Friday, December 19, 2008

Green chicken make telling the airsickness bag!!

Junior high meant, among other things, no more recess. No. Now you had Physical Education. This meant trudging down into a dungeon-like basement room full of screeching idiots, some of whom came from really, really disturbing home situations, and getting naked whilst simultaneously experiencing puberty. This was called 'dressing down.'

It was absolutely humiliating. The only naked girl I'd ever seen up to that point had been myself! I had no idea where to look. I knew where everyone else was looking though: at me. Oh yes they were too. Up until then, one of my nicknames had been 'Stuffie'. After a couple of group showers the message shot through: the Kremlin was in fact real (and spectacular). Then the nickname became 'Boobs'. Boobs? Boobs,you say? May I ask, as long as we're on the subject, where yours are? Yeah, wow. When do you suppose that's going to happen, huh?

That was the only positive thing about the entire experience, in fact: being the only Barbie in a room full of Skippers. HA!

Otherwise, it wasn't quite the locker room scene in Carrie, but it was pretty grim for everyone concerned for the first couple of months, until the novelty wore off. Sanitary products were in fact tossed around; towels were snapped, ketchup was squirted in through the vent slots onto peoples' clothes, all the usual crap; all accompanied by the smell of dank, fungussy sweat dating back to 1925, while the asbestos dust sifted down from the plumbing insulation. Yeah, it was awesome. This building made it on to the front page of the Oregon Journal one year on a list of 'Ten Most Hazardous Public Buildings'.

The showers The showers beg a particular parallel that I hesitate to draw; suffice it to say that the soap was in fact soap and not a block of wood painted white. You could tell it was soap because there were other peoples' hairs stuck in it.


Back in the day, girls athletics programs were pretty much a joke. Underfunding and a general lack of interest by the district lead them to hire whoever would put up with the low pay and the unstable hormones, basically...and they definitely got what they paid for. In Jr. High our first PE teacher was Mrs. Marshall. She was small and rather a pretty woman on the downslope of 40, with the sudden, unpredictable temper of a rabid rat.
A rabid starving rat.
With scabies.

You never knew what would set her off. One minute she was a pleasant, smiling woman filling out the attendance sheet. The next, she's cutting loose like an air raid siren. Two bright red Pikachu spots would glow high up on her cheekbones and the whites of her eyes would actually turn pink. Whipped spit-froth would begin to gather in the corners of her mouth until it began to fly off in chunks as she screamed. I can recall her leaning out of the doorway of her office like the harpy hood ornament on Satans Pontiac, shrieking about some shit or other, and watching her neck go all strange. You know how when you strip the meat off a turkey leg and there's all these weird strappy cartiliginous quill-type things in there? She'd get yelling and her entire neck would look just like that; like a de-fleshed turkey leg. What was unfortunate was that she had this patchy skin condition shaped like the former Soviet Union that would color up during these tantrums, and you could follow it's course from day to day around her neck, chest and face.

I didn't come in for any more than my share of shit from this woman, oddly enough. I say that meaning that I was the kind of studious, asthmatic non-participant who usually came in for extra helpings of 'special treatment' from these types. I think Mrs. Marshall was just grateful that she had one less hormonal little beast to deal with. As long as I sat on the sidelines and kept my mouth shut I was let alone, unless she needed to include me in one of her sweeping, 'you all have the worst attitudes I have ever seen in 13 years of teaching' rants.

Midway through my 8th grade year Mrs. Marshall passed a length of gut during a tantrum or something; I forget what. In any event she had to be replaced.

Her replacement was the unfortunately named Ms. Hatleled, a spastic, evil chihuahua of a woman who looked like an eight year old boy with a moustache. Her other distinguishing characteristic was a pair of freaky, black, tam-o-shanter sized nipazoids you could see through anything she wore. It was impossible not to stare. And you could always blame them; they started it.

If she had ever cracked a book in her life (this is not counting perennial Gym teacher favorites 'Instigating and Encouraging Sadistic Group Behaviors' and 'Asthma, Allergies and Orthopedic Disorders: Nothing a Quick Three Laps Around the Track Won't Cure') I would be flat out surprised to hear of it.

Her idea of teaching was to give a speech at the beginning of class. About something. Anything. Like, say, a movie that she'd seen over the weekend or something else really PE-oriented like that.

