austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

The first thing that I'd like to do is to save every day

Thirty-one years ago August bunny_hugger's middle school had an idea. They buried a time capsule for the high school class of 1992. This summer it was time to dig it up. bunny_hugger hasn't got happy memories of middle school, or of the town she lived in then. But when would something like this happen again? So as invited we put shovels in the trunk and drove to her middle school.

There she was recognized, in that unnerving way that other people have of somehow being able to identify faces even on people they haven't seen for a quarter-century. And altogether too many did the joke of ``come on, guess who I am''. But she did meet up with a couple of the people she liked and sort-of hung out with then and we could wait for the school's current principal to give an inspirational speech about what time capsules are for and how exciting they were.

Interesting fun fact: time capsule enthusiasts estimate that something upward of nine-tenths of all time capsules are lost. Because, you know, you bury the thing for decades and when it comes time to open it, all your landmarks have changed. The school, in 1986, had a plan for this. They got some students to draw maps, marking the planted location with reference to stable, sure landmarks such as the sidewalks around the campus. ... So yes, one of the sidewalks had been torn out and returned to grass and there was some dispute about where exactly to dig.

But they picked a spot, and someone with a pickaxe broke up the dirt, which turned out to be that kind of dirt that's made of diamond-crusted concrete. Adults tried digging a couple shovels worth, then got exhausted. Kids came in and shuffled dirt around some more. And then people questioned whether they were digging at the right spot. A dissident faction started marked another spot, maybe ten feet over. Someone brought out a metal detector, in case there were metal in the time capsule casing --- by one legend, a child's coffin donated by the family that ran the funeral home --- and it were close enough to be detected. bunny_hugger stuck to her feeling that the first site was more likely right, based on her greater confidence in the artist who drew the map pointing to that spot. Also that the spot was aligned with two projected-out walls on the building, making it a logically marked spot. Still, after a good hour only a little dirt was dug, and there was more hard pan to go, and there was very little faith that they were on the right path. I admit a certain delight in ``projects gone wrong'' and when we reached the point of nobody making any progress digging a hole in a spot nobody was really sure was right, yes, I was captivated.

So that's when they brought in the hydraulic excavator. Somebody knew someone who was able to get an excavator on short notice, and rumble it up to the dig site, scattering children as it did. It sat down in front of the first dig site, started to grab chunks of dirt out, and carried out in minutes far more dirt than everyone had gathered in an hour-plus of ever-less-enthusiastic work. And after a few more minutes it had a bigger hole yet. ... Well, it took about 45 minutes, but they were trying to work with care so as not to crush the time capsule or any of the kids around things.

And finally someone found a thing: a bit of the rope tying it up. With shovels and kids the capsule --- a large plastic storage bin, wrapped in a plastic bag and tied tight --- came out.

Inside was the bundle of ephemera and future thinking that time capsules always have. The sports calendar for the year. Newspapers. (``Chelsea Man Accused In Loud Incident''). The student handbook, decorated with line-art students dressed for a 1974 Emmy Lou comic strip. The bag from a small McDonald's fries. $1.46 cash. Index cards on which each student wrote what they see themselves doing in 2017. A hall pass and a detention form and a disciplinary form. A 5 1/4-inch disc. A Swatch guard. Garfield and Odie dolls. The General Learning Corporation's World Newsmap of the Week for the 22nd of September, 1986. Singapore made the World Newsmap with how its people speak a mixture of English, Malay, Mandarin, and Tamil colloquially called ``Singlish''. A videotape with messages from each member of the class. A circle of construction paper with the word ``TUIT'' written inside. The supposition that there must have been some significance to ``a round tuit'' to them in 1986 that nobody was perfectly sure they remembered now. An empty Diet Coke boasting to have Nutrasweet. Remember when they had to do that?

They gathered the time capsule items up, and gathered the class --- and children --- for a group photo. And then the excavator, which had puttered off after the capsule's discovery, came back for the important work of pushing the dirt back into the hole.

There was to be a reunion dinner in the evening and we still hadn't decided whether to go. We did want to eat, though, so made our apologies and drove off into town.

Trivia: the July 1745 issue of London's Gentleman's Magazine included a letter from one ``Hirossa Ap-Iccim'' of Maryland, proposing a reformed, 13-month calendar of four weeks each. The final day of the year would be one not belonging to any week or month, and celebrated as Christmas Day. In Leap Years the extra day would come right after Christmas and similarly belong to no week or month. Source: Marking Time: The Epic Quest to Invent The Perfect Calendar, Duncan Steel.

Currently Reading: The Fascinating World of Graph Theory, Arthur Benjamin, Gary Chartrand, Ping Zhang.

PS: a little pinball tournament in Flint that we went to a couple weeks after the state championship.


The Flat Line tournament, held in a bowling alley, getting organized.


The tournament included a raffle to give away, among other promised things, this real actual Monopoly pinball game. Well, Monopoly Junior. It's actually kind of playable


Watching the results come in: bunny_hugger did far better than I did, and as I remember was among the last people to get a first loss.

Tags: pinball

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