When I hear someone say “metal manufacturing”, my ears perk right up. When you’re not actually in that industry, it isn’t very often that you hear the term used in casual conversation. And when one of your jobs is to write an article related to the subject once a week, your response to hearing that magical phrase becomes almost Pavlovian.
These words were indeed uttered in casual conversation this last Friday night, at a friend’s house in the hills on the French side of St. Martin, with lovely views of the Caribbean from the veranda we were having dinner on. Our company consisted of a “typical” St. Martin mix, including but not limited to dinner guests from the Bahamas, the US, England, Holland, Canada and France. The newest addition to our dinner party hailed from Manchester, England. With his accent, just about anything he said sounded funny regardless of its actual content, but to top it off he was a genuinely amusing character: so typically “Manchester” that he could have been a mascot for his city.
In any case, he started telling us about his metal manufacturing class that he had taken back in high school. Apparently, in England, metal manufacturing shop is a pretty typical high school elective. It was particularly popular in his school, mainly because someone in his class had the bright idea of using the metal workshop and tools to make Japanese throwing stars. This idea then spread like wildfire through the class.
From what I am given to understand, Manchester locals are a pretty tough crowd to begin with. They are world-famous for their soccer (“football”) and rugby skills, owing not so much to their refined technique but more to their raw aggression, their love of a good fight (and good beer), and the fact that they consider cauliflower ears a fashion statement. So really it should come as no big surprise that a bunch of high school students from Manchester started dedicating themselves very enthusiastically to mass-producing deadly samurai weapons in their metal manufacturing class.
Our friend described with genuine glee and amusement how, within a few weeks, his high school was littered with evidence of their turf wars. He talked about Japanese throwing stars stuck in walls, ceilings, furniture and even heads. What he never even thought to mention was “where were the teachers?” Apparently, this is considered perfectly acceptable behavior where he’s from. And the kid with the Japanese throwing star stuck in his temple probably wore it with pride.
The upside of this anecdote is that, 40 or so years later, this guy is still talking enthusiastically about metal manufacturing. It made an impression on him (maybe literally, although I didn’t see any visible scars) that led to a life-long love of the subject. Let’s be perfectly clear: I’m not “recommending” or “suggesting” that children of tender school-age years in the US should be encouraged to use their own metal shop class as an armory: I am merely relaying a story here.
With that said, the holiday season is coming up. Wouldn’t it be lovely to teach kids metal manufacturing skills by having them make pretty metal snowflakes as Christmas decorations? And if they happen to also lend themselves to a frisbee-type motion, well then that would just be a coincidence, right? What’s important here is that it would probably genuinely increase the popularity and renown of metal manufacturing in the long run. Sort of an “end justifies the means” kind of thing. Right? Right?
And just for the record, the guy from Manchester didn’t grow up to be some sort of deviant. He had enjoyed a successful career as a captain in the Merchant Marines, and he is also CEO of his own company.
I’m not really clear on what happened to the kid with the Japanese throwing star stuck in his temple.
Tags: metal manufacturing