How to Break Glass

Today my friend made me go to a stained glass class. She said it was my idea, but I am pretty sure it was hers. Okay, I AM the one that signed us up, but I am pretty sure she said something about wanting to handle shards of glass with her bare hands. To start us off, the guy who owns the studio, henceforth referred to as “Glass Guy” picks up a panel of glass, describes its inherent glass-like qualities, and says, “Don’t hold it over your head. You will drop it and slice your skull in half.”

“Oh good,” I think, “A death hobby… just what I always wanted.”

These are the panels of glass you do NOT want to be holding over your head. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

After a very long diatribe of the different types of glass we should NEVER use because they are expensive and hard to cut and we have NO idea what we are doing, Glass Guy starts demonstrating the technique for creating a work of art in stained glass. Creating stained glass art turns out to be a little less dignified than I had imagined. It essentially amounts to breaking glass. Okay, the guy did explain he was influencing the glass, but really he was just breaking it.

In case you are interested in creating art, or in controlled vandalism, I will describe for you the steps in making a stained glass piece. First, you make a Mission Impossible style cut in the glass, like you are escaping enemy spies by slicing your way out of a plate glass window. However, the glass cutter doesn’t look like it can actually cut anything. It is more of a glass scraper. Glass Guy demonstrates proper technique by running the tool across the surface of the glass, creating a sound much like fingernails screeching along a chalkboard. He says it is important to apply about 12 pounds of pressure, adding that you can practice on your bathroom scale. He looks busy with his little glass scraper, so I don’t explain to him that I did NOT take this class so I could spend the day with my hands on a bathroom scale.

Then, something incredible happens. I am thinking for sure this panel of shards is about to go shattering everywhere. In fact, I have demonstrated my firm belief of that possibility by moving as far away from the glass wielding man as possible. I hold my breath as Glass Guy grasps the panel with his bare hands, pulls a bit… and snaps it cleanly in half. I’m amazed.

After describing how to not cut off your fingers while breaking shards of glass with your bare hands, Glass Guy proceeds to demonstrate several breaking and shattering techniques, including an impressive move with a tiny hammer that I was positive almost put out an eye.

After the demonstration, he begins the supply list. One of the main aspects of this list is a huge board with other boards nailed or attached to sides of it at right angles. He holds up the huge thing in both hands to demonstrate what the final product should look like. To anyone else, creating this board contraption might be within the realm of possibility, but not for me. I will not be going to the hardware store to obtain or cut wood. I don’t care how simple YOU think that is, it is incredibly complicated for me. Look, I know there is wood at a place somewhere, so getting a slice of wood is not the issue. You see, there are other sections of wood CUSTOM CUT to the first slice of wood. So even if I can find one slice of wood, how do I get the other ones to be the right size? Supposing, by some miracle, I get that far… what are those things holding all that crap together? Screws? Nails? Forget it… I’m out.

After noticing my obvious distress about the board-thing, or perhaps, noticing how my obvious distress is holding up his ability to get his class through the supply list, Glass Guy tells me he will make me one personally. He tells me that I can bring him $11.50 and he will have a board-thing all ready for me. While $11.50 seems an odd price for a bunch of wood nailed together, I am all about throwing money at the problem and readily agree to this solution. I consider asking if I can pay extra to have him paint it for me, as it would be fun to have a nicer board-thing than everyone else in the class.

Glad to have the wooden contraption dilemma behind us, I listen as Glass Guy begins describing the inherent dangers of soldering irons. This one, he holds up an example, you can get for $95. I look at it, impressed. Surely for that price, this thing might not kill me. Then, he begins telling us how this particular model can get too hot and melt or it might just skip the melting and explode. I begin wondering how much it is going to cost me to not explode. He then tells us, that we don’t have to run out and buy soldering irons. He says that we can simply bring the ones we have sitting around at home, along with any extra solder. Great… I thought we already established I don’t have stuff like that lying around. I don’t have plywood, and I definitely don’t have solder. Although, I can’t be too sure, because I haven’t checked the back of the fridge lately… there could conceivably be solder.

At that point, something happens that I least expect… (things are always happening when I least expect them). My friend states to Glass Guy that SHE has 3 or 4 soldering irons and wants to know if she can bring them in. I am about to give her an incredulous stare and say, “Who ARE you???” Instead, I pull myself together and ask her if I could borrow one. If I am going to be holding a device that can kill me, at least I won’t have spent $95 for it.

At long last, and with great anticipation (if by anticipation you mean dread) we finally get to cut something. I mean influence the glass. Fine, I mean break stuff. I am a little apprehensive about breaking panels of glass with my bare hands.

The glass can sense fear, apparently. Who knew?

The fact that Glass Guy has dumped an industrial size box of Band-Aids on our table does NOT instill me with confidence. I’m halfway pissed off that he felt the need to put the crate of Band-Aids on OUR table, and halfway grateful that I won’t have to bleed that far, so I decide not to give him a hard time about it.

The Band-Aids

Glass Guy hands out panels of clear, non-tempered** glass, and some glass cutters and we are on our way. I make a feeble scrape across the glass and look at it unconvincingly. I must be using way less than 12 pounds of pressure. Where is a bathroom scale when you need one? I press a little harder. This time, I am rewarded with a faint screeching sound.

Okay… step two… breaking glass with your bare hands. I take a moment to admire the unscarred nature of my hands, take a deep breath, and then… snap. The glass gives way easily, dividing neatly into two pieces precisely along my cut. I was expecting an inordinate struggle, but the glass was cooperating with me. I almost cry.

