A Story by Malati Marlene Shinazy
Half of the gym floor is covered with red plastic sheeting to protect it from shoes. Now, however, it’s a perfect trip-and-fall opportunity for 75 teens wearing stiletto heals or six-inch platform shoes. The flip-flop kids are equally at risk as they shuffle their way to the bleachers. Also in danger, we baby boomers, parents and presenters alike, simply because we’re not the nimble plastic sheet-walkers we use to be.
This year, the presenters have been upgraded from sitting on hard wooden bleachers to fifty-year old cracked plastic chairs that pinch the skin if one wriggles, even a little.
The Pledge of Allegiance is followed by the National Anthem. Then, 500 +/- people attempt to get comfortable for the endurance event: The scholarship presentations themselves. Last year, this took three hours. The optimistic school principle promises it will be completed in two hours this year.
We proceed… In a deadened monotone, the first presenter drones, half hidden behind a podium:
“ Hello, my name is Mrs. Beverley Somebody (Fill in the Blank).
I represent the Women of (Fill in the Blank).
We are happy to present some amount of money (Fill in the Blank) to the following student (Fill in the Blank), who wrote the most impressive essay and will graduate to go to college (Fill in the Blank).”
As the student descends from the nosebleed section of the bleachers, we watch her step carefully over sweatshirts, backpacks and her classmates’ parents. Finally reaching the non-plastic section of floor, her stilettos emit the loudest sound our ears can endure. It seems the school’s microphone stand is a strong amplifier. Through the old sound system, we can hear the recipient’s footfalls with more audible definition than we can hear Mrs. Somebody’s muffled voice!
And on it goes, one uninspired presenter after another, each offering a version of the same speech. Only the unexpected stiletto-bongo-walk of a random recipient keeps us awake.
After the first hour, there’s rustling in the bleachers: The students are restless; their parents are chatting; little brothers and sisters are running around.
Finally, it is our turn to present.
With the loudest, crispest diction I can project through the old sound system, I SHOUT:
“Everybody, Stand Up!
Get off those hard bleachers, NOW!
We’ve been sitting for a Full Hour!
If my tuckus is numb, surely yours is too!
Shake it out! Stomp up and down. Move around a little!
That’s right… Move around a little!”
While most of the presenters hold steadfast to their cracked plastic chairs, a bleacher rumble bursts forth.
The energy is infectious… even a few whoops and hollers! After a few moments, the bleacher denizens are refreshed and sit down.
I laugh aloud and thank them for playing with me. After my presentation, I leave the gym for a photo shoot with our organization’s scholarship recipients. Behind me, I can hear the audience: They are awake and re-energized for the next hour or two of scholarship presentations.
My job is done… until next year.
Congratulations, Class of 2012!