Friday, June 03, 2005

Sterling Silver Lining

It's Friday, payday, and the first day of my new summer hours and still, I've spent more time fishing an earring out from behind my desk with a ruler than I have doing anything I should be getting paid for. I don't feel the least bit bad about pissing away my measly three hour workday; the VP told my boss and me that we could leave early today after getting a particularly late and difficult manuscript into production yesterday. I was touched by his gesture until I remembered that everyone is allowed to leave at noon, even the people who've been sitting at their desks watching the Daily Show for nine months, not that I'm naming any names, cough, kid who sits near me, cough.

I think I'm going to celebrate my three-hours-longer weekend by exploiting my snobby independent movie theater membership. They're (finally) playing something I want to see; there's a documentary called Mad Hot Ballroom about eleven-year-old kids in New York City public schools learning ballroom dancing. Sounds riveting, I know, but Spellbound was about spelling for Christ's sake, and I was on the edge of my seat.

Plus, I once was an eleven-year-old New York public school kid subjected to the peril of in-school dance lessons, only we weren't even learning ballroom dancing. We had to do square dancing. A month's worth of gym class rehearsals ("ALLEMANDE RIGHT! ALLEMANDE! STEVEN! So help me, I will send you straight to the principal if you don't allemande right! NO, Steven, your arm is NOT broken from the Do-Si-Do. NOW ALLEMANDE!") lead up to the schoolwide square dance assembly, presided over by ancient caller Slim Sterling. The man was eighty if he was a day, but he hobbled over to Mohansic Elementary every year. His appearance, like some redneck groundhog, announced the three-quarter mark in our journey towards summer.

I don't know who it was at the Board of Education who labored under the delusion that preadolescents enjoy militaristic choreography set to fiddle music, but we had to do this every year. And, what do kids enjoy more than dancing?

Assigned opposite-sex partners with whom you have to hold hands, that's what.

I remember my last square dance, which must have been in third grade. I wound up with a kid named Mike as my partner and he was a total catch; he was cute and didn't want to talk much, and he didn't try to knock me down during the "swing your partner" bits or switch for another partner during the "promenade."

Now Slim Sterling, as old, deaf, and batshit insane as he may have been, had the killer laser eyesight of a super robot hawk. For some reason, he found gum chewing to be a sin worse than unwed fornication on the Sabbath and he used his unbelievably powerful peepers to scan his dancing minions for any flapping jaws. To be fair, my gym teacher had warned all of us to spit out any and all wads of gum before we entered the auditorium, but come on--when you're nine, gum is like currency. When you get it, you hold on to it. Who knows when you'll be able to wheedle your mother into another pack of Trident (Trident for Christs's sake, not even Bubbleyum) at the supermarket register?

I kept my gum clamped under my tongue for most of the square dance. There were were easily a hundred dancing kids in the gym and there was no possible way he could detect a single piece of Trident gum in my mouth, a piece of gum which I had chewed for at least two hours already, so at best it was about seven gum molecules held together by wishful thinking.

Yet still, when I switched my gum from one side of my mouth to the other (not even a chew! I could've been swallowing! I could've had a perfectly acceptable cough drop!) as I bowed to my corner, I heard the needle screech off his record (record, for the love of god, the old bastard used records) and an announcement for "THAT GIRL IN THE PINK SHIRT" to "GET RID OF HER GUM RIGHT NOW. RIGHT NOW. MARCH."

I could feel every beady third grade eye on me, every corresponding third grade head happy it wasn't the one on the chopping block. I had to march through the entire crowd, out the door, and into Mrs. Martino's office to get rid of the smallest piece of gum ever to be detected by someone who wasn't chewing it. It was the only time I was ever in the gym teacher's office, and I remember thinking that she had way more papers than I thought a gym teacher would need. And then I had to slink back through the crowd of kids who were now sort of bitter that they had to stand still holding their partner's hands for a full minute while I purged myself of the sinful gob. Holding a strange kid's hand while you're dancing is a necessary hazard of Slim Sterling's visit. Holding that same strange kid's hand while you're standing still is too much like a nine-year-old's concept of romance to be acceptable.

When I finally got back to Mike, my partner, I seem to remember him saying something about my face being the same color as my shirt. I can't prove that this ever happened, though, because it smacks of sit-com-style embellishment and that's what happens when you spend your life in creative writing workshops. Either way, he's an asshole. Everyone's an asshole.

Anyway, my point is, I think I'm going to the movies tonight. That should be fun.


Anonymous insane said...

I too was spellbound by Spellbound. Being the mom that I am, I wanted all those kids to win, except the hyperactive motormouth kid. I guess hyperactive motormouth kids make me insane. oh, the light is coming on... now I know why I'm

9:36 AM  
Blogger What'sHerFace said...

I loved the girl who was, I think, from D.C., who lived with her mom and aunt. There was one part where they showed her in a classroom after school with her teacher (who had volunteered to coach her), and since they were both from a kind of poor public school they didn't have the advantage of lots of books and computers and stuff that the other kids in the documentary did.

Anyway, the teacher handed her a dictionary and asked where she'd like to start. The girl opened the dictionary up to the first page and handed it back to her.

I cried.

10:25 AM  

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