Carpenter's Column: And coach says, “Everyone take a lap.”

Carpenter's Column: And coach says, “Everyone take a lap.”

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Carpenters Column

Here we go again. All of us are about to finish 2019, our latest lap around the sun. It’s like we’re all in junior high gym class. The seventh-grade faculty has given the gym teacher a gift card if he’ll make the students run extra laps before sending them back to class.

The gym teacher is Coach Rock. He is a retired Marine Master Sergeant. He believes that physical fitness is essential to the well-being of the student and of society. To all of us, even those with a note excusing them from heavy exertion in gym class today, Coach Rock, the gym teacher, says slowly, “Everybody takes a lap. No exceptions.”

He leads us out of the gym to the dirt track that encompasses the football field. We cluster along the chalk line that is sketched across the track. Coach Rock brings his whistle to his lips and blows it so loud that dogs bark from behind the hills above the school.

We are startled, all of us, and we start off at a gallop. It is not a pretty sight. The spectacle insults Coach Rock’s sensibilities, or so he shouts to us. I can’t speak for the others, but I know I don’t want to insult anybody’s sensibilities, especially those of Coach Rock.

I glance back to see Coach Rock standing with his arms crossed watching all of us take a lap. I try to move up in the pack. This is not easy for me to do. I have been called many things, but not Fleet of Foot.

Among us there are many more gifted at running than I am. I cannot catch them, no matter how hard I try. Behind me are those who cannot run as fast as I can. Too bad for them.

And then there are those who run beside me. For whatever reason, we are all moving along this lap at a common pace. As our lap together progresses, we grow accustomed to our collective proximity, our common destiny under the indifferent eye of Coach Rock, now on the far side of the infield.

The pace and the distance, even a single lap, becomes too much for some and they drop out. Some who were faster have simply run out of gas. We pass them where they are bent over trying to catch their breath. Others, I sense, have dropped off behind us.

While it seems as though we are a scattered and ragged procession of panting, knock-kneed adolescents attired in uniform gym shorts and canvas sneakers, our congregation congeals as we approach the end of the lap. Coach Rock holds the stopwatch up, ready to capture the moment, like the Pinecone Drop, when one lap is over and another begins.

We all cross the line at the same time. Coach Rock does not seem surprised. He doesn’t even look at his stopwatch. He just blows his whistle, dogs bark, and then he barks, “Everyone, take another lap.”

2020 here we come.

Happy New Year, dear readers.


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