Her idea of motivating a person was to fall into place behind them and start yelling and clapping only milimeters behind the back of your head "ONE TWO ONE TWO ONE TWO COME ON LIFT THOSE FEET LIFT THOSE FEET GO GO GO GO GO" and then actually come alongside you, and turn, facing backwards, still running, and continue this shit "LETS GO LETS GO LETS GO LETS GO" while everyone ahead of you sniggered and everyone behind you (usually no more than two people, in my case) sweated and puffed. I would have got down on my knees and thanked God if she'd stepped on a land mine, the fact that Milwaukie wasn't heavily mined at that time notwithstanding. I would have loved to have seen her blown into a fine, athletic mist. By the end of the year everyone else would have too. She was so heinous that even the flunkies and ass-kissers finally deserted her.

One of her favorite before-class pepper-uppers had to do with how unfair it was that she hadn't been allowed to do 'X' or 'Y' thing because she was a woman. She had a point; if you were female and athleticism were all you had going for you back then, that certainly was the prevailing reality and it had to rankle. But here she was with a job and benefits in her chosen field, so I didn't waste too many tears on her behalf. Besides, I was willing to bet that what had really held her back was a riproaring case of NABPD*.

She was a member of the 'abuse is motivating' school of teaching. Imagine your stereotypical sadistic ex-Marine sergeant football coach and you have her personality down. She genuinely believed that snarling insults into a persons' face would spur them toward greater achievement. Even if that person were turning blue from lack of oxygen. There she'd be, screaming 'You need to just quit faking it now and get up off your butt and get out here and sweat like the rest of us!' I guess she figured I would, I don't know... suddenly spring up, give myself a shake and say 'Thank you, thank you Ms. Hatleled; I was blind but now I see. Chronic respiratory illness really was nothing more than a character flaw on my part and I'll certainly never give way to that kind of weakness again!' and go run the Boston Marathon. I'm not the only person who got this treatment; she genuinely believed this shit. She knew if she could just scream loud enough, just shame us enough we'd snap out of that wimpy 'physical ailment' bullshit tout de suite. Just a sniffle was enough to spark off one of her scornful rants about 'you spoiled kids who think they're sick make me sick'. Oh yes. "All that stuff like allergies and asthma and cramps and things, they're all imaginary. Yeah, most of you girls what you need is a good smack."

Your tax dollars at work!

The beginning, middle and end of this womans' life was sport and activity in all its hideous permutations. By Christ everyone was going to participate ("You have a doctors excuse on file? TOO BAD! YOU'RE PARTICIPATING!") and everyone had better not whine and everyone had also better just agree with her that this was the best, most funnest, most favoritest part of their entire school day.

She labored under the misconception that each and every one of us was aching to be a hyperactive dull-norm just like her. All we needed to do was to admit to ourselves how fun playing flag football (wearing shorts and a thin cotton shirt, in the middle of winter) really was. I recall her telling us "Oh, I hated school. If it wasn't for PE I wouldn't have stayed. I hate reading and math and all that stuff; that's just stupid as far as I'm concerned. I couldn't wait to get outside and get moving!" I wanted her to get moving right in front of a corn auger.

It was inevitable that she was an enthusiastic proponent of Field hockey. Why this is even a sport eludes me, let alone a traditionally female one. Field hockey is a form of the ritual game that the Algonquins used to make captives play before they tortured them to death.* It is not fun. It was not meant to be fun.

At that time there was NO SAFETY EQUIPMENT WHATSOEVER. What Field Hockey amounted to back then, was handing the most vicious, bloodthirsty and deranged thing on the face of the planet (a pubescent girl) a club made of solid oak which has been sharpened on one edge and telling her 'now remember, no high sticking!' The Algonquins showed more mercy, I'm sure of it. You take one zit covered She-Hulk experiencing her first bout of PMS and give her a field hockey stick, and face her up against some quailing 65lb fawn of a girl who can barely lift hers, and there's going to be some damn high sticking, you can believe it.

