I am discovering how therapeutic it is to blog about past experiences. Much more therapeutic than watching entire seasons of Leave it to Beaver in one sitting or recreating scenes from the Battle of Gettysburg with my sister's hamsters (They never get it right), which heretofore have been my primary forms of stress relief .
Today, I wish to talk about a figure from my past. His name is Mr. Bootcamp (name has been changed to protect the innocent, mostly myself. Who knows what would happen if he read this).
Mr. Bootcamp was my middle school gym teacher. Middle School was already wonky enough for me. I was a good foot (sometimes two) shorter than everybody else, which provided a bountiful share of nicknames like Small Fry, Shrimp, Bite Size, Short Stack, and Turkish Delight (They started with the food names and apparently got carried away). I had braces that were periodically busted off when I would fall off the top bunk on to the nightstand. It was also during that time that I was pressured into experimenting with certain risky substances. No not drugs! Who do you think I am?! I'm talking about Axe. Let me tell you, there is one surefire way to make a middle school locker room smell worse than a middle school locker room: excessive amounts of Axe body spray.
As stated above, Mr. Bootcamp was my gym teacher. I am calling him Bootcamp, because that is the topic that permeated, oh, 93% of his verbal communication. To this day, I'm not sure that he ever made it into the actual armed forces, for I never once heard a story beyond boot camp.
Mr. Bootcamp was tall, stocky, with a white beard and a bald head. He wore only white t-shirts that didn't quite cover his large hairy belly and khaki shorts that didn't quite cover his large hairy thighs. He made a "sh" sound when he pronounced the letter S, kind of like Sean Connery. So imagine if Mr. Clean and Sean Connery had a baby, a 6'5", 300 lb baby. That was Mr. Bootcamp.
Mr. Bootcamp loved surprises. Some times he would surprise us by giving us all spoon fulls of macadamia nut cookie dough. Other times he would surprise us by lifting his shirt to expose his belly. Sometimes both of those things would lead to surprise trips to the bathroom where we would throw up, to the surprise of the other people using the facility.
Mr. Bootcamp was an infamous fight-watcher. Where other teachers would break up fights, Mr. Bootcamp would watch with curious fascination. Mr. Bootcamp was limber. He taught tumbling and everyone would stand in awe as this bulky giant, wearing hiking boots and a grin, would perform somersaults and round-offs with all the grace and nimbleness of a Persian Swan.
He was strong. Though he could have boasted in his own strength and prowess, he preferred to set the bar with other kids in the class. "Look at Ross's pecks gentlemen. Yes, Ross (or Rosh as he would say) has some exshellent pecksh."
When we would run laps around the field he could be seen shooting at the kids with an imaginary rifle. He would say, "You boys are deer, and I'm shooting you with a shniper rifle. Just like at boot camp."
One day we were standing at attention in front of the pool. He called out, "Tobaco, shtep forward and exshtend your right arm and leg." Steven Tobaco did as he was told. With the finesse of a ballet dancer and the strength of an Olympic hammer-thrower, Mr. Bootcamp grabbed Tobaco's arm and leg, swung him around and then sent him sprawling into the pool. He landed on the gelatinous surface and after sinking briefly into the mold-colored depths, he started paddling around like a dog lost at sea. The rest of us were ordered into the water.
We usually did laps for somewhere between 10 or 15... hours..... After laps we were allowed to play an aquatic form of football in the shallow end. Well one day, a boy's nipple ring was ripped out during the game. When the boy with the bleeding chest told Mr. Bootcamp, the reply came with a resolute finger in the air, "We musht find the nipple ring! Men, search the area." For the next ten minutes we searched apprehensively for the missing ring. It was like a treasure hunt. Except instead of gold and jewels, we were looking for a bloody ring that had been ripped out of someone's nipple.
My best memory of the poolside antics of Mr. Bootcamp was the day that Emilio (name has been changed because I can't remember his real name) whipped a custodian with a towel. The custodian who was busy painting the wall with a long-handled paint roller was obviously upset because he immediately turned on the student, beating him down with the paint roller. When the kid had fallen down the janitor continued his lunges with the furor of a abstract expressionist painter. It would have been artistic, if not so bizarre. When Mr. Bootcamp approached, he paused for a moment, and then with all the wisdom of Solomon said, "Never mess with a man with a paintbrush." And that was it.
Now it's your turn. Tell us about the weirdest teacher you had.