I’m always happy when I get to read blogs from people I’ve gotten to know over the years. Like Moose. Some of you probably know him better as the Panzercow, but before Panzercow existed, there was Moose Droppings. And happily, Moose Droppings seems to be making a slow comeback. Hooray!
Last night, Moose posted about the Greatest Team Building Exercise Ever. And I have to agree, in terms of sheer humiliation and group mortification, it definitely deserves the title.
However, I think I’ve got a story that can rival it in terms of long term consequences.
Let’s rewind back a few years. Say, to the summer of 1998. I’m getting ready for my sophomore year of High School, where I would be the Clarinet Section Captain in the Marching Band – as a Sophomore. Basically in charge of a group of Juniors and Seniors. Most people didn’t get that responsibility until they WERE seniors, mostly because nobody likes to listen to someone younger than they are.
Regardless, there I was, part of the Leadership Corps.
And so, after teaching a large and largely unwilling group of incoming freshmen the ins and outs of 8 to 5 field drill, we headed off to “Leadership Camp”.
When you’re in High School, they call it Leadership Camp, you see. Later on, it’ll be “Team Building”, as if they assume that the 30 or so of us that were there were automatically going to end up in positions where we didn’t have to DO “Team Building” or something, we’d all be “Leaders”.
We spent the first two days doing… well… team building exercises. Much like Moose, we did a few “Trust Falls” and something like the spiderweb exercise. We came up with slogans and made posters. We helped pick out that year’s band T-shirt design. We listened to lectures on motivation and learning our strengths.We talked about going to the UIL State Marching Contest, and how the show was going to look. We voted on Stand Tunes.
Basic teenager “leadership” stuff, where we did a lot of bullshit and then got to have “input” on decisions that I’m pretty sure the band directors made anyway.
I was one of two sophomores there at the camp (the other was my then-boyfriend, we’ll call him A). In the evenings, as high schoolers in condos in a resort on a lake in North Texas are likely to do, there were “parties”. Of course, there wasn’t any alcohol – none of us could drink – but there were vast quantities of sugar, and I think more than one group ended up with some sticky icky.
Neither I nor A were really invited, but we kind of puttered through a couple of rooms before I decided to call it a night and go to bed. (I’m a chronic morning person, I’m not sure it’s curable)
So by Sunday of our “Weekend” we were all pretty well sick of each other, and thoroughly sick of “Leadership”. Fortunately, Sunday was to be “drill” day.
Resorts on lakes in North Texas usually don’t have football fields that they loan out to marching bands though, so we were practicing on a tennis court.
Before I get into this part of the story, I should explain that I have something called Hyper Mobility Syndrome, which basically means I’m super flexible and have too much space in my joints. My knees bend 25 degrees *backwards*, for example. As such, I’m prone to joint injuries and have had a slew of them over my life, to the point where I’m pretty comfy on a set of crutches.
Anywho, back to Leadership Camp.
We did some “simon says” drill type games, practiced how to shout from your gut so that even mousy clarinet section leaders can be heard on a field while learning drill, etc. And then, in a moment of frustration with a pack of really bored teenagers who wanted to be ANYWHERE but in the baking sun on a tennis court on a Sunday morning with a bunch of people they only marginally and acquaintance-ally liked… the director told us all to run 5 laps of the court.
To burn off steam.
Now, this sounds pretty innocent. In fact, it’s pretty typical punishment (the other punishment being pushups, and I like running better).
The part that made it less than innocent was that 30 people running in a gaggle around a tennis court doesn’t exactly make for great visibility. And those 30 people running on a tennis court – with no nets – means that the people in the middle of the pack are just blindly trusting those in front of them to not fuck it up somehow.
So the people in the front of the pack clearly saw the tennis-court-green solid steel net-poles before anyone else, and avoided them.
I, in the middle of the pack, did not.
I slammed my right leg into that pole going full speed, at which point the lower half of my leg stopped, while the upper part of my leg just kept going, thanks to quadriceps muscles in full gear. This resulted in an audible snapping sound emanating from my knee, at which point I blacked out and went arse over teakettle and landed on my back, passed out cold on the tennis court.
All this in full view of the rest of the group, which stopped and clustered around me, looking down at the idiot who ran into the post.
My first thought, on coming to my senses, flat on my back on the concrete staring up at a circle of concerned faces, was “why is everyone looking at me”. My second thought was “where is my knee?” (not what happened. where is it. I had no feeling in my leg.)
The resulting mess required my band director to carry me, princess style, up three flights of steps to my parents, who came and took me to the hospital. Two weeks in an immobilizing brace later, and the MRI confirmed what all the various doctors suspected.
I’d completely torn my ACL, scratched up most of the cartilage, and the resulting carnage looked like someone had set off a frag bomb in the synovial fluid of my knee.
And so, the sophomore Clarinet Section Captain was relegated to Band Librarian, sitting on the sidelines and eventually being allowed to carry ladders and Long Ranger Metronomes for people, never to set foot on the field. I had ACL and cartilage repair surgery on Homecoming weekend (A, still the then-boyfriend, made me a homecoming mum for my surgery brace), and stood in the stands with people’s parents at State Marching, where we came in 7th.
All thanks to Leadership Training.
On the bright side, I’ve got a really good excuse, when people ask what happened to my knee, to say “well, this one time at band camp…”