punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

Futuristic city

When I was in 7th grade, I had a biology teacher named Mr. Gladding. They say he was married with kids, but he just oozed homosexuality with a huge litany of stereotypes: soft passive voice, limp wrist, lilted voice, clear nail polish, and pastel sweaters. I don't say this because I didn't like him; he was a good guy, and a pretty good teacher. One of the tortuous things my parents did was an "assignment book," which Mr. Gladding refused to sign his initials. His full name? Frank Alan Gladding. I kid you not. But apart from that, we had a good repertoire, and while I agreed with almost everyone else he was SO gay, unlike the other kids, I didn't care. Mr. Gladding kept me interested in science, which given the state of mind I was in at the time, was pretty impressive on his part.

One of the lessons he had was "design a city of the future." Mine was an undersea city. I recall it's durability was due to a material that when pressure was applied unequally, it would become stronger due to an advanced crystalline structure. Thus, the city was under a dome of the material, which solved a lot of problems. The idea was partially mine, but also came from some short story sci-fi I had read once about domed cities and structural support of arches and eggs.

The project had a fatal flaw, however. When you have a class of 30 students who are expected to give a 5 minute presentation followed by 10 minutes of question and answers, not only does that take 2 weeks to complete (thus allowing more and more "unfair" slack time for those later in the alphabet), but it let those of us later in the alphabet to better prepare for some questions. My last name started with the letter "L" and so I had a week of listening to harder and harder questions that started with Mr. Gladding asking basic things like, "So where does the trash go?" to students who were allowed to ask really hard things like, "What to you do with the dead?" The first set of students were torn apart because they really were creative with the look of the project, but didn't study hard of more mundane practical matters, and I think got lower grades because they didn't add basic services like sewage and fire protection. Then the rest of us got better grades because we added those things in before our presentation came up. These futuristic cities went from Barbie's Dream Castle in the beginning to some serious plans by the time it came to me. I had it all, man. I had plumbing, sewage, waste disposal, fire, police, and everything that would later get me addicted to "Sim City." I was proud; I had thought of everything.

Then one kid asked, and his was the first question, "What would you do in a terrorist attack?"

Actually, he didn't phrase it that way, but he did say, "if the material is stronger on the outside where the pressure of the ocean keeps it strong, what happens if an explosion happens on the inside?" I said we kept everything at least half a mile away from the edge, with a nice park so people could look out of windows at the see floor. Nothing to explode there.

"So what if an evil guy puts a bomb in the park?"

I got a B- because of that question. That and my handwriting was crooked on the project poster, and I spelled two words wrong. But I was crushed. I kept thinking, "Why would anyone do that?" The sea would rush in and everyone, including the bomber, would die... oh, what if it was remote controlled? Or the bomber had an escape pod? I felt this rush of anger and unfairness that someone would ask such a question, as did many students when they got knocked down, I am sure. But everything unraveled at that one simple question.

When the threat comes from the inside, all the rules change.

Sometimes, when I am struck blindly in life by a new set of vulnerabilities, like 9/11 and other events, I think back to that classroom.
Tags: 9/11, childhood, city, gladding, science, threat
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