A Volunteer

(2022-03-19 09:03:30) 下一個

Spring is having hiccups with an impish warmth in the air that at times gets

people to strip down to their T-shirts. Of course, hiccups are unpredicatble and

more often folks have to put their hoodies and jackets back on on short notice.

Every year around this time, many eager to show their figures or tatoos catch

cold that way.


Plants seem smarter. The evergreens remain oblivious. The redbuds and dogwoods

are radiantly blossoming, which might mislead some mammals. Sensing the dry months ahead,

the grass has stopped its reckless growth since January. Birches have shedded

their catkins according to schedule and tender leaves have started to sprout.

The crepe myrtles are not rattled at all and are still biding their time.


Meanwhile, it was time for high-school athletic events, for which Bill

volunteered through the "Dad's Club" at his son's school a month ago. Last

August, Bill got in the organization by leaving his email address at their booth

on his first visit to the campus. He declined to donate money that day, however,

and had since turned down every invitation they sent out for weekend drinking

parties, fund-raising by selling junk foods, more booze-assisted socializing, or

those he hated the most, pricy golfing meets. Six months in and just as he

started to believe that the word outdoor for Dad's Club meant exclusively

"binging outdoors" and sport equaled to "watching football on a big plasma

screen," here comes a real deal. Nice!


After some thought, he signed up for raking for the triple jump, a role that

should involve more simple physical labor than talking or coordinating for an

event that had always fascinated him. On Wedesday, however, the plan changed. He

was re-assigned to be the measure reader. Immediately, Bill worried about

mispronouncing numbers. It was his 23rd year in the west and speaking English

was still slightly out of his comfort zone. Upon arrival on Saturday 2:00pm at

Westmount High, however, someone shoved a shovel in his hands to fill the holes

the long-jumpers made in landing and before raking. So, he was relieved and it

all turned out well for him.


Climbing up the ramp to the arena, his eyes were greeted with a scene which

reminded him of his own school days: the standard 400-meter track, the staggered

races, the field events, and the spectators, all under a clear blue sky and hot sun.


Many things differed, of course. First, athletes and coaches came from several

schools instead of classes* in the same school. Families and friends showed up

for their competitors and paid at the entrance, to support something else of

which they had no idea. Instead of students and teachers, moms and dads became

the main workforce at every event. No area was restricted and one was free to

roam as he wished but of course, he had to watch out for javelins and discs for



Deskbound for hours daily, Bill found his new task therapeutic. After each

jump, he would step in the pit, bend at the knees to lower his body as if in

a deadlift, thrust the blade for a full load, and straighten his torso like

swinging a kettlebell to deliver the sand into the holes. Three or four goes

were good for one jump and he made sure that his glutes do the heavy-lifting.

The moves had a rhythm to them and easily matched breathing, which made work

feel like a dance.


Ed the measure reader and Rakesh the raker, the other two dads at the same pit,

were friendly. Ed from Willow Glen looked Asian and had a daughter who dived and

Sahaj, Rakesh's son, would run the 400m and 800m today. The three were about the

same age and chatted over a wide range of topics. Rakesh was born in England and

worked in commercial real estate. A beginner runner himself, he exalted jogging

for its meditation quality and was happy that his kid took to running. The three

volunteers formed their own clique.


The long jump pit was located within the semi-circle at the east end and next to

the start line of the races and Bill's attention sometimes was diverted to the

tracks. He raced the 1500m in college where he always became a bundle of nerves

at the start line and only slightly loosened up half-way in. He used to worry

about the competition all the time in or out of the arena.


One gunshot pulled him back from reminiscing as the 400m runners on the tracks

lunged ahead. It took another five seconds for someone to realize that something

had gone wrong. Six more rapid-fire shots stopped the runners and brought them

back to the starting blocks. Rakesh smiled: "No one meditates in this race."


Over the next three hours, several dozens of long-jumpers made their dry runs

and three attempts each. Three or four stood out but most struggled and made

amature mistakes. Bill estimated a 40% scratch rate but he enjoyed just

watching. The few clumsiest kids reminded him of himself at their age, with

their sweaty faces, downcast eyes, and sorry looks. He wanted to tell them, no

big deal and just relax. But it would have been easy for him to say. Anyway, no

one paid attention to him, a mid-aged Asian guy with a silly grin on his face

who happened to have a yen for shoving sands and plugging holes.


After 5:00pm, clouds got in front of the sinking sun, the breeze chilled, and

the temperature plunged. Around 5:30pm, the last jump was done, the volunteers

were sent home with a businesslike thank-you from a black coach in an SF Giant's

jacket, and it was over.



* The idea of a class seemed to evolve. Bill's class, 30 years ago, stayed a

  stable unit of 40 to 60 teenagers taking the same courses throughout

  high-school. The kids sat in the same room and each on the same seat all day

  long and the teachers came at their slots to lecture. A class had a head

  teacher who, besides tutoring a course, manages and counsels. Kids growing

  up within a class identified with their class, a tribe under a benign chief.


  In the US, a similar pattern continues until high-school where a student has

  to reorient. Courses are taught in fixed rooms scattered in several buildings

  for a semester and students rush from one class to the next, which look like

  short-lived rendezvous. No one plays the shepherd and every lamb appears on

  its own. After four years of such training, the kids are ready for college.

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閱讀 ()評論 (3)
暖冬cool夏 回複 悄悄話 Sorry, it should be "lunge".
7grizzly 回複 悄悄話 回複 '暖冬cool夏' 的評論 : Thank you, 暖冬, for reading and really appreciate your kind comments.

Bill smiles a lot in social time and finds it relaxing and uplifting himself, and at the same time disarming others. He has been trying to made it a habit whether others like it or not :-)

I'm not sure about a bigger vocabulary but I'll write about my secret weapon soon.
暖冬cool夏 回複 悄悄話 Anyway, no one paid attention to him, a mid-aged Asian guy with a silly grin on his face who happened to have a yen for shoving sands and plugging holes.
--haha:)) Who would pay attention a guy who stood in the corner and had a silly yen for shoving sands and plugging holes:))
Classes at college here are more loosely or freely designed for students to select. One could end up sticking together over the four years only a handful classmates hence.
Very well written and fluent in paragraph transitions. I found a few words new to me in your writing, which is of no surprise, as you have much bigger vocabulary as ever. Like your word choices of "lung","downcast", "pull him back", etc. here.