Friday, September 26, 2003

Set, Spike, Snivel
You know those little travel-agency pop-up ads that have little games on them, like hitting a baseball, or striking out a batter, or carrying luggage across the street, or the fat guy who jumps off a diving board? Well that goddamn volleyball one, man, I can’t hit that damn ball for the life of me. I have spent literally minutes trying to spike that freaking ball, and I come up with nothing. But you see, I’ve had a tough road with volleyball through the years, so this is no exception:

  • When I was in 4th grade our gym class was playing volleyball, and although I’d managed to stay out of the way for most of the game (as part of my ongoing strategy to avoid scrutiny from the snarling, stuffed red jogging suit of a teacher and ├╝berjock kids), my peripheral vision suddenly detected a speeding white mass hurtling toward my head. I did what any red-blooded, 98-lb., last-to-be-picked nerd would have done, which was to shield my face with my hands while frantically ducking as the ball bounced off my head and out of play. I immediately heard a guttural explosion from the sidelines. “Carey!” shouted the jogging suit, “what the heck was that?! I want effort in my class, how are you going to grow up to be a man,” etc. “I’m sorry,” I whimpered, “but I tried.” (Well, tried to get out of the way, anyway.) This feeble attempt at self-defense brought on a torrent of invective the likes of which Thomas Jefferson Elementary had never seen, and may never see again. In some hallways of the school, on a quiet day, you can probably still hear his roar echoing faintly from the distant Reagan years.

  • In the summer of ‘90, I went to a pool party with my second girlfriend, about whom the less said, the better. (She wasn’t a fundamentalist Christian, though, which put her way ahead of the first one.) Some guy she used to date was in the pool, playing water-volleyball… I got in and half-heartedly played a few minutes, but the smell of hot dogs on the grill far outweighed the stench of my miserable play, so I got out in search of forced meat on a bun, and to avoid further embarrassment. My girlfriend sulked for the rest of the party and her gabbing friend later told me she thought I’d acted “like a wimp.”

  • Three years later, I once again found myself confronted with my old nemesis, this time on the glass-strewn blacktop of my final year of Phys Ed. One fine day I looked up to see the familiar sight of an off-white round missile flying at my head—I finally had the chance to right the wrongs of the past and start anew! With lightning quickness, I threw my hand up, and felt a shooting pain as the ball jammed the knuckle of my middle finger, then fell to the ground, its mission accomplished. As my finger started to swell, I saw my P.E. teammate, the giant, burly she-male star of the league champion Varsity volleyball squad, walking toward me with clenched fists and a curled upper lip. “Dumb… shit!” she growled, her rage barely contained within her thick, quaking frame. After a second of staring fiercely as I looked back in horror, she turned slowly and lumbered back to her position. (Later, in the non-combat atmosphere of Economics class, she said sheepishly, “Sorry I gave you a hard time in P.E. ... I get serious about volleyball.”
These are the kind of stories that make C-baby say, “your childhood makes me sad.”