I was a studious, artistic person with asthma. Naturally, Ms. Ratshithead HATED me. I don't mean she didn't like me, I mean she sank down to a grade school level and pulled deranged shit like sidling up to me and hissing some kind of evil comment just loud enough for me to hear and then slipping away with a mean smile on her face. At first this was devastating. But after I had a chance to think about it, every time afterward I was just instantly repelled-after all, this was an adult for the love of Christ. Any effect it might have had just ended.
I began retaliating.
I started with the psycho eyeball treatment.

1. Piss off a gint.
2.While they rant, simply stare. Do not blink. Above all, DO NOT TALK. Maintain absolute silence throughout. Let them ramble, let them rant, let them say what they will, at length, with illustrations if they deem fit.
3. Once they finish, hold that same gaze as they walk away, maintaining it through the inevitable point where they turn around and glance back and see you, and they do that kind of 'full body clench' thing and then try and play off the sudden unease by giving you a little more attitude.
4. Keep staring. Do not blink. Continue to remain absolutely silent. Gint will make a 'phff' sound and turn away but their shoulders will be all squinched up.
Make a sound. 'Hey!'
Watch them flinch.

Completely flummoxed the woman; I loved it. So did my sister members of the 'less than athletic' club. Those snickers were sweet sweet music to my ears.

Flipping her off as soon as her back was turned was just as effective, of course, but her toadies could see that and would nark you off. I found out the hard way.

Ms. Ratshitheads' idea of punishment was to make you run the track, so I ended up running the track for the rest of the class. Now by 'run', I mean that I walked, you understand. When that got boring, I boogied the track for awhile (kind of a Vegas showgirl thing with lots of high kicks and arm flinging.) I also flashed cars passing by the track (those snap-front shirts made for rapid deployment)... and when she finally gave up trying to make me mind by yelling herself hoarse from a distance, I sat down on the track. And waved at her every time she looked at me. Hi!
Oh, I had them rolling in the aisles. Nothing a bully hates more than laughter, particularly when the bully is also an idiot.

I'd taught myself how to make this strange demented noise in my throat. I even practiced it in a mirror and everything until I could do it without moving a muscle. It really freaked her shit out. Shed be lecturing the class and I'd give her a little 'WHOOPWHOOP!' every time she ended a sentence. "You girls have the worst attitude Ive seen in 10 years of teachinWHOOP! ...I've never seen a lazier bunch of fat, out of shape girls in my lifWHOOAWAWAW! .....I'd be surprised if any of you passed this class at the rate you're goinWHOOP!"

I loved it when she tried to face her way through it and it just failed miserably. After all, everyone else could hear it too, and they were all cracking up laughing. I'm going 'ooWEE EE EE EE OOOOOO aw! aw! awwwww!' like a brain damaged toucan off in the rain forest someplace, all the while looking around like 'who could that possibly be?'

It didn't stop there. I pulled out the stops... destroyed papers, vandalized the plumbing, dumped shampoo into her desk drawers. I wasn't the only one, either, but I was the first one. Oh, you bet; I waged a full-on guerrilla war against this woman. Did she once suspect me? She did not. Why? Because the ignorant dumbshit was a victim of her own preconceptions. I was not an athlete, therefore I was useless. Useless people didn't do things.

Useless people generally didn't have complete access to the entire building at any time of the day because they were painting murals on all the walls***, or know where the stage door access to the lower gym was, or how to jimmy open the breaker box and trip the power supply to any room in the building either.

I did, though.

*Nazi ass-bitch personality disorder

**true fact.

**They're still there, too.


  1. Anonymous6:26 PM

    What you describe here is a real "BDM"-vixen.

  2. Anonymous7:26 PM

    I am casting my mind back lo several decades to a similar gym, lockeroom etc. However, we had a beautiful young woman who was our gym teacher/choir teacher. She got married halfway through the year and we had to TRY to remember to call her Mrs.Pancheri. I was lucky, I was medium build, our showers were quick dashes in and out, keep head tilted back so hair didn't get wet, jump on food powder dispenser, get dressed, go to next class. But of course I would have had my head buried in a book and would not have noticed any untoward teacher behavior. I was once banned from the library until I got my grades up, nearly killed me. Retro

  3. Anonymous7:27 PM

    FOOT powder dispenser. Eesh.

  4. It would be churlish to in any way suggest that your writing is in any way less than brilliant, but in this case I can't help but think that it might be enhanced by a little video of the shower scenes.

