Has anyone seen the talking buttons people are using to train dogs? I saw some people on YouTube use them with their cats! I must have them! I’m a little concerned this may be what pushes their critical thinking skills over the tipping point in evolution, and ultimately results in their becoming the master race… but I don’t know. Now that I say it out loud, I kinda want some even more. This has nothing to do with my topic, I just really, really want to feel like my cats are talking to me.
I’ve been thinking about Past Me again. It’s getting to be a dangerous hobby, but I thought it be nice to check masochism off my bucket-list. I wonder if there’s a world record for most diagnosed mental illnesses. If so, I have to be close… though, this does loop us back to the psychologist problem. Crazy how that keeps popping up. At least I know I’ll get hypochondriac off the bat, that’s a given.
We binged Superman and Lois (so freaking good) all week, and the season finale did the cliche motivational ‘determination conquers all’ speeches. The universal commonality shared by all genres, the ultimate mind-fuck for a dumbass raised by tv. “Remember, no matter how hopeless the situation, you can win with enough determination.” If anyone out there is twisted as I am and enjoy others’ embarrassments to lessen their own, then do I have a treat for you.
It took a while to accept determination would not guarantee victory under any circumstance. Sure, they weren’t all preceded by speeches of the motivational variety, but they include me opening my fat mouth when I shouldn’t because tv taught me the underdog always wins. I wish I could have heard how backwards that sounds when I was 9. The first two times weren’t far apart, both happened in 4th grade. To complete the picture in your head, make sure you picture the unkempt girl with mismatched clothes and a boy’s bowl haircut.
Our school had a different “activity” each day of the week. In PE, we played flag football, but keep in mind, there are only 15-20 kids in the class. It goes without saying I was picked last in everything, my team always lost. One day, probably after watching Little Giants, the score was tied, and only a few minutes remained. The other team had the ball, but if we could get it back, I might be on the winning team once. Maybe I could be promoted to second to last… or third… no, don’t get cocky. One step at a time.
“Who cares? I’m hungry, let’s just get this over with.” Team Captain said in the huddle. After setting my hopes on such a vivid daydream, I found this to be disappointing.
We’ll lose for sure… unless… (insert fantasy of the most rousing locker room speech in history). “Wait! All…” Oh crap, I’m really saying it! “…we have to do is get their flag one more time, then we could really win!. We can do this! If we work together, I know we ca ca can ca.” Their faces were not encouraging, but realizing the other team could also hear me allowed my anxiety to overcome the fantasy induced auto-pilot. Once my stutter kicked in, my eye-twitch started, and the resulting laughter was enough to effectively clamp my mouth shut.
“Nobody cares! Whatever team you’re on is the team that loses.” Team Captain taunted.
My lesson learned, I kept my mouth shut and head down. That’s what I wish I could say, but it wouldn’t be worth talking about if I were that intelligent. No, I showed my ass and made it worse.
Don’t panic, this happens sometimes. All you have to do is get that flag. Then they’ll see. “Oh yea?! Well, ju just you wa wait.” I shrieked over a new burst of laughter.
When I said that, I said it with full knowledge the other team’s quarterback was the fastest kid in class. So fast, our Freshman year, he would be a starting player on the high-school football team. I’m told it’s a big deal, I don’t actually know how to play football, but I know you have to hit whoever has the ball.
You won’t be surprised to hear Mr. QB decided to run the ball himself. I was the only kid to chase him. His teammates opened a path for me, and sat back to enjoy the show. If he had ran fast, straight for the touchdown, I would have given up when the gap grew too large. As it was, he ran just the right speed to keep the distance tantalizing enough for me to believe I had a chance. Not that I understood that, I believed I was extremely fast and about to give him the surprise of his life. My fingertips grazed a flag, and he dodged just out of reach. I chased him across the gym floor, believing one last push would get me the victory I craved. I wanted to see the look on all their faces when I held that flag up high. As he approached the finish line, I desperately lunged forward with both feet, flying through through the air, and across the finish line behind him. Everyone was already laughing before I face-planted, but my fall gave way to a fresh roar with increased volume.
The next incident was a few months later, in daycare during handball. We played in the cafeteria when it rained, and a since it doesn’t require much skill or muscle mass to hit a ball made from tape with your hand, I wasn’t terrible. I felt more confident in daycare, I was far from last picked. There was only one group of older kids, and if I stayed out of their way, they didn’t bother me. Normally, I gloated silently as I dreamed of the day I would be the oldest, and therefore, a Captain, but something must have gotten into me that day. Instead of keeping my head down and taking no chances, I tried to participate in the game. The longer I played without making a mistake, the more I dropped my guard. The game was almost over when I blew it.
One of the younger kids on our team struck out. The pitcher taunted him, “Wanna try again? You’ll never hit it, so I don’t mind watching you try for a while.” He won a round of laughter.
My smartass-reflex triggered. “Be careful, the way you swing you’re liable to slap yourself in the face.”
