Mr. Price was likeable and distinguished looking, an older gentleman who generally made his appearance in a dark suit and tie. His mustache, riding shotgun over his upper lip, might have given him just a touch of authority, but unfortunately it didn't. And as a seventh-grade math teacher, he was in way over his head.
The problem grew from his Tai Chi like deliberation in turning towards and away from the blackboard. A complete iteration could last thirty seconds, which left plenty of time for all hell to silently break loose behind him.
And it did, every time he began his turn towards the board.
The far and away favorite method of the more raucous among us was to throw paper balls. The moment Mr. Price would begin his turn, the balls would fly, and the moment before he turned back, they would cease from flying.
This nearly silent system seemed to work well for everyone. Those who wished to study and learn could do so with minimal distraction. Those whose aim was to perfect their pitching style and reflect on the aerodynamics of spherically crumpled paper were free to do so. And Mr. Price could work on Tai Chi and contemplate mathematics in relative solitude--that is, until a small bit of copper intervened.
A penny, rather than a paper ball, came screaming through the air and hit me hard in the ear. Now I don't know if you've experienced this sensation, but it gets your attention quickly.
Observing the unspoken rule of silence in our classroom, I picked up the penny and went into a full major league pitch towards its original owner.
But I guess it takes longer to complete a full wind up with a penny that it does to toss a paper ball from a seated position. When I regained my chair, I noticed that Mr. Price had surprisingly completed his turn, and was glaring straight at me.
He called me to his desk and quickly pulled out a pre-printed pink pad. Scrawling across it with his pen, he sternly ordered me to go see Mr. Jones, the Assistant Principal.
I went, accompanied by a keen sense of dread and distress that a thoughtlessly thrown penny had disturbed the delicate harmonic balance of our classroom.
Mr. Jones wasn't in, and as I sat there alone on the Group W bench, another of my classmates soon joined me. Things must be worsening back in math class.
Mr. Jones came in and chewed out the other guy in familiar terms. I gathered that this was not their first visit together.
Mr. Jones next rapped his knuckles harshly, in time, on my chest, saying,
And he didn't, I made sure of that.
But I can't help but think that Mr. Price revealed more than he wanted to about himself and me in what he wrote on the summons. It read:
"When I turn my back, the class throws paper balls. It turns out that Hank is the King of the paper ball throwers."
Well, it really was a very humiliating experience, but looking on the bright side, clearly Mr. Price seemed to see some leadership potential in me.