MILITARY SCHOOL: GET READY FOR DUMB DIY

DUBIOUSLY DUMB DIY

Military school is where you might send maladjusted children who don’t fit in well with typical education systems. It’s no wonder the lifehacks we cultivated would rank near the top of the dumbest of dumb DIY. And obviously, this is just one person’s opinion.

Not about the DIY or lifehacks we cultivated; our dumb DIY was most assuredly dumb.

For instance, one lifehack for sending threatening inter-campus notes or creating unauthorized campus newspapers was having a distinct printwheel font for one’s word processor tucked away in a small crack in the ceiling. This was the early 90s when students were more likely to have a word processor than a full-fledged computer— I still miss my Smith Corona PWP125, BTW.

Say a teacher, who was a member of an esteemed Infantry division in the Vietnam War, came to one’s barracks clasping a half-crumpled newspaper under a masthead of Pravda, with a headline reading “Mess Hall Hamburgers Actually Horse Meat;” asking “what the hell is the meaning of this?!”

Well, that is when having a burner font printwheel is essential. “But sir, my word processor prints Courier 10. That looks like some kind of script.” Also crucial, one’s printwheel should be distinct enough for an elder Ranger or Green Beret to note the difference. If not, you might get throttled (thrown hard into a wall) and racked with demerits (misconduct point system).

My burner font printwheel was Script 12 if you are wondering, an utterly pointless font I received at the bottom of my stocking, Christmas 1994. Thanks, Santa.

DUMB DIY TO YOUR LIFEHACKS

As lifehacks are the techniques or methods for managing one’s daily activities more efficiently, they can become very personal to a particular situation. They can be novel ways of clasping USB wires or other important cables for a washed-up tennis player.

Someone who spends too much money at Staples or rummaging through their company’s office supply closet could find that paper fasteners can be a unique way of managing desktop cords.

Or lifehacks could be a messaging system for astoundingly agile inmates.

Which— allusions to prison seems pertinent, as more than one of my military school classmates had made a deal with a judge to slog through academy life over juvenile hall or worse.

And frankly, living within a mostly fenced-off campus hundreds of miles from home dreaming of girls and furloughs— sure felt like a prison.

Of course, it wasn’t actually prison. And this is where I should also mention that private school experts might say, “Military School is not a place where you send kids with discipline issues; it is a place for building a solid foundation for a child’s future.” To which I say, “heh, sure.”

Regardless, I have watched enough Lockup on MSNBC to know that prison is a far more serious place to serve time over severe societal infractions.

And way more hazardous than military schooling based on the dangerous DIY that can be found there. I swear at least one show mentioned a DIY Derringer handgun made from old Reader’s Digest magazines.

MILITARY SCHOOL ISN’T PRISON

So, no, our school was nowhere near as dangerous or confining as an actual prison.

I don’t think it’s impossible to believe that a few of my fellow students wound up in actual prison after graduation. I guess I should ask them for comparison. For the rest of us, I think military school had the desired effect of persuading us to not “fuck around and find out.”

For many, pre-academy, we were just good at escaping blame for our own actions. Good enough to not get caught in any legally binding trouble, that is— our parents still knew we were screw-ups. 

We were latch-key kids, sure, but the neighborhood talked, “I heard your kid was at the new home construction and smashed a window.” Or, “your shithead child broke into our house and stole our twelve-pack of Canada Dry.”

And if that wasn’t enough to send a parent over the ledge to request a military school brochure, the bad grades would finish the job.

I had summers and select holidays off, but most of the year was spent in uniform, saluting the flag, shining shoes, and still trying not to get in trouble. Scratch that— more like try not to get caught. 

One could lose their free time privileges, and you didn’t want to mess with some of the retired military geezers running our school. Several were retired colonels, some fully winged, and more than one command sergeant major roaming the campus. Not the type of folks that enjoyed being trifled with by acne-faced shitheads.

IF YOU NEED MACE

So how stupid was our brand of military school dumb DIY? I haven’t used most of it since graduating mid-90s.

After all, we are a nation of laws, and dumb DIY doesn’t work well in polite society as it’s meant to inflict pain. For instance, citrus peels work well as a mild mace.

You’re not going to blind anyone for very long, so hopefully, you could win in a fistfight if it comes down to that because it probably will.

Although almost everything in military school led to a fistfight, I once commented how I liked someone’s sister’s new perm, and a few minutes later, fistfight.

Anyway, we would eat our breakfasts homestyle, beginning and ending with prayers and a basket full of bruised tangerines or oranges. If my classmates did anything with them, it would be to just hurl them at each other.

