By G.E.N. 2015-07-18
Editors note: A name has been changed in order to protect the guilty
One of my friends at Big Rapids High School was Bob ------, who was two years older than I but I knew because we both played in the band – me on trumpet and Bob on baritone horn. Bob liked to include me on some of his projects, which were imaginative but not very practical. He had, for example, decided that we should start our own marching band; that one was squelched when he asked Aldie Long. The high school band director, if we could use some of the high school equipment, and Aldie told him that he runs all the marching bands in this town. I stood silently in the background during their discussion.
My older brother David, who still lived at home in the early ‘60’s, had wired a silent sound switch into our television so that if we needed to quickly shut off the sound, such as when a phone call came in, we could do it without having to walk over to the television. The switch was mounted on a small board at the right-hand side of Dave’s chair, in a spot not visible from most of the room.
Dad had acquired a large quartz crystal – cloudy but uncolored and perhaps 4 inches by ¾ inch by an inch. Bob was fascinated by it.
Something gave Dad the idea of pulling a trick on Bob. The next time Bob came over, he showed Bob the crystal and said that it had magic powers. As Bob and Dad and I stood in the living room while Dave sat in his chair, Dad told Bob that if he pointed the crystal at the television, he could shut off the sound. He made quite a show of pointing it just so, and when it was aimed exactly at the right spot, the sound went off! Dad pointed the crystal at the set again, and the sound went back on. Bob was amazed! He asked Dad to repeat it, and the second demonstration went just like the first.
Bob got up his nerve to ask, “Could I try it?” Dad handed Bob the stone, Bob pointed it at the television, … and nothing happened. Bob didn’t know what to think. Dad explained that it usually doesn’t work on the first try, but one could learn to do it with practice. He encouraged Bob to try again.
This time, when Bob pointed the crystal at the television, after a couple of seconds of delay, the sound went off! Bob pointed it again, and the sound came back on. Clearly he’d gotten the hang of it now.
Then Dad took the deception a bit farther. He told Bob that you don’t have to point directly at the set to turn the sound off and on. He explained that the beam from the crystal could ricochet off certain objects and still be effective if it hit the television. “Now,” he told Bob, “I’m going to ricochet the beam off the front window to the television set.” He pointed the crystal at the window between the porch and the living room, and the sound again went off. Bob’s face showed his amazement.
After turning the sound back on with a direct hit, Dad upped the ante even further. “This time, I’m going to bounce the beam off the mirror, then to the kitchen window, around through the dining room, off the dining room window, and over to the television. This is a difficult one, and since it’s a greater distance, the beam might take longer to arrive.”
I stood quiet. Dave, sitting in his chair with his right arm draped over the side to the board with the switch, had a big smile on his face, which Bob couldn’t see.
Dad got ready, made a preliminary check of the angles, and carefully lowered the crystal into place to begin its first bounce. One second elapsed, then two, and finally the television sound went off! Bob’s jaw dropped open.
By now, Dave’s shoulders were shaking with laughter.
Bob asked if he could try it, but he just couldn’t get the angles right to turn the sound off by bouncing the beam. Dad consoled him, explaining that he’d had to practice a lot to master those ricochet shots.
Bob left that afternoon full of the wonder with what he’d just witnessed. I figured on telling him how we did it the next time he came over, and that would be the end of it.
However, the next time Bob came over, he informed us that he had told Mr. Payne, his physics teacher, about the magic crystal. Mr. Payne had assured him that what he described was impossible and there must be some trickery involved. Now that the jig was up, we showed him the sound switch, and he immediately understood how we did it. I felt guilty for taking advantage of Bob’s gullibility, leading to what was probably an embarrassing moment for him. He was irritated at all of us for fooling him, but he got over it in a few days.
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