Normally, when I’m breaking down equipment after a Rock Band rehearsal, I choose a playlist from my phone, put it on random, plug it into the speakers, and sing along while coiling cords, stacking chairs, and so on. When I’m done, I sit at the piano and play along to one or two songs and then turn out the lights and drive off to either the Y (if I still need exercise), Rao’s coffeehouse (if I have a long night of schoolwork ahead of me), or home (if it’s an easy night and I want to see my cat). It’s the kind of routine I love - familiar and comforting, yet never quite exactly the same twice.
Several weeks ago, as I was leaving the Performing Arts Department meeting, I was nearly struck by a flying Coke can with two-inch-wide triangular paper wings and a tail barely an inch high. “It’s for study hall!” shouted an 8th grader as she ran by, closely followed by a friend. “I, umm, I don’t doubt it,” I said. “But what exactly are you doing?” “I’m trying to make an airplane. But it won’t fly.” Her friend, examining the tiny tail scotch-taped loosely to the back of the Coke can, suggested she make it bigger, and they ran off to make the adjustment.
The next morning, she saw me right before homeroom, immediately slumping her shoulders and looking more dejected than I would have ever thought possible for such a generally happy and optimistic person. “Bill,” she said, “My airplane was a total fail.” “Not necessarily. Did you learn anything from it?” I asked her. Momentarily surprised, she told me, “No.” I responded, “Then you’re right. It was a total fail. I’m sorry.” She looked at first shocked, then pensive, and we continued on to our respective homerooms.