus” always were, not only tough to learn, but kept me barely awake for many of those classes. Fortunately I was there the day Father Schaefer had to leave the room to go to the principal’s office. As usual, the cut-ups in the class started yelling and throwing things at each other and when the good padre returned, he was livid. He shouted some proper scolding words and then said, “I want each of you to write a thousand word essay TONIGHT on…” (as he paused and looked around the room, he suddenly shouted) …”Doorknobs!”

I decided to call my essay, “The History Of Doorknobs.” I looked at the various eras and decided what would have happened if these folks had invented doorknobs. I started with the American (long before it was America) Indian and how they tried to devise a new weapon they would call the tomahawk. They came up with this rounded metal object with a handle. When they first got into a battle, they discovered their “tomahawk” could only scalp bald men. Back to the drawing board and they finally realized they had come up with a doorknob but that would not work either because the weight of the tomahawk/doorknob kept pulling the flap on their tepees down and let all the cold air into their wigwam.

I kept going through several other examples of failed attempts and even discussed how interior designers called out people who put Early American doorknobs on modern homes and vice versa. “Down with these desecraters of fashion design!” I went a little bit into the anatomy of the doorknob and a few other pertinent and ridiculous “facts” that had no basis in reality but I felt were entertaining as hell. Anyway, you get the idea.

Father Schaefer decided to read my work out loud to the class as an example of (tongue-in-cheek) how my extensive research brought together a fascinating and quite accurate description of doorknobs. I’m not sure how many in class got the message, but he gave me an “A.” That kind of boosted my overall grade to a D+.