By Jonah Kondro
I’ve been a mechanic for long enough — I started before I was done high school. My college endeavours seem to trump any desire for more busted knuckles. Last winter I completed my junior year of my English program at RDC. It had two terms worth of basic English classes. Both were mandatory for continuing into the 300 level courses. I was a little strategic in picking my second term class, I wanted to have the same professor I had during my first term.
Too long ago I learned from a fellow mechanic some important apprenticeship philosophy. He was speaking in regards to pulling wrenches, but his advice transcends the bay doors of the mechanic shop. To paraphrase the mechanics words of knowledge: “When do you learn the most?… When you foul up. And whom do you learn the most from? The old guy working in the corner of the shop”.
My English professor at RDC, in my junior year, was the old guy working in the corner of the college. He retired after the better part of a lifetime lecturing English and wielding a doctorate. It was an easy decision to select a second term English class with Dr. Mills at the helm. Mills was a white bearded old man, with a booming voice, that didn’t need to examine the charts to read the currents or navigate the winds of academia.
Mills’ office had shelves with stacks of old books and anthologies. He admittedly said he had no use for the majority of his office literature collection after he retired — I can just imagine what that man’s study at home is shelved with. Colleagues, students, and friends were invited to take whatever books they liked from his office shelves — I was blessed with the opportunity to expand my book collection. Twenty-one books were gifted to me from Mills; and the authors of those books ranged from Joyce to Shakespeare.
Before I left Mills’ office, he apologized that many of the texts had hand written notes in the margins from when the books were used in his lectures. There was no apology required. Those hand written scrawls were the personal notes of a Doctor of English and Mills’ comments are of the same value as the author’s words they reflect on. Reading Mills’ notes was like having a beer with an old burnt out mechanic — nonexpendable wisdom to be soaked up.
For the longest time, the books I was gifted sat separate from my other pillars of books. Mills’ texts were on my kitchen table in two small stacks. I sat and was enamoured with the worn bindings, the yellowed pages, and the many texts waiting to be inputted into my conscious. I felt like an apprentice, again, that was just given a pile of old workshop manuals from an old mechanic.