Some more devious yet pro-Vitamin C students would eat the fruit and save the peels.

If you pinch the outer skin of the fruit right in the face of a classmate, it will spritz the peel’s chemicals directly into the classmate’s eyes. It causes a rapid sharp burning sensation with temporary blindness.

If you pull off this prank on someone in military school, you will have a decision to make. Deck your classmate while he rubs his eyes, searching for relief, or laugh it all off and hope for the best.

The blinded classmate could choose to laugh it off as well. Or the blinded classmate could pretend to laugh it off and wait until later that night to sneak into your room and exact vengeance while you sleep.

RETRIBUTION IN THE FORM OF DUMB DIY

Putting heavy objects in a sock and whipping victims with it is not a military school innovation. I have no doubt loading a sock with heavy material for pummeling cadets or military adjacent folks in the dead of night has a long and esteemed military history.

I am less clear on how that method of retribution was introduced to our campus. Was it the South Carolina (Paris Island) flavored 1987 film Full Metal Jacket that did it? Possibly the also South Carolina flavored (Citadelmilitary hazing opus, Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy? Maybe a veteran father gave his son the idea?

Sometimes, the socks and locks include another element, a blanket party.

It’s not a festive celebration. A blanket is thrown over the victim to prevent him from fighting back. 

In a blanket party, a crew of people rush into a room, toss a blanket over the target’s head, and then pummel the individual from all directions. 

The blanket also serves to dehumanize the target, making it more palatable to aim at the head of a dude you’re probably friends with on most days. It just looks like you’re attacking Adam Maitland.

Blanket parties effectively let someone know that scores of people are angry with that person.

QUARTERS ARE HEAVY, BUT THEY ALSO BUY THINGS

One classmate always insisted a few rolls of quarters would be far more effective. Hell, maybe if someone had rolls of quarters to spare, it would be the sock of doom. But and as I exasperatedly asked him, “who the hell has rolls of quarters just lying around?!”

One roll of quarters is like, ten bucks. In military school, you could finance a cross-campus war on just a roll of dimes and still have some to spare for a couple Now and Laters.

A classmate with a roll of quarters would be someone I would want to be very cool with— a person who just needs help spending his money at the soda machine on the other end of campus.

However, there was good reason to look for alternatives to soap. Since we weren’t provided with soap and had to buy it ourselves at the canteen, and because the canteen prices for soap were comparable to the revered roast beef hoagie… Many students would use their bar down to the very last molecules.

We all had padlocks for our footlockers, so that quickly became the standard.

While you sleep with one eye open anticipating an intruder kicking in your door wielding DIY weaponry, you might decide to extinguish a runny nose. Fortunately, you have a roll of toilet paper hanging nearby.

This brings us to probably the only useful DIY in this entire anecdote. The coat hanger toilet roll dispenser. For the person that needs to carry around their favorite toilet paper and hang it anywhere.

STEAMPUNK BOX OF TOILET PAPER

I would continue to build the monstrosity into college and throughout my bachelor’s life. It only ever went away after I moved in with my fiancé. She noticed one packed in with my anime mugs and Star Wars-themed glassware. “You’re keeping that?” she asked in a way that I recognized as “you’re not keeping that.”

Nevertheless, let’s say you were clubbed with a lock in a sock. You could quickly dab at the gushing blood and wipe away tears in the same motion. All thanks to your coat hanger toilet paper dispenser hanging nearby.

Assembling a coat hanger toilet paper dispenser is simple. All you need is a roll of toilet paper and a coat hanger from the dry cleaners. The latter is an essential piece for this and more DIY to come.

The dry cleaner hanger’s metal shoulders connect with an easily removable cardboard spine. If the hanger is completely metal all the way around, you will need a pair of wire-cutters to cut at the center of the spine (not something we had access to at the academy).

Then you mold the shoulders to make the hanger smaller and more rigid around the spine to hold the toilet paper roll. Like I said, easy.

Then bring your favorite TP to the bathroom, hang it in the stall, and do your business without fearing the barely one-ply sandpaper roll my school bought for our bathrooms.

Or if you have a cold but still want to hang out in other friends’ rooms; obviously, decades before the pandemic— toilet paper hanging from a metal hook is way manlier than a box of tissues.

COAT HANGER DARTS

Many dumb DIY projects sprouted from our need for dry-cleaned uniforms. Our shirts would be starched all to hell and folded as if from a department store.

Flathead needles would be fastened to keep the shirt in a perfect rectangular shape, and it would all be wrapped in plastic.