If given a choice, I would have been too chicken to say it. But once it was out there, well, everyone laughed. At my joke, not just at me. It was intoxicating. Never-mind it was at another’s expense, my primitive mind could only handle so many revelations at once, and a big kid was laughing at my joke. The point is, I was drunk on their laughter, and wanted more. Oh! That might have been the first definitive sign of my predisposition for addiction! Anyway, the kid wouldn’t try again and it was our third out. As we switched sides I couldn’t help myself, “alright, let’s hurry up and get three quick ones so we don’t lose because of Loser over there.”
It was the last inning, all I had to do was lay low while we maintained a one-run lead. But I didn’t. No, when we had 2 outs with kids on first and second, the batter hit a line drive straight to me. Did I catch the stupid piece of balled-up tape and win the game? Ha! No. Did I pick the ball up, and throw it to the third baseman for the final, game-winning out? Nope. I stared into space as the ball bounced off my chest and fell to the floor. I picked it up, and saw kids running everywhere. I had no clue where to throw it. I watched every kid run around the bases while three different teammates screamed for the ball. We lost. Because of me. Karma justly served.
“If you don’t know what to do, throw the ball to the pitcher, dumbass.” is permanently seared into my memory. The 6th grader screaming at me was extremely fat, I couldn’t look away from her flapping jowls as she shook her head with each word.
I was already so upset with myself, I didn’t have time to stop my mouth from saying, “Does it feel funny to talk with those jiggling all the time?” (I genuinely wanted to know, I wasn’t trying to insult her.) My hand also turned traitor, clearly pointing to her triple chin to eliminate any confusion toward my meaning. My mistake was immediately apparent, but I also felt my second laughter high. Granted, that one was shorter lived. It stopped when the girl tried to attack, but teachers intervened before she could catch me. I suffered the usual old taunts anew for a few weeks until she felt satisfied with her vengeance, but it was worth it. It made most forget my handball blunder.
I’m not sure if it falls exactly into this category, but it reminded me of an incident from the only year I played league softball. If you read the 14 Year Old Virgin, you may remember the softball fields where everyone went to socialize. I was 11, and the bleachers were packed, we were the oldest group playing.
Somehow, I made it to first base. That had never happened before. My routine for the two innings Coach was legally required to let me play was hit the ball, and run as fast as I can to first. As I walked back to the base, I looked at Coach to learn the ball was caught, and returned to the dugout. This time, no one caught it, I had to stay on first while the next person batted. I couldn’t watch what happened to the ball or I ran diagonally. I focused every ounce of my attention on making it to second, forcing the distracting fantasy of scoring out of my mind. One step at a time.
The familiar crack of ball on bat sounded like a starting gun and I was off. I never ran faster, my feet slapped the bag at full speed, with a satisfying feel. As per routine, I looked to Coach on my walk back to base, but this time a girl stood in my way. She was coming at me. I didn’t have time to look around, I tried to ask, “what are you…” but she lunged at me! I dodged backwards, stealing a glance at Coach, wondering why someone wasn’t stopping this crazy chick, but they were laughing! I was furious. Here we were trying to play a serious game, but they were going to let this happen?! Unbelievable!
I dodged backwards 3-4 times before I tripped over my feet and she tagged me. “Fine!” She got me, good for her, maybe we can get on with the game now.
I tried to get back on base, but the referee guy started screaming, “You’re out!” all dramatic like with the handle signals and everything. I couldn’t believe he was going along with this charade too.
I tried to explain to the man, “my foot touched the base way before she had the ball in her hand.” I was beginning to worry they might think she had the ball sooner than she did. That was the farthest I had ever gotten, I wouldn’t be cheated out of it.
But I guess technically I was out. Coach had to come explain, “first base is a special exception. You can run past first, go back, and be safe, but any other time, you have to stop on the base. You got that?” He was giving me the Look and the Tone. I’m sure you know the Tone, it’s universal when used with the Look. The ‘am I talking slow enough?’, or ‘got it, dumbass?” Tone. The laughter was deafening. Thankfully there was no YouTube, but the number of home videos out there is terrifying. I should look into changing my name, maybe in a Covid world I could do it without leaving my house.
Softball successfully turned me off sports until Sophomore year. To my dismay, I sucked at sciences. We had a very easy school, I was on honor roll for 7-12 without ever taking home a single book. I’m actually really proud of the scams I worked out, but it will have to be its own story one day. It gets to be a long list if you go into every different tactic, which the god complex side of me kinda wants to do… sorry. Anyway, moving on.
Sophomore year I was forced to take Anatomy & Physiology. It was extremely disappointing to learn that’s what A&P stood for all those years. The class came along with the first teacher to ever be too strict to cheat. Try as I may, I couldn’t find a way around her system. The only kids getting any breaks were the few on her tennis team. Thelma and another friend of ours I’ll have to introduce later also joined, but to everyone’s surprise, I was good at it. Believe me, no one was more shocked than this bitch right here. Something about tennis just clicked for me.
