As I was procrastinating getting ready for work this morning I ran across the story of Ahmed, a young high school student who made a clock and was subsequently detained as a potential terrorist. I was so angry for the idiocy of the whole situation and ashamed at the way this young man was treated by people who should know better, people entrusted with the nurturing of today’s youth, that I could hardly deal with it. I know times are different now then when I was about his age, but I can’t picture a situation where an intelligent person would make the leap to have Ahmed detained for posession of something that could even be considered a hoax bomb without any sort of actual threat or malicious action.
It made me think of a certain incident from when I was in high school. Several of my friends and I had an inquisitive nature as Ahmed seems to have. We enjoyed building things and finding unique ways to use interesting objects that came into our posession. On one particular day as we neared our graduation one of these guys called me up and asked if it would be hard to hook two air horns up to a car battery with some sort of a switch so it could be activated. I told him it would be really easy and I had some spare switches around and he should bring the stuff over to see what we could do. He came over lugging a big battery in a wooden box and we quickly wired it up to an old light switch and some salvaged wire. It really did the trick and made quite a racket.
I don’t remember my friend including me in his plans for the device, I had a strict policy of willful ignorance back then, but it’s possible I just chose not to ‘remember’ being part of the planning of the op. I suspect there wasn’t really a plan, but more the knowledge that an opportunity surely would present itself once the device was created. They always seemed to pop up once we were equipped, often to our detriment. There’s probably a story in that, somewhere.
Anyway, I learned after the fact that my friend had taken the device to school and decided to stash it in another friends locker, taping an improvised tripwire string from the switch to the locker door. While he was rigging the system a girl asked, “What’s that?” To which my friend gave a brief, simple reply, “A bomb.”
Now, this is most likely not the use I would have found for the device, nor the response I would have given to such an inquiry. But it was consistent with expected behavior from my friend. Subsequently my friend found himself called to one of the V.P.’s offices and as he entered, the school police officer, standing out of sight next to the door closed it. Mr. Hicks, the V.P., a very serious individual, asked him what he put in the locker. My friend briefly described the device. This is the part where time, and possibly the fact that my friend’s name doesn’t hail from the Middle East causes a diversion in the possible results of his actions. The school officer laughed (presumably at the V.P.) and left the office. My friend was let go without threats of detention or withholding of his diploma.
My friend came and found us to tell the funny story of getting called in to the office. When we asked what happened to the device we were told it had already worked perfectly, and that the prankee was so startled he slammed the locker door in hopes it would stop the noise. It didn’t. Also, he was so flustered he had a hard time getting the combination right to open it back up and shut it off. In a way getting hauled in to the office just made the whole thing a little sweeter, I think.
It’s really not an epic story, but I can’t imagine even white bread students getting away with such a thing today. And maybe they shouldn’t, although I don’t think any real harm was done back then. But on the obverse, what was done to Ahmed had the potential for real harm, and it’s only the fact that the story went viral to such a degree so rapidly and found support among those who were in a position to recognize his potential and nurture it, that the whole situation seems like it will turn out for the best.
Remind me sometime to tell y’all how I came up with an idea that almost got half the senior class arrested and filled the school parking lot with police late one night the week before graduation.