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Dying To Make A Point (. . .well almost)

April 3, 2014

I still don’t know if he did it on purpose. It seemed like a pretty extreme length to go to in order to make a point. However, he was just crazy enough to have attempted it on purpose. If you really want your employees to remember a lesson, it helps if you nearly die while teaching it. I think that’s why R.O.P.E.S courses are so popular.

I was a high school sophomore in a electronics class. We were learning the completely unapproved list


to memorize the color bands for electronic resisters. Each word relates to a particular color Bad == Black, Boys == Brown and so on.

The teacher offered us a more acceptable mnemonic, but someone who’s older brother had been in the class blurted this one out, with a couple of changes, and that’s the one that stuck.

The time the teacher nearly killed himself was during the time we were learning about resisters. The all look mostly the same.

(Photo Credit: High School Physics)

The bands use the color code mentioned above to show how strong the resistor is. That’s all very boring. Our teacher wasn’t boring. We took various sized resistors and blew them up. We pushed 120 volts through them. Some of the resistors were powerful enough that they could easily handle 120 volts. Some were just strong enough to get warm and some of them were weak enough that they exploded in an exciting fashion.

The way we got the charge to them was to take an electric lamp cord and strip the wires back. We would wire the resistor to the two naked strands, plug it in and watch the fireworks.

This is where the teacher nearly died. He was sitting on the lab counter. He took our stripped lamp cord and careful to not touch the ends together he plugged it in. He picked up one end of cord with his left hand.

As you can see. So long as I’m not grounded and I don’t complete the circuit, I can safely handle the wire. However, if I were to complete the circuit. . .

We didn’t actually hear what would happen if he completed the circuit, because it was at that moment that he absentmindedly leaned his right elbow on the water faucet. . .an excellent ground. He flew off the counter and landed on his feet about 8 feet from the counter. Fortunately this also broke the connection. He delivered the rest of the lecture well away from any electrical sources while rubbing a very soar elbow.

35 years later, I’m still not sure if he did it on purpose. Either way it made a lasting impression.

If you are going to teach an important lesson, it helps to impress people if you risk death.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.

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