Put the needle to one side and grab a shoelace, with a pair of scissors cut off the aglet and about an inch of the lace. Fray out the lace with your fingers and then push the needle through the aglet on the lace end.

Load the dart into one end of the cardboard tube and blow. BUT before you blow in the direction of a human, know that unless you’ve dipped the needle in tranquilizer, you have a guaranteed fistfight or blanket party in your immediate future.

So, if you have anything to weight your punches, better have that shit on standby. And yes, a roll of coins would probably work well for fist-loading punches— no one has any goddamn rolls of quarters just lying around!

Thankfully, no one I knew ever used the blowdart on a classmate. We’re talking sharp objects that cause bleeding; that would probably lead to immediate dismissal if someone snitched.

For the sake of my narrative, let’s say you darted someone and that someone squealed to the higher-ups, but the police were not contacted. Well, you’re still in deep shit.

MARCHING BACK AND FORTH WITH A RIFLE

As mentioned earlier, a road of mischief is paved with demerits. And that path eventually leads to the worst, on the books, punishment. Marching back and forth with a rifle during free time. All under the watchful eyes of astute military veterans who ranked up into the stratosphere before retirement.

Twenty paces with a rifle at right shoulder, stop, order armsabout-face, right shoulder, twenty paces— for like three hours each day (if you darted someone, you’re probably going to be doing it every day until the end of the school year).

Amazingly, one could still get into trouble while marching away their freedom. Okay, most of that trouble was just getting slack with drill movements and then being barked at.

But there were ten-minute breaks to hit the head or shoot the shit. And this is around the time someone could get into some actual shit, regulation-wise. Namely, smoking cigarettes.

Smoking was an immediate ticket to a few more weeks of marching back and forth with a rifle.

Yes, we were all underage as far as laws were concerned, but that didn’t matter to gas station attendants in 1990s South Carolina. Older boys would send me to the gas station to buy cigarettes when I was thirteen; I wasn’t ever turned away.

However, smoking a cigarette while being watched is a bit of a challenging move and not one that could really be pulled off without dumb DIY.

THE SMOKELESS ASHTRAY

Bringing us to my final military school lifehack, and yes, I’m stealing the name of an invention from a favorite fictional champion of dumb DIY, Rand Peltzer.

I imagine that most unknown inventors are like most unknown screenwriters in that they create one thing and only one thing— never anything new.

Both examples continue to improve their lone creation after every failed competition, every failed pitch to random thought leaders in their respective industries. And then that person dies— bequeaths it to a lucky family member with instructions to get it to the Wachowskis.

Not Peltzer, though. He was a prolific creator of loud, obtrusive duds. He was responsible for the Bathroom Buddy, a mega juicer, the Egg Smasher 5000, a motorized triple fly swatter, Smokeless Ashtray, etc.

The military school Smokeless Ashtray was ingenious and straightforward; just stick a cigarette in the mouth of a can and flip down the tab to keep it in place.

Most of the cigarette smoke accumulates inside the can. And when you’re finished, just push the cigarette into the can, where it will be extinguished by the bit of fluid left inside.

So, while you inhale from your cigarette, it looks as though you are just taking a swig of soda.

This method especially disguises smoking from further distances. However, if any of the school leadership were to approach their nose would immediately pick up the odor canceling any trickery meant for eyeballs.

However, it was a far better move than ducking behind a large bush to smoke. No one ever dips into the cover of a bush to solve math problems or fight crime. If you’re ducking into a bush, you are up to some shit.

AS WITH ANYTHING, IF YOU DO IT, DON’T GET CAUGHT

And before anyone is like, “wait a minute, if you are being punished, how is anyone letting you have a soft drink during breaks?!” It was the Carolinas; we were practically encouraged to drink Pepsi. And besides, all of that soda money lined the pockets of our soldierly oppressors.

This is the rub when it comes to most of the hacks. Commerce still needs to flow through the academy, leaving vessels of commerce to be exploited and hacked. Allowing for extra off-the-books benefits for dastardly delinquents.

I bet that much is similar between military school and prison life.

And speaking of prison, I wouldn’t try most of this hackery at home unless you want to find yourselves before a judge. If you are over 18, you will not find any deals to be made between military school or juvenile detention.

I would suggest you fashion yourself a hanging toilet paper dispenser; that shit is fantastic.

And by the way, do you have any dumb DIY or any other (non-lethal) military school lifehacks you want to share? Please, drop them in the comments below. Also, was y’alls rectangle pizza as excellent as ours was?

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