Just like everyone else, I had a real asshole for a junior high P.E. teacher. Mr. E was an ill-tempered stump of a man with beady eyes, non-existent lips, and skin that looked permanently sunburned. He wore not one but two whistles around his neck and had a penchant for overusing the word “situation”.
Basketball: “This is going to be a two-on-one type situation!”
Wrestling: “Make that mistake and you’ll quickly find yourself in an on-your-back type situation!”
Square-Dancing*: “Promenade and Circle Right into a Do-Sa-Do type situation.”
For all his masculine posturing, pit-bull facial expressions, and ready recitation of World Boxing Title Holders by year and division, Mr. E came off as nothing more than a pitiful wannabe. I mean, if you had any real amount of physical prowess and athletic skill, would enlightening a bunch of pubescent punks, pansies and pot-heads to the intricate nuances of pickleball strategies be your first career choice? I’m guessing not.
There is an old expression: “Those who can do, do. Those who can’t do, teach.” I never believed that old adage, because I felt that for every person who “could do”, there was a teacher who taught them how. Never believed it, that is, until I met Mr. E. Then it all made sense. This sorry little excuse for an athlete couldn’t cut it with the talented sports figures whose accomplishments he’d so religiously memorized, so he took a job working with people closer to his own station: a bunch of twelve and thirteen year olds.
In keeping with such a messed-up sense of self-worth, it was completely lost on Mr. E that every single kid he instructed fully understood how pathetic he was. He’d strut around with a basketball perpetually pinned between his left forearm and hip, blowing both his whistles, laughably confident in his misconception that he was respected and admired. He was such an obviously puffed-up has-been that it was almost impossible to look upon his tired, blotched visage without feeling sorry for him.
I said almost. After all, this was a guy who always had us play Soak ‘Em** on rainy days and never forbade players from throwing side-arm. I think Mr. E enjoyed seeing people in pain. He probably would have had us use baseballs if the Department of Education would have let him.
The girls’ gym teacher was high-maintenance piece of work in a coordinated felt sweat suit, hoop earrings, and tall, stiff hair. She wore more makeup than any woman I’d ever seen but that didn’t matter, I guess, since she never once broke a sweat. Miss B was, basically, a professional soccer mom. She didn’t seem to know a damned thing about sports, but she looked good and possessed her own whistle (though only one).
The sexual tension between Mr. E and Miss B was palpable, even if none of us fully understood what “sexual tension” and “palpable” meant. All we knew was that every time the boys and girls shared the gymnasium, Mr. E played with his whistles a lot and Miss B carried her clipboard at her side instead of clutched across her chest. We were too young to catch all the various subtleties of their unrealized lust, but we were old enough to know that when they were together, gym class got a hell of a lot easier.
Looking back, I have to assume that at some point Mr. E, totally enraptured by the scent of perfume and stale cigarettes, propositioned Miss B: “So, how do you feel about a one-on-one type situation?”
*Yes, we were forced to learn square-dancing in P.E. If you weren’t, then you can kiss my Allemande Left ass-cheek.
**A brutal Seattle version of Dodgeball often played with smaller, sometimes harder balls.