Saturday, January 10, 2009
I took this down near Freeport Landing in a neighboring county. Family legend has it that my great-great grandfather got off the boat from Germany at this landing. Family legend also has it that we're related to Wayne Newton, but this is neither here nor there.
I was over in this neck of the woods because I was on my way home from lunch with blogging friend Big Hair Envy. She's starting off the new year by getting in shape and eating right. Speaking of getting in shape, here's a story about those physical fitness tests some of us had to take in our youth.
When I transferred from Gloucester Day School to Mathews Intermediate School in 7th grade, one of the things I remember was the Presidential Physical Fitness Test, where students were tested on overall fitness. The goal was to exceed certain government-determined, minimum standards in various events like running, sit ups, relay-type sprints, etc.If you passed, you won a nice certificate that got stuffed in the attic along with the plaster cast of your hand print from kindergarten and every piece of "artwork" you ever created from birth to adulthood. If you didn't pass, here's what happened: (insert sound of crickets chirping here). So really, the only thing accomplished was a whole lot of testing and tracking of results.
I was/am very competitive and enjoyed every test, except for that agonizing flexed arm hang. I would rather have hung by my legs upside down on that bar for two days than do a flexed arm hang, which is essentially the equivalent of doing a chin up except you are timed on how long you can hold your chin above the bar without slipping below the bar or crying. The minimum amount of time to pass the requirements for the flexed arm hang is however long it takes for your eyes to begin bleeding and gray matter to start oozing out your ears from all the straining and lack of oxygen to the head.
My favorites were any of the sprinting events – the shuttle run was awesome. Sit ups were “eh,” and the distance running was tolerable.(Anything over 100 yards is considered long distance to me.)
One year in high school, my friend—I’m going to call her Ralph because that’s what we called each other, long story for another time—and I were paired up to do the sit up tests. Person One would lie down on the gym floor, knees bent; Person Two had to hold their ankles—and count—while Person One did as many sit ups as possible in the amount of time allotted.
Now my friend Ralph always made me laugh—always. She could have her own comedy show and never have to work her “real” job again. She weaves a story like a Persian carpet, and you can count on it being hilarious. In other words, she didn't have to do much of anything to elicit a laugh from me.
Anyway it came time for me to hold Ralph’s ankles for the timed sit up test. When they said, “Go,” she started to do her sit ups as fast as she could while I counted. She really gave it her all. Did she ever.
On about the eighth sit up as she was straining to pull herself off that gym floor what did I hear? What? Oh yes, that’s right. She passed gas. Loudly. And I was poised right on the receiving end of it while holding her ankles and counting out loud.
At first, we locked eyes in shock and disbelief. Then we began to snort and guffaw, but we realized she was still being timed and stifled our laughs. She turned beet red, tears streaming down her face as she struggled to complete the test. I did everything in my power to suppress my loud, boisterous laugh as Mrs. Thomas paced slowly and methodically back and forth with her stopwatch.
I do not remember if Ralph passed the sit up test or not, because you can rest assured I was not focused on counting after that happened. We probably made up a number and reported it, praying we wouldn't bust out into laughter.
I could never do a sit up again without thinking of this, which is all well and good because I avoid sit ups at all costs.
If there were a presidentially mandated minimum requirement for memorable events, this one would far exceed it in my book. I'll take my certificate now.