What was the name of that movie in school?

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I was counting the chairs in my home.

I don’t know why I was doing that. It seemed like a good thing to do. Have you ever wondered how many chairs you have? You have a lot. We don’t like to move far without being able to sit.

I patted an aged rocking chair that has thrown more people than the most notorious of rodeo bulls.

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I looked at one old chair that reminded me of a desk I had in school. No, it wasn’t covered with drool and it didn’t have “Craig ’64” carved into it like all of my school desks had, but it had the look.

Apparently, Craig from the class of 1964 loved woodworking in and out of shop class.

I sat in that chair and I went into one of those dream sequences that you see in movies. Things got fuzzy for a moment and then there I was, 15 years old and full of hope and myself. I had a mind of mush ready to be molded into a lean, mean, thinking machine. I was in school — a place where I learned so many things that I no longer remember.

It was the day after parent-teacher conferences. The conferences were scary meetings wherein teachers reaffirmed the things about children that their parents already knew. I had just written a paper declaring that the dinosaurs had become extinct because they didn’t have a business plan or a mission statement.

A teacher told my parents that I could have been getting straight C’s if only I applied myself.

The school lunch that day had been tuna noodle casserole with potato chips on top. A cook learned that a well-used basketball shoe made a bad Jell-O mold.

Back in the day when our family vacation was disguised as a trip to the hardware store, my short-term goal was to get to Saturday. My long-term goal was to get a driver’s license. I was flirting with becoming a licensed driver. Because I was a farm lad, I was allowed to get a provisional license at age 15 that allowed daytime driving and motoring about for farm purposes. I knew that a driver’s license was magic. It would make it possible for me to spread my mischief over a larger area and a driver’s license was a chick magnet. I knew that once I had a license, all those young ladies who had had been throwing stones at me would be lining up to go for a ride in my Chevrolet chariot.

As a farm boy, I had been driving for several years. I was the official NASCAR driver on the Batt Ranch, but in order to become a licensed driver and dating phenom, I needed to take a classroom course and behind-the-wheel training. Then I would stun the world. The classroom came first. It was difficult for a young man who thought he knew everything there was to know about driving to learn anything in such a class, especially while surrounded by beautiful young women.

We were going to watch a filmstrip. Today, we watch videos. Then we watched filmstrips that featured distorted sound and were often in need of splicing.

The instructor warned us that the film might be a bit too gruesome for the more sensitive of the group. He said that we should put our heads down on our desks if we began to feel faint. He advised that if any of us felt the need to free our stomachs of the tuna noodle casserole with potato chips on top, we should feel free to leave the class and find the nearest porcelain.

I wasn’t worried. None of the bad things in a film could ever happen to me. I had a guardian angel, who other than breaking for lunch during some of my tests, kept a serious eye on me. I figured my classmates felt the same. We were captive teens willing to put up with a lot in order to become licensed.

I think the name of the cautionary film was “Signal 30.” “Signal 30” was a police code for “accident with injuries.” It was nonstop accidents, blood, gore and death. The carnage was so intense that each desk should have come equipped with a barf bag.

The graphic footage may have turned me green, but it made me forget about the problems I had parallel parking that AMC with the chicken brake (the brake pedal on the passenger side of the car that the instructor could use in an emergency).

As I sat in the chair in my home, I thought of that film and the people I know who have died in auto accidents.

I put my head down.

Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.