Tennis became a huge part of my life, but all that matters right now is my first tournament. We were down a player, and the #2 singles spot was mine. I’m going to continue to shock you for another moment. I won my first match. I won it by so much, the other girl cried! Coach came to the fence, “I’m so proud of you!”
“I know! Can you believe it?! She’s full on blubbering!” I was literally bouncing with excitement.
“Well… yea I guess I am kinda proud you made her cry,” Coach chuckled, “but I’m more proud of how considerate you were to call a break and take her some water so she can calm down a little.”
“Oh! Yea, that’s why I did it! Good looking out.” I winked.
“Why.. why else would you?”
“Well, it certainly wasn’t to get a closer look. Alright, has it been long enough?”
I finished my first match 6-0, 6-2. We had an hour break before the next match began. During that time I lived up to my snobby bitch reputation admirably. “I was worried last night, but if those are the kind of players I have to beat, I’m going home with a trophy!”
You probably already know that isn’t how tournaments work, but please do keep in mind I was a sheltered fool from a tiny private school. Hell, by the worlds standards, a poor private school. I still struggle to tell the difference between wealthy, rich, and the 1%. If you live in a home that didn’t come with wheels, to me, you’re rich. The end.
The school my next opponent was from had a professional tennis player for a coach and they began learning tennis in elementary. Well, that’s what they claimed. My theory is steroids. That chick hit like-a-man! Her serve looked like an MLB pitch! I stood completely still as the first ball wizzed by. I never moved a muscle. It took a full 10 seconds to register what happened. I finally switched sides and backed up when I saw her make ready for the next serve. The same thing happened. A green blur passed by, my arm twitched as if it were going to swing, but chickened out. I switched sides and stood far behind the court. The girl threw the ball high for another ace, then barely tapped it over the net. I couldn’t run fast enough. She had me 0-3 (in school, they did 1-4 to keep score, it’s easier for people who don’t know the real way) in the first game.
I looked at games around me to copy where others stood to receive their serve. I finally returned the ball. She smashed a volley at me, (my specialty, if you hit your opponent, it’s your point) I only had time to hold the racket up. When the ball hit, I heard the strangest popping sound. The ball didn’t work like it should have, it lost all momentum, barely managing to bounce off the net and roll to her side. I scored one point. First of 3 I would receive throughout the match. The strange popping sound was my string breaking. We had to stop while my racket was re-strung, I cannot stress enough, this tiny, tiny girl, was a beast.
I should have seen enough to understand it was beyond my capabilities to beat her. It was my first year playing, I made it much farther than anyone else. That in itself was enough to be proud of. But no. The break gave me long enough to think about all those underdog victories. I sat amongst my peers and Coach ranting, “I can come back from this! She’ll underestimate me now and I can use that! I want it more than she does, that’s what really counts. People come back from worse all the time. I’m going to make her work for every single point and she’s gonna cry just like the last one!” What the hell is wrong with me?
The first game, I was pumped. It was my turn to serve, it was my weakest point, but I didn’t care how pathetic my lobs looked after her all-star aces; I was going to win. How many times have I seen someone save the world with sheer determination? I knew I had the exact feeling Naruto and Sasuke had when they freed Kakashi from Zabuza’s water prison, I had to beat her. They were totally the same thing.
I had a fleeting moment of, ‘holy shit it’s really happening’ when I scored an amazing point on my first serve. I returned the ball 3-4 times before she hit it out-of-bounds. Then it was over, she pulverized me quickly and efficiently with only one further out-of-bounds error. When I lost the first match 0-6, we took the customary 10 minute break before she finished me off.
During the break I sat quietly, hoping all forgot the long, conceited speech I made 20 minutes earlier. Fooled you again! No, I totally made it worse. “Well it’s just so hard to focus when she has an entire crowd cheering her name and I’m the bad guy wrestler getting booed off stage.”
I said it as an excuse for my poor performance. I couldn’t think of anything else, and it spilled out of me before I could apply any filters. It wasn’t taken that way. It was taken more as, “wah wah, poor me, boo hoo, no one is cheering for me, I want cheerleaders.”
For the duration of the second match, Coach stood alone and cheered my name through all six games. She never stopped, not even when the two girls willing to stand with her abandoned ship. I found it touching, on one level it meant a lot to me. She is a very special person and I hope the years have been kind to her. On another level, it was incredibly awkward, I was getting creamed the whole time. I kept thinking her voice is going to be hoarse, she needs to chill. But that would be an incredibly rude, ungrateful thing to say. I was also upset about how awkward the thank you would be. I assumed that kind of thing surely required a thank you, but how painful would it be to say? ‘Thanks for cheering me on while I got my ass handed to me!’
You know what, I’m not saying I ever would do it, but the super villains that want to destroy the universe and all existence… I mean, I understand why. I accept it would be wrong to do so because it would involve making life-changing decisions for others, but I see their point. It’s important to honor basic moral principles, otherwise one tends to implore emotionally flawed decision making skills. But in a hypothetical scenario where everyone else was cool with it, I wouldn’t argue.