Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bridges of Destruction II

"Bridges of DESTRUCTION!" I intone over the public address system. "Twice the Bridges, Double the DESTRUCTION!"

Mind numbing in their repetitiveness, school announcements over the PA system resonate with monotone dreariness straight out of Communist Russia or George Orwell's 1984. Daily reminders to obey the dress code, to return overdue books, to gear up for summer school; all are ritually blared over the PA system only to be tossed into the bin of white noise trash we reserve for commercials and political pundits.

Then came Leiken.

"TUESDAY, TUESDAY, TUESDAY! Bridges of DESTRUCTION!" I exclaim, gesticulating wildly with my free hand, mike inches away from my mouth. "See bridges made out of mere popsicle sticks, held together with nothing but Elmer's Glue - hold hundreds of pounds of weight! Then see them - DESTROYED!"

The office stops, kids walking by halt to stare at the crazy maniac dancing behind the counter, lost to the performance. "With the winner," I continue, "winning one hundred dollars COLD HARD CASH!"


It started as a joke, but already in its second year the Bridges of Destruction contest is becoming a South East High school tradition. Mr. Barrigan helps the students engineer and design the bridges, while I handle the promotion. Last year the winning bridge, the "Whopper", held 425 lbs before shattering, no mere feat for a bridge made out of popsicle sticks.

But for me it isn't about who wins or loses, it's about the joy of going crazy over the announcements. I'm not in the classrooms when the announcements hit, but I know the students are paying attention. I can hear them shout: "Bridges of Destruction!" in the hallways, sometimes stopping me to ask if I'm the guy who does the announcements and if I'll use my "promotional" voice.

"Your that Bridges of Destruction guy! Right Leiken! Do the voice."

I always smile and shrug. "Sorry, don't know who it is."

"We know it's you Mister. It's got to be you."

"It's got to be me?" I ask dryly.

"Yes! You do all those voices! You like those pirates!"
"And you wear that parrot hat!"
"Can you do the voice, please?"

I shake my head. "Sorry, no autographs, just throw money."

Bridges of Destruction isn't so much a school activity, as it is a monster truck rally with a special guest appearance of BRIDGEZILLA! At least, that's how I promote it over the announcements, ending the commercial with a fast and low disclaimer:

Twice the bridges, double the destruction, gross exaggerated hyperbole. Cash is neither hard nor cold. No popsicle sticks were harmed in the making of the bridges, all bridges made out of non-toxic Elmer's glue, the official glue of LAUSD, for all your gluing needs. Brought to you by A&E, the "unofficial" place to be.

With the promotion, unfortunately, also comes responsibility. I didn't ask for it, I didn't want it, but I've become the point person for setting the date, organizing the event, and keeping everyone in the loop. The weights to destroy the bridges, the tables, the portable sound system, it all falls on me.

It almost doesn't happen. The forms are turned in, administrators are informed, space is reserved in front of the auditorium and the event is marked in the school calender, but the day of nothing is ready. Nothing.

There is no cart to carry the weights, no one knows if the tables will be ready, no one can get additional chairs and desks, the sound system is MIA. I turn to the kids, ask for their help, explaining we've got less than an hour to get Bridges of Destruction together.

The kids make it happen. Five of them ferry the weights back and forth from the gym, carrying 45 lb dumb bells, one weight at a time. Others text their friends, and like magic the sound system is set up. Tables and chairs spring up almost on their own.

The event goes off without a hitch.

I announce the contest while Barrigan assists the students with setting up the weights. This year's winner named for its jaw like sides, is the Piranha Plant, which holds 350 lbs before cracking. Joshua and Kim, the team who worked on it, are ecstatic. The crowd cheers as they both give special shout outs to their friends.

When the event is over, the kids come and pick everything up, ferrying the weights and tables back to where they belong. Leadership materializes to collect the sound system. I might have promoted Bridges of Destruction, and Barrigan might have helped the students create the bridges, but in the end, the kids made it happen.

It's a good day to be a teacher.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this, Brian. Your secret is safe with me:)