  5. Anonymous1:47 AM

    We useless at sports types had to do cross country running so the real sports people could get us out the way. It was very nice to just go on an extended country walk for an hour... I never actually ran anywhere.

  6. Oh, so many awful memories. PE teachers are the very spawn of the devil. They always had SO much enthusiasm for getting every girl into the shower after the lesson too ... really horrible. Our shower block had been built in the 1930's and there was glass high up the walls. Boys used to stand on each others' shoulders to look in while we were showering. Just the kind of thing you need in your life when you're self consciously and tortuously going through puberty, eh?

    Oh, and hockey ... I can remember those sticks whacking into my ankles ... and cross country running through icy windswept hills in January while wearing a t-shirt and shorts ...

    I think I may be hyperventilating.

  7. Sanitary products were in fact tossed around

    I've been known to fling tampons at Beast's head just to keep the tradition alive.

  8. mago: nobody dared top from the bottom with her, boy.

    retro: you too? i was regularly banned from the library for the same reason!

    vicus: Imagine a room full of hopping and screaming things running around like a pen full of weaner piglets, with the occasional tampon flung across the scene. sexy it was not.

    muttley: me either. it wasn't worth the subsequent time lost at the nurses office with an asthma attack and two black eyes.

    betty: there there. relax. go to your happy place. (props photograph of Ronnie Corbett in front of betty)

    mj: you get more distance and better target acquisition with a maxipad. know why? they have wings.


  9. You described my junior high shower room to a tee. It however had bathroom doors that would let you in but not let you out. I found this out the hard way one afternoon right before the visiting team came in. Freaked my shit. I did not cry but rejoiced when they pulled that piece of crap of building down. Woo Hoo!

  10. Anonymous7:20 PM

    "nobody dared top from the bottom with her, boy."
    Excuse me, I do not understand this.
    "BDM" is the "Bund Deutscher Mädel", the organisation for girls parallel to the "HJ", "Hitler-Jugend" for the boys. All this "Abhärtung"-blabla, all this terrible stupid "mens sana in corpore sano"-nonsense, the screaming and shouting, the horrible Kasernenhofton ... Today I can fight back, can reproduce it; and it comes as a big surprise because I am pretty quiet, softspoken and absolutely no military type - nobody expects me to fight back. I even made an asshole click heels, nothing to be proud of.

  11. This brought back the full horror of PE , our gym teacher was the cousin of General Montgomery (The Famed Monty of El Alemain) , an evil little bubble of a man who thought he was training his own elite fighting force . I was up before the principal a number of times , once for catching a bus to complete the cross country run , and secondly for meeting up with Me Beasty at pre defined coordinates on the cross country route for thermoses of tea and hot sausage rolls for the whole class(well it was christmas)

  12. today we had a leaking service valve on one of our portable 100 gallon propane tanks... to legally replace it we have to have a "service technician" come down to verify that it is indeed leaking, then pay for a propane reclamation service to empty the tank and then pay for the service tech to come back down and replace the faulty valve. then some one has to fill the tank back up, and home boy tech has to come back down to leak test the tank...

    yeah fucking right eh?

    instead we we removed the valve with eighty percent in the tank, waited for it to freeze over and installed a new valve. took about thirty seconds... released only twelve or so gallons and all was good to go!!!

    yeah, thats my response...

  13. Boys gym class was not any better. I was able to develop a foot problem which got me a doctor's excuse to get out of it. Study hall in the cafeteria instead, not much better but no showers.

  14. Anonymous2:23 PM

    I obviously come from a different time and planet apparently. Thinking back the most sports we played in the gym was half court basket ball and volley ball. There were no outdoors activities. I am beginning to think our Gym teacher was not a sports person. Oh and there was trampoline but I usually had to stand in line, a very long line. R

  15. Have a great xmas Miss Nations :-)

  16. One of my first gym teachers in grade school actually was a retired army drill seargant. We didn't have showers, though, so that was OK.

    By the time i was in middle school i had joined the band so i didn't have to take gym. The clarinet saved me from 6 years of this kind of torture. It allowed me to approach sports on my own terms, when i was ready for it (ie college).

  17. was good to be the artsy asthmatic one...noone suspected you. I got away with murder too...:)