Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
I was thinking of writing a short blurb about my store that I ran in the second grade classroom, and it bloomed into something more. You see in Second Grade, sometime toward the last half of the school year, I somehow managed to claim the surface area of one of the shelving units in the back of the room and started my own little store display.

There was a varied product selection, ranging from shiny rocks, interesting sea shells, strange widgets, erasers and pencils. This open-air elementary school bazaar obviously only lasted a few days. In this particular instance, I think I got away with it as long as I did simply because Mrs. Pomeroy assumed it was a sort of hobby display. “Oh look, Dan decided to set up a store table.” Something like that. My belief is that it took her a few days to realize— from the subtly shifting product selection or something more obvious—that it was a horrifically functional storefront.

Toward the end of its spectacular business run, I even had artists (other students from class) that were drawing pictures for me, which I would then resell for what I gauged as their worth. Usually this was about a quarter. I think one really good one fetched 50 cents.

Thinking back, I didn’t even pay the artists any royalties. A cutthroat business indeed…

I made a few bucks from that store. I have to thank my Dad, because I’m almost positive this had something to do with me tagging along with him to one of the Melbourne Auditorium Hamfest meetings and seeing all of the amateur radio folks and standard tables with assorted items and price tags. It was a 1980 Mecca of Geekdom. And they even had donuts backstage!

My initial goal was to apologize to anyone who ever purchased an item from my little illegal store operation. But then I had an epiphany. My illegal trading activities didn’t stop there. The Man (Mrs. Pomeroy) shut me down, but he couldn’t stop me. So I went underground.

No more store front. No more price tags. This called for a more discrete business model, one that could be handled with the apparent ease of a slight-of-hand magic trick, being much more available and on a much lower profile, away from prying teachers’ eyes.

It also called for a more streamlined product selection, as inconspicuously unrolling drawn images in the middle of math class isn’t exactly a breeze. And there really isn’t time to allow a relaxed browsing experience. Time is money, and excessive time over a deal would bring down the heat. But pencils… pencils were easy. Slim and compact, you could trade hands with them easily in bundles under the table. They had a limited color selection, and color wasn’t too important. A perfect contraband product in every way.

Now I’m not sure how it happened, but somewhere along the way something called pencil fighting had rolled into our student culture.

For those who aren’t aware, pencil fighting involved purchasing a brand new pencil, then ripping out the eraser and crushing the metal clamp with your teeth so that it formed a flat edge that would have a sharp point on either end… the sharper the better. Two combatants thus armed would enter the arena, usually just held between them in class between the student desks, and take turns holding the pencil sideways while your opponent took a drawn snap at the center of your pencil with the sharp edge on the end of theirs.

In most instances, this would take several hits from either side to chip away the internal integrity and eventually slag the pencil. Sometimes, you’d get a clean hit and snap it in one crushing blow. Intense! This wasn’t warfare from 30,000 feet, this was one-on-one combat in the student desk trenches.

The fact that we were taking fairly advanced utensils that had been developed over thousands of years of human ingenuity to result in efficient and cheap instruments by which to learn and communicate culture , and then mindlessly converting them into simple, effective weapons to crush opposing pencils into toothpicks isn’t the issue.

It was basically an arms race microcosm. I was one of the arms traders. I would go to the school store, or the grocery store or somewhere and obtain the armaments (pencils). Then I would haul them in discrete fashion back to the classroom warzone. I would sell them at a 50% or sometimes even 100% premium over their school store price. Buy at 10 cents, sell at 20, baby!

And like the real arms race, eventually you’d have to destroy all the arms so that people would need to buy more arms, which would mean more profits! And it was easy. If business was bad, one merely had to challenge someone to a pencil fight. And as in all arms races, fear once again served as the primary sales lever. The threat of being called chicken would cause buyers to line up instantly.

As the arms dealer, one only had to participate in one or two fights of your own. When others saw you pencil fighting, of course they’d want to join in, and they would need pencils! A stocked dealer was a wealthy dealer. And when you did have to engage in a fight to prime the pump, your pencils were bought at cost, so just one or two sales would easily fund an extra free pencil for yourself.


So here we arrive at the point of this strange wayback.

As this anniversary of the Waco fire and Alfred Murrah Building bombing in Oklahoma City passes us by, and we consider the ramifications of those events and the resulting chaos that ensued, the moral of the story is that violence rarely—if ever—resolves any conflict. In the end, violence just sets up future conflicts, as one side tastes defeat and then thirsts for revenge. Blood feuds (lead/graphite feuds) could begin, and before long neither side remembers who broke whose pencil first.

And, behind the scenes, away from the battlefield/classroom and usually away from the prying eyes of regulators/teachers, someone in the shadows turns a ridiculous profit on the backs of the splintered pencil hulks and destroyed dreams of others.

To everybody… peace, love and light…
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 2
04-19-2010, 09:29 PM
I wrote this as a post on my blog and figured I'd post it here in the interests of peace and prosperity and the vaunted goals of the Federation.



Hope you enjoy it.

For the TLDR crowd, a simple summary follows:
_______________________________________________

As this anniversary of the Waco fire and Alfred Murrah Building bombing in Oklahoma City passes us by, and we consider the ramifications of those events and the resulting chaos that ensued, the moral of the story is that violence rarely—if ever—resolves any conflict. In the end, violence just sets up future conflicts, as one side tastes defeat and then thirsts for revenge. Blood feuds (lead/graphite feuds) could begin, and before long neither side remembers who broke whose pencil first.

And, behind the scenes, away from the battlefield/classroom and usually away from the prying eyes of regulators/teachers, someone in the shadows turns a ridiculous profit on the backs of the splintered pencil hulks and destroyed dreams of others.

To everybody… peace, love and light…
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 3
04-19-2010, 09:45 PM
Cool story....haha I haven't though about pencil fighting in decades :p

but it's true...I can only hope that we too can reach the level tolerance and understanding the the UFP does in star trek.

cheers friend :)
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