This sudden snap in the glass is the only thing that has felt like home to me in days. With glass, there is no uncertainty, no life altering realizations, no thinking in circles. With glass, there is only a score and a snap. I relish the solidity, the feeling of clarity, the very act of working towards something tangible… scoring and snapping puts my mind at ease. With single-minded purpose, I plan, and score, and snap. The surface area of the glass quickly shrinks. Glass Guy, looking a bit surprised, or maybe pleased, brings me more panels.

I almost finished the pattern that Glass Guy gave us to practice with. These shards of glass can either function as art, or zombie weapons. They are quite handy.

Maybe I’m not doomed after all, at least not today. I’ll let you know for sure when I’m wielding the ancient soldering iron my friend remembered she had somewhere in a closet.

Your shirt for the day… I thought you would enjoy wearing something that makes completely no sense out of context.

Side Note:

**It is very important to ONLY use non-tempered glass. Otherwise, you will be driving down the highway and a huge storefront window will come loose from the truck ahead of you, fly up into the air, and explode over your head. Don’t look at me, this came straight from Glass Guy. The world is a dangerous place.

How to Find a Lost Dog

Nothing seemed strange at first when we walked into our house on the day we lost our dog. We were so caught up in the bustle of arriving home, throwing down backpacks and getting snacks, we didn’t notice the lack of a huge black dog greeting us eagerly at the door. I’m in the middle of worrying about what I will make for dinner and if we have hamburger for Hamburger Helper when my son looks around and says two words that make my heart sink, “Where’s Harley?” That is when the eerie silence of the house pressed in. Where IS Harley?

We called, she didn’t come. “Maybe she is outside,” I say. I’m doubtful, but trying to stay calm.  Then, we saw it. The gate hanging wide open. We call her name again. She doesn’t come. That is when it happened. The worst sound I have ever heard, my son’s heart-broken ragged sobs. “She’s gone!” he says through his tears. “She is never coming back.” Then, he yells for her, his voice broken with his sobs and shrill in its desperation, “Haaarleey! Haaarleey come baaack!”

We decide to go looking for Harley. I’m not sure if we will really find Harley, but I have to do something to distract my child from his ragged sobs. We are not going to be making Hamburger Helper tonight. I should also mention that by now it is dark out, pitch black actually.

Since are looking for a black dog in the black of night, obviously we will be needing flashlights. It turns out that in our house, we have a good number of flashlights: over twenty of them in all variations of brightness and size. There are maglites, lights with headbands, tiny flashlights, and big heavy industrial flashlights with huge bulbs. Unfortunately the battery to flashlight ratio in our house needs some work. After flipping at least eighteen dead switches on flashlights in frustration, we finally find two that seem operational and we are on our way.

We begin our search in a wooded field near our home where we take Harley to play sometimes. In the daytime, the field looks charming. In the darkness of night, it looks like a very likely place for chainsaw murderers to hang out. My son moves undaunted into the dark field shadowed with trees and lurking chainsaw murderers yelling, “Haaarleey! Haaarleey, come!” Luckily, none of the chainsaw murders seemed to named Harley because they weren’t rushing out at us with the chainsaws. We decide a better way to find our dog would be to cross a busy highway and walk through a ditch.

As we are making progress through the ditch, we notice people are playing some sort of strange game behind a church. The parking lot is lit in pools of unnatural brightness from floodlights. Teens and children are gathered in groups for the activity while parents lurk at the edges of light looking distracted and bored. “Let’s ask them if they have seen our dog!” says my son. I’m thinking they look like they are about to get us into whatever cult activity they are doing and make us drink kool-aid. “You go ahead,” I tell him. So he walks right up to the bored looking grownups, who don’t even bother to look around for a dog before shaking their heads. Luckily, his question doesn’t seem to even break their listless gaze as they go back to being distracted from whatever activity is going on around them. He walks back looking defeated.

Since the woods, and the ditch and the church have produced nothing, we decide to head back home. We cross a busy highway and walk along the sidewalk towards our house. The sidewalk seems too civilized a way to find a dog, but at this point we are out of options. Then, I notice teenage boys up ahead in jeans and wife-beater t-shirts dribbling a basketball. I want to cross to the other side of the street because obviously teenage boys walking on a sidewalk late at night in wife-beater t-shirts dribbling a basketball are gang rapers. However, against my better judgement, my son goes right up to the gang rapers and asks if they have seen our dog.

This is the shirt you will need if you ever find yourself looking for a lost dog with my son.

Then, the most amazing thing happened… The gang rapers are surprisingly helpful. “Yeah, we just saw your dog! She just crossed the street a few blocks up over there,” says one of the gang rapers as he points to the general direction of our house. “She almost got hit by a car,” another of the gang rapers adds with some concern. My son and I look at each other, yelling in unison, “She’s headed home!” We thank the gang rapers and immediately begin a sprint back to the house.

We arrive at the front door out of breath, but no sign of dog. After a brief sweep of the area, Harley walks casually up to meet us at the front door. She doesn’t even acknowledge anything is amiss, looking at us nonchalantly as my son gives her an immense hug. We all go inside where he rewards the wayward dog for exposing us to cults, gang rapings, and chainsaw massacres by giving her handfuls of treats and dog biscuits. I suppose the moral of this story is that flashlights are no good without corresponding batteries. And also, sometimes you think you are about to be gang raped when someone just wants to help you find your dog.