In elementary school, my favorite gym days were the ones in which I didn't participate. Maybe I was sick. Or I'd hurt myself in some way WHO KNOWS. Whatever it was, and only those with timey-wimey machines can tell us for sure, my mom would write a note saying I was excused from gym class that day.
On those gym-free days, where my mom's signature dismissed me from dodgeball or matball or that game we played where two kids got to terrorize the rest of the class by chasing them around and beating them mercilessly with foam bats, I sat against the gym wall and stared at my sneakers. But on very special days, usually those days when another kid was sickly or injured, we were sent to the gym teacher's office.
I think this was meant to be punishment, but we all thought of it as the ultimate reward. The gym teacher's office was where all the gym equipment was kept, including the giant parachute we got to play with on the last day of gym class every year. This office was deceptively large, almost cave-like, filled with floor mats and hula hoops and those scooty-rolly-cart things and cones and wiffle ball bats and scores of bouncy balls. When I picture Filch's office from Harry Potter, I picture my elementary school gym teacher's cluttered space. Truly, it was her own personal Room of Requirement and on sick days, it was ours, too.
This magical room housed, along with all the necessary gym equipment, one ancient record player and every Beach Boys record ever recorded. I knew about The Beach Boys from Full House, obviously, and also, you know, my parents owned all the albums on cassette or whatever, but there was something special about listening to them on that old record player. The Beach Boys records, I believe, were our teachers way of saying, "sorry you have to clean up all my shit, but at least you can listen to these sweet, sweet beach melodies."
The teacher, before leaving to deal with the rest of our classmates, would give us our assignments, stacking cones or some such nonsense, but instead we'd put on Endless Summer and lie on a stack of floor mats until we heard the teacher coming to check on us. Sometimes we'd get caught and have to go back to gym class. Those were dark times, there is no denying.
This may surprise you, but I did not so much excel at gym class. I mean, sure, I was fine in elementary school. I was one of the faster kids, so although my hand-eye coordination wasn't the best, I could pretty easily dodge most balls (heh) or careen around a matball court with the best of them. You know. If I ever actually made contact with the ball. I mostly just got hit in the face with them AND JUST SHUT UP WITH YOUR DIRTY JOKES RIGHT NOW BECAUSE GROSS I WAS LIKE 10.
I once broke my glasses and got a bloody nose because we were playing soccer and some kid kicked the ball directly into my face. I think he felt bad, but earlier that year I'd broken my own glasses when I fell, face first, off of the monkey bars so, you know, I was used to the embarrassment.
Still, that's nothing compared to the humiliation of high school gym class. The only thing I liked was running, even though it meant I'd be sweaty and disgusting for the rest of the day, because running was not a team sport. But anything else, basketball, softball, even an unfortunate game of football, made my stomach sink. My high school gym teacher didn't have an office full of Beach Boys records, not that I knew of. He was a retired army something or other, prone to screaming fits when we didn't perform to his expectations. He seemed to forget that it was gym class, not boot camp, not even football practice and even if it was, Coach Taylor he was not.
I even had a gym class bully. Nick Mullins. I would sit in the locker room before class, changing into my gym clothes, and wonder what fresh Hell Nick had in store for me that day. Would he throw a basketball at my head, as he'd done the week before? Would he mock me relentlessly every time I struck out at softball, as he'd done EVERY TIME WE PLAYED SOFTBALL? Could I fit in my gym locker, I'd wonder, and hide there until class was over?
I never hid, no, because then I would have gotten in TROUBLE and getting in TROUBLE was not something I did in high school. Instead, I'd go to class, humiliate myself in some brand new way, and risk losing an eye or causing serious injury to someone else. The possibilities were endless, really. So yeah, you could say that I was bad at gym class. It was actually safer for me, my self-esteem, and everyone else if I just stayed in the gym teacher's office and lounged on some floormats, listening to Good Vibrations over and over and daydreaming of a day when no one would care whether or not I shoot a jump shot.