That Time I Didn’t Pole Vault

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comAnother school year has started, which triggers the annual revisiting of my first day of seventh grade.

Or, as it has come to be known inside my head, “The Scariest Day of My Life.”

Seventh grade was the first year we started changing classes. We went from controlling the elementary school to being tossed in with the eighth grade through senior classes.

There was no such thing as a seventh-grade hall, pod or anything else of the like. We were right there looking eye-to-belt buckle at the varsity football offensive line and having lockers right next to cheerleaders who had only existed in the yearbook until then.

My first brush with death that day came as I lurched down the dark, dank staircase that led from the gym to the locker room. That is where I and my seventh grade brethren would change clothes for PE.

After changing clothes faster than I had ever changed clothes in my life, I started back up the steps to wait for the coach — whose instructions from the principal, I was convinced — were to kill all the seventh graders.

As I walked up the steps, I passed the meanest person in the world. He was an eighth grader I will not name, as he is likely still the meanest person in the world.

As soon as he passed me, he turned to scream a string of obscenities to the person coming down behind him. I was sandwiched in the middle.

I had heard those words before, but never used together like that, at such loud volume, or accompanied by the spit that flew out of his mouth and hit my arm as he yelled them.

Did I mention it was barely 10 a.m.?

For the first day of PE, all of the seventh grade boys were told to sit on the bleachers. Then, after about 5 minutes, as I recall, here came four or five high schoolers who ordered us to start walking toward the football field. One carried a vaulting pole.

A vaulting pole. A pole which one uses to pole vault.

I immediately knew how they were going to kill all the seventh graders.

They were going to make us pole vault.

So, 40 or so of us doomed 12 year-olds began our dead-man-walking march to the football field, which, ironically, took us past the elementary school building.

Oh, to be a sixth grader again. So innocent. Such a bright future.

We filed one-by-one through the narrow gap between the football field fence and the corner of the school building. We blindly followed the big guys — including the one carrying the vaulting pole — to an open area behind the home-side bleachers.

There it was. The pole vaulting area.

All the equipment was new. I suppose the local orthopedic surgeon donated it.

I replayed the imminent horror in my head over and over.

I saw myself vaulting 25 or maybe 100 feet in the air then missing the landing pad by 6 inches. They would rename Main Street in memory of me.

Maybe I would never get off the ground. Maybe the end of the pole I was holding would impale me when I tried to launch myself.

I wish I were exaggerating this more than I am.

As it turned out, though, we weren’t forced to pole vault; and I don’t remember if anyone ever even did.

It’s ironic that with all those big kids — some armed with 20-foot poles — my fear was my own worst enemy that day.

About Barry Currin

Barry tries to be funny and poignant, and he's usually satisfied when he succeeds with one or the other. (Being both is awesome. And sometimes that happens.) Email him: currin01@gmail.com

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