The day I knew I would be a geek.
At the age of six, I was in First Class, and was preparing for my First Communion with the rest of my class. This involved going to the local Foxrock Church for practice sessions on several occasions, which meant that all of us would line up, two by two, hands joined, with the other available hand on our lips in a "SHHH" gesture to ensure our silence so that our passage did not disturb the peace and quiet of the relatively high class neighbourhood throughwhich we passed.
These practice sessions of themselves were uneventful, but what I write of today is something that happened on the way back from one such session, and might, had it been true, have changed the course of human history.
I exaggerate, of course. Invasion by aliens would of course be a significant incident in the history of mankind, but I think it is safe to say that what was observed that day was something more innocent.
As we made our way back to the school after the practice, hand in hand and fingers on lips, one boy observed something in a garage adjacent to a house that sent him into a panic. A Dalek!
Daleks are the imaginary enemy of television's "Doctor Who" - a species who have devoted themselves to the destruction of all other life in the universe, living inside robot sarcophagi, blasting all and sundry with their deadly energy beams as they lifelessly repeat their battle cry of "EXTERMINATE". Although they were only the creation of a television producer, they were considered by many of my classmates to be the greatest threat to humanity ever known, and were much feared.
Thus it was a cause of much consternation when one of my classmates noticed one such Dalek hiding in the garage of a suburban house in South Dublin as we walked back to our school. This fact was duly reported to our teacher, who at first ignored the apocalyptic nature of the warning in favour of ensuring that none of us stepped out in front of a 46A bus, but once we got back to the school and our warnings of the ultimate destruction of humankind did not subside, she started to take us seriously.
Well, not really, but she did at least start to listen to our concerns. Presumably she assumed that the impending doom of mankind would distract us somewhat from our studies that afternoon, so
she decided to let us vent our fears by reporting the incident to the proper authorities. At least that was what she told us she would do.
In order to report the aliens, she told us, it would be important to convey the threat they posed to our survival to those in power, so she asked us all to draw a picture of the Daleks as we perceived them.
Thirty five eager reporters set to work, crayons and pencils in hand, portraying ferocious battle scenes that rivalled anything that Hollywood could come up with, several small mouths subconsciously providing sound effects as crayons depicted laser beams and explosions.
But I was different. When the teacher told us to draw Daleks so that we could explain them to others, I reached first for a ruler, then my pencil. I proceeded to measure out the proportions of each part of the robotic body the occupied, adding the various weapons and tools to each part as I remembered them best, meticulously colouring in the air vents and other parts that I remembered to be so tinted from viewing the program on our recently acquired colour TV.
When we had all finished, the teacher told us to present our work to the class so that the best two images could be selected to report the incident to the class next door. (By this time all necessity of reporting to the proper authorities had been forgotten in the flurry of faithfully depicting the potential destruction of mankind.) As each student presented their battle scene, with lasers and destruction galore, the class erupted with "ooh"s and "aaah"s at the potential annihilation that our species faced.
But silence fell across the room when I held up my work; a side view of a Dalek, probably as accurate in every detail as the original design that the special effects people presented to the television producer to show how they intended to realise his idea of the ultimate enemy of mankind. Seconds passed as my classmates gazed in shock and awe at their true enemy, drawn to perfection with two coloured pencils. Eventually one voice from the back of the room broke the silence;
"That's it! That's a Dalek!"
A tidal wave of approval gushed from the rest of the room, to the extent that the teacher had to call for quiet several times before it was achieved. In the end my work, and that of another boy who had sufficiently depicted the elimination of mankind, (to the extent that can be achieved using crayons on a single sheet of paper;) were chosen to report the imminent threat to our species to the class next door.
In the end the authorities were not mobilised, and the threat of invasion did not materialise, but I did gain a modicum of respect among my classmates for having technically advanced drawing skills. It also instilled in me a liking for such technical drawing, and to this day, when I reach for a pen or pencil to draw something, my hand also automatically feels for a ruler, to ensure that my lines are straight and my proportions accurate.
But I still sometimes wonder, what was it in that garage in Foxrock that triggered the original scare? What was it that looked so like a Dalek to inspire such panic among a group of schoolboys, and indeed is it still there, sending cold shivers of fear into the hearts of young boys as they walk down that hill, hand in hand and fingers on lips.
Copyright (C) 2012 A.Keyes All Rights Reserved.