Saturday, March 05, 2005

Desperately Seeking Treadmills

It's obvious to me I'm going to do this in big large clumps, and so, it's time to start a new clump! With a touching story of fetery amidst the daily grind of school life...

Desperately Seeking Treadmills

When I was young, there was nothing more exciting than the school fete. Before anyone discovered cynicism, boys, or alcohol, there was nothing more exciting than the moment a B or C grade local celebrity would count from 5 to 1 and then with a mighty push, would spin a chocolate wheel while excited children milled around, tickets in hand, desperately hoping that their number would come up, so they could take home a pair of tights to mum, or a half broken garden hose for dad, since such gifts could be wrapped up for the next appropriate occasion that a present was required, and as such, the kid could save pocket money and spend it on more important things like fizzy pop and posters.

Away from the excitement of the chocolate wheel, there was a long corridor which housed the "ghost tunnel". The ghost tunnel was historically the worst thing about the fete, since the lights wouldn't even be off some times, and it was mostly just a slightly disappointing wander down a hallway while older kids sprayed silly string at you. Under normal circumstances, this would be called bullying, but for the day of the school fete, it was rebadged as some kind of spooky adventure. Even worse, Jennifer Danielle Wiley was granted her own stall once, and her mum had gone to all the trouble of making twenty or thirty types of jam, thus making sure she completely overshadowed every one elses contribution. Mysteriously, some of the jam "fell off" the table. Funny that.

To be honest, our school fete was always tremendous fun. I don’t know if public liability insurance would allow the 2005 equivalent of Dull Dave the janitor to take the kids out on his tractor and call it a “tour”, and I’m not sure if we could even hire little Shetland ponies for the little kids, and watch as they ran amok whenever they saw a banana skin or abandoned piece of chocolate. My lasting school fete memory is Dull Dave ambling past me one day as I ate a Caramello koala. He draw me a suspicious glance, and said “nothing.” I hadn’t expected anything Dull Dave I thought, until I looked up and saw a little kid lying on the grass, and an out of control mini pony rampaging towards the science block. That was part of the charm though, a mixture of variety entertainment, and horrendous, ever present danger were all part of the day.

I digress however. When I was in Grade 3, we were ushered into a room by our PE teacher and told we were in charge of prizes. Apparently, it was always the role of the Grade 3s to look after the prizes, and some kids did better than others. They talk about the class of 78 in very dark tones, since two pairs of tights and a signed Jeff Thomson picture allegedly went missing. It was with awe that the PE teacher took the cover of the chocolate wheel, and give it a slightly worrying grope under the guise of a basic piece of hand modelling. We stood in suitable awe. One kid (I can't remember who, sadly) almost broke protocol, and spun it, and he was ushered out of the room for a telling off. And then, the teacher left, and someone (Claire) was voted in charge. And she looked at the pile of prizes, and sat down in a chair, clapped her hands, and ordered people about. That was Claire's idea of leadership, and it's why she wasn't put in charge of anything, ever again...she picked up a copy of the Herald Sun, and smoked a comedy pipe (not made from the Herald Sun if you were wondering).

In the corner of the room, there was a glistening, brand new treadmill, revolutionary material for 1987. We pushed aside piles of donated Richmond football club merchandise (those guys were crazy for donating) and stared at it for a moment, wondering just who would want this piece of crazy exercise equipment in their house. The fitness and Life Be In It craze was beginning to fade, and slackness was the new black. As we lazed around, hopefully trying to co-erce the choir kids into doing all the work (“we’ll be your friend!) it suddenly occurred to someone who’s name is lost to history that this piece of equipment would need to be tested out. Megs B, seated in a donated sedan chair, shook her head and said it would be OK, whoever won it could take responsibility for it. After all, it was only a treadmill, it wasn’t something cool like a chunky stereo or a big basket of Easter eggs. Claire, barely deigning to raise her eyebrows, muttered something about it looking safe, but I wasn’t so sure, and suddenly, one of those pointless arguments people have from time to time was on, as I stared Claire down.

“It needs to be tested!” I said, hands on hips, puffed up with self importance.

“Why?” said Claire, yawning. “Are you going to test everything? Are you going to try on the tights?” said Megs B, laughing. Laughing at ME! I certainly wasn’t going to take this lying down, now with a bee very much in my bonnet. Looking back, I’m sure they all had a point, I mean, why DID we need a treadmill tested out? It became an obsession though, and for the next hour, I was spewing. I couldn’t get past it, I couldn’t cope with the idea of this treadmill going to a member of the public while it was unsafe. Eventually, after an hour of watching the choir kids checking off their inventory, I had to act. I got off one of the rickety wooden crates I was sitting on, and approached Mark Leaman, the school benny, with two Freddo Frogs in hand.

“There’s a Freddo in it if you get on the treadmill and try it out” I said. Luckily, being the school benny, he didn’t see the unfairness in the arrangement that I’d get a Freddo just for being the ideas person.

Without hesitation, he leapt (and when I say leapt, I mean lept, in big thick clumper boots) onto the treadmill, which someone (oh alright, it was me) had managed to plug in. There was alarm amongst the nay sayers as I backed away from the scene of the crime. Mark, being Mark, began to push random buttons on the treadmill, and in true benny style, didn’t so much run and try and do some funky dancing. Inevitably, things went horribly wrong, and by the time he was trying to do the rhumba at 14 KMHs, he came a cropper, flying off into a pile of donated electrical equipment and landing looking up at the ceiling, giggling his head off, next to a packet of pens and a notepad. Claire drew me a significantly mardy glance.

“Not safe,”I said, shaking my head.

“What did you do that for!” she said. I smiled my sweetest smile, and almost got away with it, until Megs B (still in her running everywhere like a mad thing phase) ran up to join the conversation.

“Mark says where’s his other Freddo!” she said, pouting in an uncharacteristic Megs B way.

Foiled, I was forced to muck in with the choir kids, but it was worth it. I had been proven right, and that, as I mucked around with a large pile of sticker albums, was all that truly mattered…


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