Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Those who can't teach, team gym

I continue my memoirs by touching on a rite of passage for everyone: having to endure middle school gym class.

I really hated gym. When the entire object of middle school/high school in the late 80s/early 90s was to look really gelled up and cool, it didn't do much for your image to have to dress down in 3rd period, run around and sweat, and then try to put yourself back together again for any ladies who might have been interested in a nerdy and very pasty guy with pegged pants and hair that was gelled but styled like that of Chief Justice John Roberts.

My teacher was Mr. Heppler-a severe guy with a permed mullet, Hammer pants, a Trans Am, and a fondness for the LA Raiders (the middle school football team gave him a hideous leather jacket with the Raiders logo on the back one year, and he cried). He didn't especially like me and couldn't pronounce my name correctly-I was always just 'Hoops.'

One day Hep was forcing everyone to do some kind of permanent frozen push-up position on the gym floor. The entire class was doing them but I was having trouble holding my balance, so I lifted my rear a little (or a lot-I couldn't exactly see from my vantage point) and Heppler said "Get that stink bug butt down, Hoopster!" and everyone laughed and laughed. I was laughing on the inside, which at the time felt like severe embarassment because it was a co-ed class and such, but I now realize it was...no, actually it really was just severe embarassment.

In my school you had to read for 15 minutes straight for a 'free read' in 3rd period, regardless of what your class was, and mine was gym. Heppler told everyone if they didn't bring a book, they would have to run 'the grand stroll,' which was a heinous jog around the adjacent city park plus a field plus the entire school grounds, and around the baseball diamonds, and then back. It took the entire class period and was more jogging than any of us had ever done in our entire lives.

One day a friend from church who shared the class period with me forgot his book. Having recenently been made a deacon and feeling very spiritually enlightened, I decided to do the Christ-like thing and let this kid read the book I'd brought. My only remaining book was my book of trombone music for band class. I pulled it out and 'read' it as dilligently as I could, and looked convincing enough reading it that I got away with it for a full 30 seconds before Mr. Heppler walked by and told me "take the stroll, Hoopster. Those are just notes. Just notes!" I shot Russell (the kid to whom I'd lent the book) a pained look and took off running. I ran so much my sides were killing me and I threw up in the bushes a little, but knew stopping would be punished even more severely. I wasn't embarassed, but I did have a good 50 minutes or so to ponder the moral ramifications of my act. I concluded that being Christ-like didn't necessarily mean that you'd have a charmed life (at least not necessarily a mortal one).

A few weeks later Heppler called on several boys to help move the really large tackling pad array that the football team used. This is the giant metal contraption that has several person-sized pads that football kids can run into and pretend they're blocking. I was on the side that was walking backwards, and luckily the array only weighed as much as a 1975 Buick Electra on the surface of the planet Jupiter. I tripped and my end of the array came smashing down above my left kneecap, pinning me to the ground.

The other boys lifted it off of me and I hobbled off, with Heppler calling me a 'wimp.' Though I wasn't bleeding I was bruised as all get out, and about 20 minutes later when Heppler was making everyone watch a video of sports highlights (not being even remotely a sports fan, this was akin to forcing me to watch live footage from World of Bass Fishing), I noticed my knee was turning green with severe bruising. I received impatient permision to go to the office, and I later found out at the hospital that I had squished all the nerves in my knee and that if one were to run this little spur thing over my leg, it would not feel like anything for about 5 inches in the knee region.

The good part of the story is that I think Mr. Heppler eventually lost his hair and had to shave his permed mullet off. Either that or it fell off naturally.


Shannon said...

After carefully perusing your post I have determined that Mr. Hep actually had a very soft spot in his heart for you. I don't know how anyone ever endures middle school gym. I was even slightly athletically inclined and I still suffered excruciatingly. But enough about me.

Hillary said...

He drove an El Camino, not a Trans Am.

And at least you didn't have Ms. Loe. I'm pretty sure her eyes were not attached to any kind of socket. They protruded out and rested above her nose. This was not only horrifying but it enabled her to see anything and everything at all times.

Jessica said...

Ah, the torture of jr high gym class. The year I started my period was also the year I got the gym teacher who believed that nothing helped cramps like a good dozen sprints around the field. I don't personally think gym teachers are human at all, but dark creatures of the night who hideout in cursed human bodies during the day to keep their true identities secret.

Shannon said...

I have no doubt you are correct Jessica.

Kevan said...

I loved gym and enjoyed all of my gym teachers. I was the class pet in nearly every gym class.....You guys run with the wrong crowds.

Andra said...

I too, not much unlike Kevan, was favored by most all teachers. I had a picture of Mr. Hepler from high school as he attended DHS with my aunt.

I particularly loved his layering of bike shorts under slightly shorter baggy shorts.

I also liked it when he would say "Low and Slow ladies" as we did lunges across the back of the middle school field.

Although all of these memories have been truly heart warming nothing beats the time the Hep was trying to do a "basketball demonstration" and bounced said basketball really hard between his legs. He had his back to the hoop and it was supposed to make a basket. Instead it bounced up and nailed him right in the junk.


Oh, and I'm pretty sure it was pronounced "Hoopsta".

Carlee Hoopes said...

Is Heppler's hand down his pants?

Robin said...

"Just notes!" is the funniest thing ever.