In High School here in Pennsylvania in the 1990s we had to take the PSSA – Pennsylvania State Standardized Assessment I think they were called back then – in various years. I think it was fifth, eighth, and eleventh grades. I’m sure they do something similar now. This was a few years before No Child Left Behind, Common Core, and teaching to the test, but you get the idea. Same shit, different sack.
I was having a rough week. Month, probably. Maybe even year. Looking back, it was likely the start of my problems with depression. (I wouldn’t be diagnosed for another decade, at which point a giant cloud was lifted from my outlook, and Much Introspection and Reevaluation Was Done.) At any rate, what does a smart, depressed person do when he’s forced to take a standardized test, where the rule is “if you finish early, sit quietly, and check your answers?” Since I couldn’t bring a book to read or anything productive to work on, I took out my frustrations on the essay.
The prompt was simple enough: spider silk can be spun into something as strong as kevlar. What would you make out of spider silk?
I proposed spinning it into cloth and making spider silk ties for businessmen. They’d be bulletproof, fashionable, and would sell really well to well-dressed dignitaries in third-world hellholes.
I used big words. I even proposed a multi-tiered marketing strategy.
Clearly, I was a man ahead of my time.
Enter: The Canadian Bulletproof Suit.
Whoever graded my essay wasn’t impressed and gave me the lowest score possible, most likely based on being unable to read my handwriting. But I’d already been accepted to Juniata College, was tired of school, and couldn’t have been paid to care.
I was also lucky no one had shot up a school yet or I’d have been hauled in for questioning for daring to write about bullets (even if it was about stopping them).