Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Thanks, I needed that

It's not always easy to remain positive, the way cheerleaders are supposed to, but that's why we have cheerleaders- to help us (& each other) to think positive.

Last night I stayed at school to work on finishing the yearbook and to save money on gas, since we had the Spring awards banquet. I was feeling sorry for myself 1) that the yearbook staff had left so much for me to do and 2) that I wouldn't get to see my own kids that night. I thought I'd wait till just before the banquet to go because I'm not very comfortable in social situations, so it's awkward to try to make small-talk any longer than I have to.

Naturally my truck wouldn't start. I looked under the hood aimlessly, as if by looking at something I know nothing about would miraculously solve the problem. We used to have an old car that you sometimes needed to tap on the distributor cap to get it to start. That worked magically every single time you did it. My truck didn't seem to have a distributor cap.

I followed the cables from the battery to the spark plugs. I knew it wasn't the battery because it turned over fine, it just didn't start. I fiddled with the spark plugs, as if maybe that would help just like tapping on the distributor of that old Buick used to. Nothing. The guys at the garage had assured me that the plugs were fine.

There had been two or three mornings when it wouldn't start so I asked them to look when I had had it in for an oil change. They said that the plugs were too new, they had given it a tune up just last year. They said that it started up every time for them, but from my explanation it sounded like a fuel filter or fuel injector.

Trying to get it to start once more so I could make it to the awards banquet, I hoped it was just the fuel filter, not the fuel pump or the injector. I had bought a bottle of fuel injector cleaner the last time I got gas, I put it in the tank and followed it up with some unleaded that I had in the gas can that I keep in the back for the lawn mower. Nothing. The next day my farmer-in-law reminded me that if it were a fuel filter it would start to cut out whenever I'd try to accelerate. Never had, just didn't want to start.

I tried again. Nothing. I looked under the hood again, still not knowing what to look for. I wanted to find the choke. That always works, I told myself. Of course I had no idea where the choke was- somewhere below the steering column down by this side of where the throttle is inside I reasoned. No, nope. Hmmm, is it on top of the engine block somewhere? Oh, who was I kidding? Even if I knew where it was, there's always two guys whenever guys pull that trick. One inside to gun the gas and another under the hood to pull on the choke.

Dang, why didn't I take Engines or Auto Shop in high school? Noooo, I had to take stupid Drafting. Like I ever use that? When was the last time I ever drew a 3-D schematic for some machine-tooled part? Dumb guidance counselor.

Finally I called my wife to ask for a ride after the banquet. The next day, if he'd gotten his crop in, I'm sure my beloved farmer-in-law and/or his mechanic neighbor could come look at it and at least help me get it to the guys at the garage. I started walking to the banquet.

I was relieved that I hadn't missed the meal. I was the very last person in line behind all the parents. I took the very last seat at the coachs and teacher's table. I don't know if I'm losing my hearing or if it was just the din of the crowd, but I had a tough time hearing any of the conversations at the table, which made polite small talk even harder.

Plenty of chummy humor between the Athletic Director who Emceed and the other ball-sport coached, who were sitting on the opposite end of our two or three tables. I never really fit in with all the jocks when I was in school either. At least the sports editors on the school paper were pretty nice to me. Maybe that's why I work so hard to actually coach and not just be one of those lazy sponsors who never even attends any games with their cheer squads. Maybe I'm overcompensating or trying to prove something to somebody. Whatever.

Yadda yadda yadda, scholarships, music, band, science, blah blah blah, etc. etc. Not that that's bad, all the presenters were great, all the kids deserve recognition, it's just that no one ever enjoys these things do they? I don't even like the Oscars that much. At least at the Country music awards you get to hear bands play. Dang it, Coach, why do you make me second to last? I just want to get it over with. I'll never be able to say anything as clever and insider as you football, basketball, baseball and golf guys... okay here we go.

Geez, how come I have no trouble at all talking in front of people all day long, but this freaks me out? Maybe because that's 10-20 kids at a time in a classroom and this is more than half the kids in school, plus most of my colleagues and administrators, plus all those kids parents all at once.

So I get it done. I feel bad because I fell like I made it sound like I didn't appreciate or don't like the football cheerleaders, but at the same time I don't feel like I did a good enough job of letting the basketball cheerleaders know how much I appreciated them or what an outstanding job they did. But, I didn't stutter or get any name wrong and I was brief- which is what most people want anyway. And when I got back to my table the History and Science teachers said they liked my joke, although they were the only two who got it.

Needless to say, it had been a rough night. I walked back to school Bethany wasn't there to pick me up yet, but there were post-it notes all over my windshield. I don't know if it was all three or just two of the eighth-graders who will be freshman cheerleaders next year- but they'd been to Adventureland with the junior high music kids. And they did what cheerleaders are supposed to do, even on the last day of school. They gave me a lift and reminded me to be positive.

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