Recently, I heard a news report that in New England some elementary schools have discontinued the game of dodge ball. Those who support the ban feel that it is wrong to make children targets. Even when a softer ball was suggested, this did not satisfy parents who did not want their children "in the line of fire" from the ball! When I heard this, I was transported back many years to my elementary school days when I was THE main target in dodge ball.
I guess I was an easy target because I was a plump child with bright red hair. And, as soon as I got hit, my face turned red as well. I have never had any athletic talent, and I was slow moving. The balls I threw never hit anyone; I was a terrible thrower. I've never jumped rope in my life, and the opposite actions in jumping jacks befuddle my brain as well as my coordination. In other words, I was the poster child for being picked on at recess and in physical education for my inability to be physical! And I never was chosen for teams during recess and, therefore, was always the last person chosen, if at all. If my brothers were the leaders in choosing their sports teams, even they wouldn't choose Ann. And I don't blame them. In other words, I am what those parents in New England fear their children will become if they are the targets in dodge ball. But what am I?
I am a survivor! As I have done in other facets of my life, I learned early on that I had to be in control of my own interaction with friends and foes. I had to carve out a place for myself in the coordinated, physical fitness world in which I existed. I couldn't change my prowess in games and sports, so I had to change something else -- my attitude. I developed the attitude that not being chosen was preferable to me than being chosen. I looked around and found the places where I could be valuable, such as score keeper, equipment manager, and even retainer-holder. It's not cool to ignore or be mean to the girl who is holding your retainer in a Kleenex while you play softball!
Over the years, I have worn my short-comings like a mantle and have gotten a good deal of mileage with them. As team leaders looked my way when choosing their team, I'd give them the look and shake my head. They'd move on to someone else, and I, being left over, assumed my role as retainer-holder, etc. Later as an adult, when people signed up to bring various foods to the pot luck luncheon or supper, I was always assigned the paper plates. Ann didn't cook. Nobody wanted to eat anything I fixed! And I didn't blame them.
When I was teaching at Slidell High School, my success as a non-accomplished person in some areas became very apparent to me. Several of the women faculty members would get together and play Bridge. I could play a little bit, but I never could remember what had been played because I was too busy talking to really pay attention. When asked if I would join the group, I told them that nobody would want me to be their partner. One of the ladies said, "Ann, you can be our entertainment and make us laugh. Come on and join us." I realized then that I "had arrived." I was a terrible Bridge player, but I was still wanted! And I was correct; nobody wanted me as a partner. . .that's not true. There was one person who always wanted me as her partner. Mary Ann Girod Collins was such a fabulous player; she could partner with a broom and win! The only negative thing she ever said to me was, "We were underbid." Now, before you think that I am exaggerating my inability with the cards, we had table cloths with the symbols of the four suits all over them. I was required to point to the symbol of the suit when I was bidding. Now that's pitiful. But, usually I was the dummy because Mary Ann usually got the bid.
Now I know I am talented in several areas, and I really do not have any hang-up about some of my other abilities being sub-standard. I'm comfortable with me and, like Popeye, I yam what I yam. However, I really must share an experience I had when I was chosen for "a team." Because of my being involved as a faculty member in many of the extracurricular, after-school activities, I was able to get out of selling tickets at the football games and/or taking up tickets at the basketball games. I was safe, until my behavior got me punished!
For several years, the faculty at Slidell High School chose sides on the Friday before the rival football game of Louisiana State University and the University of Mississippi. I was on the Ole Miss side. . .not because I had any loyalty to that school (I had gone to the University of Southern Mississippi), but because I was from Mississippi. While we did have Ole Miss and LSU graduates on the faculty, it really was a Louisiana vs. Mississippi thing. . . EXCEPT for our principal, L. V. McGinty. Mr. Mac loved LSU. He even had a recording of the Tiger Band playing their fight song. He brought that out each year to play over our loud speaker system at the end of the school day on that Friday before the big game. I was SO tired of hearing Go Fighting Tigers. . . However, one Friday before the big game day, I walked through the main office. It was empty, but there on a counter was THE record in the ready for the end of the day. Of course, I had to do something, so I hid it under a stack of papers.
For the rest of the day, announcements were made asking anyone who might have accidentally taken a recording out of the office to please return it. It got so bad that even my Mississippi buddies sent notes to my classroom to PLEASE RETURN MR. MAC’S RECORD! I caved and told somebody where it was, and I thought all was forgiven. However, at the end of the school day, Mr. McGinty made all of the necessary announcements, including asking the football ticket seller team who would be on the gate that night at our high school game to meet in his office after school. Then, he read off the names (all of whom already knew they were on the team) and then he added, “And Miss Bryant!” My goose was cooked. I had an out-of-town trip planned to meet my family in Jackson, MS, and I had to leave that Friday night. And then to add insult to injury, Mr. Mac, again, played that darn record as the last thing of the day!
We all met in Mr. Mac’s office. There weren’t enough chairs; I sat on the floor, in the corner, so nobody would see me. The entire team was very organized with team leaders or captains assigned to various entrances to the stadium. Mr. Mac started. . .”Captains, choose your teams!” One of my Mississippi buddies, who was a captain and was one of the people for whom I had pinched the recording, looked around the room, tried to catch my eye, which I refused to let her do, and then she said those words I NEVER thought I would hear in my lifetime. “I choose. . .Ann.” Not only was I chosen. . . I was the first one chosen!!!
At the game that night, I complained so much about having to stand at the gate and wear that ugly carpenter’s apron with sections to put the collected tickets in, that I was moved to the ticket booth to actually sell the tickets. I did fine until the Superintendent of Schools at St. Tammany Parish walked up to my booth to buy a ticket. Somehow, I gave him the wrong amount of change! Everyone, including the Superintendent, laughed, and I was promptly fired from the entire endeavor. I left the game before it started and pulled out of Slidell that night, heading for Jackson. And I was never again asked to have gate duty at any game. And, I never stole Mr. Mac’s record again. . .only because I never could find it again! But I DID learn an important lesson: being chosen isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be!!!