I am generally a klutzy person. I always have been, and I am still waiting to grow out of my “awkward” phase. Did I mention I am in my thirties? But, there is one key time in seventh grade that still makes me cringe and feel sticky. Let me set the scene: it is a warm Monday morning (this is important) in May, I am in third period PE class and we are about to run a timed mile. Now, I was never a fast runner or even particularly athletic until high school. And, my time was important because we had to re-run the mile weekly until we were sub-eight minutes. This was at least my third attempt in reaching that glorious 7:59. Have I mentioned that I had forgotten my PE clothes? That meant I was wearing the “shameful” loaners that were always dyed bright pink and may not have seen a washing machine between every forgetful wearer.
I grew up in San Diego meaning it could get blazing hot by 10am. It was currently 10:30am and approximately 40 slightly nervous 13-year-olds grouped together, waiting to start running the three laps around the sports field. I started near the back but really did not want to be subjected to the run another week, so I quickly made it towards the front of the pack. Miraculously, I stayed there. I stayed there the entire time, each lap being cheered on by the group of “fast” kids that had already passed the sub-eight minute challenge in previous weeks. I stayed there and was less than a quarter mile from the finish line when BAM!!! I had taken a moment to look back to see how my competition was fairing when I ran directly into an open trash can, knocking it over and straddling it.
The previously cheering group began to laugh hysterically as I sat there in a combination of shock and disgust. To make matters worse, this was not a normal PE trash can. This was a Monday morning trash can, filled to the brim with the sticky, smelly mounds of two days worth of youth soccer league garbage: orange and banana peels, half empty coffee cups, peanut butter and jelly sandwich remnants, Capri Sun and juice box carcasses, etc. All made even worse due to the sweltering sun of the past few days.
I don’t think I sat on that stinky throne for more than a few seconds, but it felt like a lifetime. I heard the laughter as I peeled my legs from the sides of the can and began running again. I could feel the goo from the can on my legs as they brushed each other with every stride. I crossed the finish line, definitely over the golden eight minutes. Then, my coach gave me the really sad news: I had to clean up the spillage.