Thursday November 5, 2009
I started my day at my favorite spot, Metal Stock , a football field sized warehouse filled with every shape, size and type of metal you can imagine with the added endorphin releasing agents of burnt metal, dingy lighting and whirring machinery. The first time I walked in to Metal Stock, it was a religious experience. Today was no different, just a little better. After walking through the shop floor (how many OSHA regs did I violate on my journey?) I arrived at the office to pick up my order. When the woman processing my order realized I was from West Philly High School, she stopped and looked up at me. “I saw you on the Today Show last week – you guys were amazing.” She continued to say things that made me feel really good.
I didn’t think the day could get better. But it did. I made it to the shop, and began working with the kids on the hybrid drive. Mr. DiLossi’s cousin dropped off a custom machined shaft for the drive – serendipitously just when we needed it.
We work on the X Prize cars almost every day after school, but Tuesdays are our regular meeting days. There was no school on Tuesday and Philadelphia Daily News columnist Ronnie Polaneczky was slated to show up at 3PM so we scheduled a Team meeting. The SEPTA strike kept the writer away, but the video reporter arrived.
Just as the meeting started, the principal, and both vice principals came storming into the shop calling for me, “Hauger, Hauger”. I got a sick feeling in my stomach – I just couldn’t figure out why I was in trouble. Mrs. Cruz started saying good stuff – it took my brain a few seconds to make the adjustment and for the knots to loosen in my stomach. She explained that musician Wyclef Jean was visiting the school and would like to meet the Team and see the car. I told her that would be wonderful – the cars are right here. She wanted us to show him the “pretty” one. Of course, she meant the Hybrid Attack.
The kids were ecstatic. They pulled the Attack out and cleaned it up. Then we worked on the X Prize cars until he showed up. Since I’m not a wordsmith – I’m an engineer by training –what followed would best be described as a triple integral over a Gaussian surface. I know – that’s lame. I’m sorry. We hung out with Wyclef. He’s an off-the-charts car buff -- has a McLaren F1, a doped-out Ferrari 360 Spider, a 1957 Cadillac Eldorado and a Spiderman custom chopper built by those Orange County guys. An amazing conversation ensued. It was way cool. We shared trade secrets with his automotive engineer who’s building a super fast environmentally friendly car for Wyclef. Maybe he’ll just buy ours. We spoke to his manager – she would like to get us in a video. And then my students started spittin’ rhymes; free stylin’. For fifteen minutes they were all rapping with Wyclef. You had to see it to believe it.
I walked over to the garage door just to take it all in. Justin Carter walked over and said “Haug, this is ridiculous. This is the best day of my life. Look – Wyclef is free stylin’ with Sekou in front of our car in our shop.” I had this surreal feeling – I was fully expecting to wake up in my bed, roll over, and try to explain to my wife that I dreamt a famous rapper stopped by the shop, free styled with my students, wants to put us in his next video, I got to share our secrets with his personal car designer and the principal was being super nice to me. And oh, yeah – a newspaper video person just happened to be there to capture it all on tape. Crazy – huh?
For us religious folks, these situations are kind-of confusing. Serendipity feels more like divine intervention.
I heard a man say Jesus walks
Me, myself, I heard Jesus talks
Cause when I heard his beat
I felt Jesus voice…
It was a fast car
Every day is like the wild wild west
Some of us are bad boys
Some of us are outlawed…
In the fast car
Jump in the fast car
-- an excerpt from Wyclef Jean’s “Fast Car”
Thursday November 5, 2009