A recent headline had me thinking about this story.
ITT Technical Institute, a for-profit technical “college” recently closed it’s doors just prior to the start of the 2016 academic season.
This left a ton of people – eager to start their careers in technical drawing and/or janitorial services if potential employers looked at their schooling and went, “ITT What?” – out in the lurch and, more tragically, out of money in all likelihood.
The headline, though, got me thinking about when I actually started looking at going to college and my family – very short on cash because I had spent most of it all trying to get my 1970 Oldsmobile to go really really fast – looking for other options for me other than Harvard. Also, probably because the closest I’d get to Harvard is driving by it in my 1970 Oldsmobile while Ratt blared out the windows.
OMG that car was so effing cool, you guys.
Anyway, I was interested in a career as an architect and ITT was one of the few places that offered Architectural Engineering for roughly $19.99 a year. This was a huge draw to my dad who was a carpenter by trade and back in 1986 that was a lot of money. The average car in 1986 cost $23 and ran entirely on coal.
So we scheduled an interview with ITT which would be done IN-HOUSE. They would come to you.
That is probably the first sign that something isn’t right with a school. When the recruiters come to your house trying to get your business at their school, much the same way college kids swing by in the summer to see if you need replacement windows or Oreck Vacuum Cleaner salesmen knock on your door and offer to clean your house hoping you will, in turn, be so impressed with their ability to pick up a shredded Triscuit from the carpeting that you’ll shell out $1500 for a vacuum cleaner right there on the spot.
Regardless, the ITT recruiting guy showed up at our house on Saturday afternoon. After trying to sell us windows and vacuum cleaners for the first 30 minutes, we invited him into the house to discuss what ITT had that I might be interested in.
The ITT guy was HUGE.
Keep in mind I am 5-foot-3 and I’ve inherited this staggering height from my parents who are just over 5 feet tall.
So when this man entered our house, it was like we were looking at Andre the Giant. He was probably 6-foot-4 and a solid 240 pounds.
He shook my father’s hand, which immediately broke my dad’s arm in 3 places.
He walked into our kitchen where it was decided we would do this interview. Now, let me do a bit of backtracking here.
This was 1986 and my parents still had the same living room and kitchen furniture they had since they had been married. I don’t know why they never thought about getting a new kitchen set, other than maybe they thought olive green vinyl swivel chairs might come back in style some day.
Yes. Olive. Green. Vinyl. Swivel chairs.
The chairs of our kitchen set surrounding our dark brown formica kitchen table were these vinyl, olive green chairs that sat upon a single metal post that were attached to a base on wheels. The swivel post was about 2 inches in diameter and was, of course, brown to match the somber tone of the table.
I loved these chairs because I would sit on them and just spin spin spin until I got sweaty and then shot off the thing because vinyl is not a very adhesive substance unless it also happens to be very warm, at which point vinyl becomes it’s own super-strong adhesive. Especially to bare skin. I still have scars on my back from the summer of ’84.
So in comes this gigantic man and sits down at one end of the table on the green swivel chair.
Now, these chairs had never seen this kind of mass on them in their 20 years of existence, so suddenly having the weight of a professional football linebacker shooting down a hollow, 2-inch diameter pipe must have been a bit of a shock to them.
The stress of all this weight made itself abundantly clear when, with the man in mid-sentence, he leaned slightly back.
“..and what I think, Mr. Lacroix, issssssswaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh”
The pressure caused by him leaning snapped that stupid little swivel post right in half and – BOOM – the man began flailing his gigantic arms wildly as he plummeted to our linoleum kitchen floor with only the support of a flimsy green vinyl chairback to stop him.
My father leaped up from the table saying “OHMYGOD ARE YOU OKAY” and helped the man to his feet as best he could because the guy outweighed my dad by roughly 120 pounds.
“I’m so sorry,” the man said.
“It’s okay,” my dad said. Here. Sit here.
He offered the giant man his chair because obviously it was made with much higher quality than the one HE JUST SNAPPED IN TWO, DAD.
But the man took the seat and sat down.
My father, in his infinite wisdom, then did the unthinkable.
He took the detached top of the chair, reseated it onto the broken bottom half of the swivel post, and then sat down on it.
How he thought this would work, I have no idea. Think of someone breaking a straw in half, and then putting the two pieces of straw together and try to drink out of it. All you get is a lot of air and maybe the hiccups.
I sat there, silent, watching all of this unfold as the man then continued his pitch.
“As I was saying, Mr. Lacroix, we have a lot of..”
He was once again stopped. This time, though, it was from my father who I’d been watching the entire time because I knew – already in the mindset of an engineer – that there was no fucking way his jury-rigged chair setup was going to work.
My dad had shifted his weight ever so slightly and I watched, amused and in what I remember as slow motion, as the chair post slid apart and flopped over, back and to the side. I remember my dad’s panicky face as he tried to grab the table to stop his fall to the floor to no avail. The man at the opposite end of the table actually reached over – past me – to try to save my dad. Strangely, his giant gangly arms were still about 3 feet too short to stop my dad from tipping over and landing on his ass.
I, of course, just sat there watching the whole thing.
To this day, I cannot think about it without laughing.
Needless to say, the guy from ITT eventually told us that it would be a great fit for me and offered us some kind of tuition special. I’m not sure if he did that because he felt mortified or felt mortified for my father. Either way, the offer was on the table.
In the end, we did not take him up on the offer and I ended up going to a local college instead.
But we did score a good deal on a vacuum from the guy on the way out. Was the least we could do for nearly killing him.
Also, it came in handy for picking up the pieces of the busted green chair.