Friday, July 24, 2009

The Great Rubber Band Wars

Unemployed and fresh off of September 11th with almost no savings, I was desperate for a job in a market that wasn't hiring. So when a contract engineering firm operating out of a little strip mall offered me a job, I took it. After starting, I found out that I was literally the only engineer in the entire engineering firm. The other eight employees were all trade school drafters with no engineering experience that had been acting as engineers and I suspect not very successfully which is why I was hired. My boss had an engineering degree but was a drunk who rarely showed up at the office and so for all purposes, I was THE engineer.

As a contract engineering firm, we designed whatever anybody with money who walked in our doors wanted us to design which ranged the gamut from baby gates to concrete culvert manufacturing plants. I enjoyed the variety but hated the down time that inevitably occurred in-between paying jobs. Being an engineer, I used our expensive CAD software for doing what is probably equivalent to doodling. I would design little things that might make my life easier in the future or perhaps be my key to riches and fame should I sell a billion of them. None of those things ever panned out… yet, but there is always still hope.

Where I was leading with all this is that during the downtimes, those in our office without engineering experience would often get restless and turn to other pursuits, namely shooting rubber bands at each other. With the boss out getting drunk, there wasn't anybody to stop them and they took advantage of those waging great wars through the building. I for the most part, being quite a bit older than the rest and preferring to do my electronic doodling, didn't take part but would occasionally get nailed by a stray shot. I would pile up the "spent" ammo in a little pile and on a rare occasion turn around and expend it at the shooter as fast as I could. However, with just fingers, I could only get off a few shots before the target was either out of range or behind cover.

Then one weekend while perusing some garage sales in the area, I found it, it being a revolving rubber band machine gun that could hold up to a hundred rubber bands at once and could shoot all hundred rubber bands with one crank of a handle, say it a couple seconds. It was made cheaply of wood and set me back all of ten dollars but it was worth every penny spent. One evening, I carefully stretched a hundred rubber bands over the big barrel shaped frame and loaded it into a small black duffle bag.

I waited until one Friday when my boss had been gone on another bender for the last couple days and was unlikely to be at work and the natives were likely to be restless. I walked into my desk, set the duffle under it and proceeded to go to work doodling. Back then, people carrying duffle bags into work were not looked upon suspiciously so nobody said a word. Several hours later, the rubber band war started and the normal main instigator tried to entice me into the war by pegging me in the back of the head with a rubber band.

I bend down as to pick up the rubber band but instead unzipped the duffle bag, grabbed the grip with one hand and the handle with the other. As I straightened up and swung the machine gun in his direction, I could see a puzzled expression appear on his face and just as I started to turn the handle, change to one of surprise. In a few seconds, it was all over. Small red welts were appearing on his face and upper torso, his glasses were slightly askew and he was sitting dazed in a pile of spent rubber bands. Everyone else was laughing hysterically at what had befallen their comrade.

I would like to say that was the end of the rubber band wars but it wasn't. I took my prize home to reload it but one of the cheap wooden struts snapped and I ended up tossing the whole thing away. It would have been expected anyway and the element of surprise lost. I still got pegged with the occasional rubber band and my boss still continued to go on benders. Finally two years almost to the day, I finally was able to find another engineering job and gave my resignation notice. A week later, my boss's boss who worked in another office eighty miles away, finally got tired of my boss's benders and fired him. Had I stayed a week longer, assuming the loss of me wasn't part of the reason my boss got fired, I might have made it to manager. It was probably just as well since manager material probably never brings rubber band machine guns to work in small black duffle bags.


PhilippinesPhil said...

Sounds like something out of the TV show "The Office." I've been in the middle of a few rubber band wars myself, always good fun until someone loses an eye, you get sued, and then for Chrissake, you LOSE THE HOUSE!

R. Sherman said...

Those rubber band machine guns are the coolest invention of Mankind!

BTW, I've always been partial to the guns that fire the little plastic minifrisbees. My boys and I used to wage wars with those things around the house until the EMBLOS got pissed about having the ammo discs stuck in the vacuum.


Ed Abbey said...

Phil - I haven't seen that show but I've heard it is funny.

R. Sherman - I thought so too. Up until then, I had only seen the six shooter version.

sage said...

a rubber band machine gun would have been a true WMD in late elementary school... great story.

I'm back. For some reason, I wasn't able to comment on your blog while away--I didn't take a computer with me, but I'd upgraded a few weeks ago to a blackberry--I could read your blog but couldn't comment (which was true for about 1/2 the blogs I read).