Sharpless Sharpness

No one would care how well the pencil sharpeners worked if they looked like robots.

Middle School. Schoolwork. Writing. Even in this day and age, with computers taking over our lives, writing by hand cannot be avoided, so a reliable, sharp pencil is important. Then why does it seem that in the Sharpless building pencil sharpeners are not?

The pencil sharpeners in the Sharpless building are in many ways like the  middle school students themselves. They can be classified into many different categories. There are loud ones that work, loud ones that don’t. Quiet ones that sit in the back of the class, but sharpen better than any others, and are, unfortunately, rare. The ones that look good but jam up and make strange noises if a pencil is put into them. The hand-crank ones that need help to get going, but make a nice, sharp point. Possibly most disappointing are the “industrial-strength” sharpeners that, for some reason, can’t last a year in a classroom. Some classrooms don’t even have pencil sharpeners, depriving students even of an ideal writing utensil.

The loud pencil sharpeners. They interrupt classes, creating a few moments of rumbling sound when they are put to use. The teacher sometimes even has to give permission to use these, as they are so disruptive. They are also often the ones that chew up pencils and spit them out in smithereens. These provide a stark contrast from the best pencil sharpeners, the quiet ones that sharpen quickly, neatly and effectively. Unfortunately, one is about as likely to find one of these in the middle school as to find an elephant on the roof (which is impossible, because the average roof can hold 20 pounds per square foot, and an elephant weighs more than that, so it would fall and actually end up on the third floor, if not lower.) Luckily, a dull pencil can often last until there is a pause in the class where a noisy sharpener can be used.

One might find it ironic that one of the best sharpeners in the middle school can be found in the computer room, where a pencil is rarely needed. This sharpener, like many of the best sharpeners, is not completely silent but instead sounds something like a far-off train. However, it makes up for that by quickly giving the pencil a sharp, smooth, even point.

The art room’s pencil sharpener is the monster of sharpeners. It is big, loud, has a super-size shavings bin that is always full of colored flakes, and works amazingly well. The downside is that is there is only one sharpener and two art rooms. The sharpener is traded between the rooms every year. The room without the sharpener is left with small handheld sharpeners and the hand-crank sharpener on the wall. Both of these work well, but they require more time and (the horror!) effort. They are also prone to breaking the tips of the soft colored pencils.

A few rooms in the Sharpless building do not have pencil sharpeners. This can lead to 45 minutes of messy writing with a dull pencil, borrowing a pencil or hand-sharpener from a classmate, or being excused to use the sharpener in another room. Maybe this is a subtle message that it is time to turn the page on schoolwork, from hand-writing to all typed. Sure seems like it.