I listen to a lot of sports radio because I know my prime days of athletic competition are over. I haven't played pick-up hoops in an age, and by the time my club softball games are over, I'm usually too buzzed to remember who won. I was never much of a jock; in high school I lettered in soccer, golf, and managing the baseball team, and since then there have been only a few situations when I could tax my body to the limit and take home a victory that leaves my muscles whimpering like lost bunnies.
About all I have left is registering my kid for an after-school swim class.
The process works a lot like the deli. You line up, first-come first-served, and they hand out numbers at 7am. The K-only swim class is very popular, because the teacher is lovely and skilled and can coax the most petrified aquaphobe into the pool. Last fall the class closed right before my eyes, and TwoBert (who recently decided he'd like to be called "Fireball" instead) was crestfallen. So when spring registration came around, it was time to tape my ankles and launch an "Eye Of The Tiger" workout montage.
I had it all planned out. I stayed over with a friend who lives six blocks from the school, and when I left Monday morning I smirked at the bitter predawn cold. I got my coffee, sauntered past all the cars parked at awkward angles on the rutted icephalt, and arrived at school at 6:45am to find ... no one.
Because registration wasn't until tomorrow.
Take 2: When I left Tuesday morning I smirked at the bitter predawn cold. I got my coffee, sauntered past all the cars parked at awkward angles on the rutted icephalt, and arrived at school at 6:45am to find ... a line down the block. I was the 37th person there. Clearly, I had miscalculated the sheer will of my opponents. The first parent, whose daughter is in Fireball's class, had arrived at 5:15.
Class selection began an hour later, after I had carbed up with a "health bagel" and done 200 push-ups in the street. I arrived brimming with guarded confidence, hoping that 11 of the 36 people before me wanted the same class I did.
Then I sat down next to another of Fireball's class parents. "Hey, you got 37!" he said, with preposterous cheer. "I got that last year, and I snagged the last spot in the swim class! Good luck!"
Crappity [fudge], I thought. This is gonna go down to the wire. I will not be denied. I will not succumb to pessimism. I will not use the bathroom to fend off the coffee's ill effects. I will stay focused and get my kid into this class with the POWER OF MY MIND.
As the numbers progressed at a glacial pace, I focused my pretend Jedi powers on every bleary-eyed parent who lumbered to the desk. 28: Your child hates swimming. 29: You've forgotten your child's name. 30: You need to run from this room immediately and re-evaluate your life. 31, 32, 33...
And then, a woman went to the laptop attached to the CLOSED CLASSES display monitor. No! This cannot be. This will not be. She will not type K SWIMMING on that keyboard. That monitor will not mock me as it did so mercilessly five months ago.
Then it flashed up: K-2 TENNIS.
Huzzah! I am reprieved! I am Ebeneezer Scrooge on Christmas Frigging Morning! Everyone gets a free goose!
Euphorically, with every endorphin tingling, every muscle teeming with lactic acid, I was summoned. And I learned that my mental whammies had worked embarrassingly well: three swimming spots left.
Perhaps one day, as the cryogenically reanimated head of Bob Costas is interviewing me after Fireball French wins his 34th gold at the 2028 Olympics, he'll ask me what catalyzed my son's brilliant swimming career.
"Well, Mr. Cryogenic Head," I'll say, "Winning is about want. And on a fateful, frozen day in 2011, I wanted it more."