school

Step Away from the Paper Cutter!


There’s one maxim from my early school days that will probably be etched into my mind forever.

The paper cutter maims.

It’s the sole universal truth that each elementary teacher — from Mrs. Tortorello in kindergarten to Mrs. Hundertpfund in 4th grade — could rally around (yes, I had to learn some doozie name spellings in my early years).

With the fervor of religious zealots, these ladies convinced me and my fellow pupils of the boundless evil locked within that sharp-toothed demon. It’s a fear that continues to emerge each time I see that clunky contraption with the swinging arm.

Their hysteria is understandable. Even though the lawsuit era had yet to fully dawn, the threat of a severed finger must have loomed large. And no sweet young educator would want something like THAT hanging over her head.

Looking back, I’m most confounded by the lunatic logic of banning butter knives in the cafeteria while equipping each classroom with a giant dagger.

Also interesting to me is how my teachers’ stern warnings continue to exert such influence over me after so many years.

I guess it’s the mandates that carry negative (ideally, painful) consequences that are the ones that stick. Sometimes well past their useful lives.

Fear can be such a powerful motivator. It can compel us to do the right thing. It can keep us in line. Unfortunately, taken to the extreme, it can also hold us back from fully experiencing life.

Of course, my irrational discomfort in operating a paper cutter really has no bearing on my personal success and fulfillment.

But I’m not sure I’m talking about paper cutters anymore.