Pin It There are times in my life when I realize that I am a bit competitive; you know, trying to get in the shortest line in the supermarket, or reach those perfect middle seats at the movie theatre. There are also times when I find myself having a silent race with nobody in particular… simply just because.
Yesterday I had a student who celebrated his eleventh birthday, and to honor this marvelous occasion his parents took him to a place called Pirate Island situated up Orem. He was permitted to bring a few of his friends from the neighborhood, school, and so forth. He decided to extend invitations to a fairly good group of boys—as well as a certain someone else.
I will admit that I was a bit surprised when I received a personalized invitation and three separate verbal requests on different days to attend his birthday gala. I had done quite well up to this point at deflecting each of these requests with the usual, “Well, I’ll try, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to make it.”
This worked for the first four requests; however, it was just a few days ago that his parents stopped in at the school to pick up some recommended literature; while they were there, they also requested that I attend. Since the gathering was from 3:30 until 5:00, I told them that I would stop in for a few brief minutes before it ended to make an appearance.
Roll forward to 4:45.
The consumption of pizza and most festivities had ended; the boys had all tromped off to the arcade when I slipped in to enjoy a slice of pizza and talk with this boy’s mom and dad who—not surprisingly—were a lot of fun to be around. His mom even entertained me by speaking ‘pirate’ since she worked there, and had dressed the part.
When I was done eating I wished the birthday boy a happy day, smiled, and told them that I needed to go, but I was given a handful of tokens and instructed that I needed to use them before I left for the evening.
I wandered to the arcade where my presence was officially made known to all of my students; they made it no secret that they were excited to see their teacher in a place that was—quite simply—‘not school.’ I pumped my tokens into a few of the machines as the boys frequently directed me to the contraptions which had the greatest probability of spitting out the most tickets to be redeemed as prizes. I quickly fed my tokens into these devices and gave all of my ‘winnings’ to the birthday student, as I had no need for whoopee cushions, eye bouncy-balls, or any other type of knickknack paddycrap.
As I was finishing up the last of my tokens, I noticed several of my students—good boys, really—who seemed to be in a bit of a competition; a few of them seemed to think that they were all that ‘and-a-bag-of-family-sized Cool Ranch Doritos.’
I walked to the group and motioned to the video game standing behind them. “C’mon, Mark,” I said with a grin to one of the boys. “Come take your teacher on in Dance, Dance Revolution.”
Mark looked at the game, saw that there was no controller or switch for his fingers, and quickly decided to forgo the match. Smart move, I thought. When you really when you stop to think about it.
Two more students were offered the challenge. Both times I was declined with nervous shakes of the head.
As I was starting to give up any hope of finding a contender, I noticed a certain young man from my class whom I’ll call ‘Joey,’ who happened to be passing by at that particular moment.
“Joey,” I said with a wave. “Come take me on.”
He looked wary, but walked onto the game pad and took the two tokens I offered.
The game began as the others watched on in anticipated awe.
At this point I’d love to say that I was leaping and blasting through each screen as the dance icons rocketed up and I blew everyone away with my dance skill, but this would probably be dishonest. If I’m really honest I’d admit that I was pretty much floundering all over the place, legs going every which way in a desperate attempt to beat my young rival. Granted, I must have looked like a giant, spastic, epileptic insect sprayed by a can of Raid.
Yet, my students were still impressed.
A bead of sweat coursed down my spine as the first round ended and I looked at the score; I was ahead by nearly 300,000 points.
You go, Teachinfourth, I thought to myself with a grin.
I glanced at my young rival, who just gawked at me with a look of awe. That’s when I remembered…he was only ten.
As the next song began and the second round started, my young opponent did far better than I did. My steps were not quite as accurate as they had been the game before, and when the final scores flashed on the screen, Joey was the clear winner. I pointed this out to him, and congratulated him on a game well played with a high-five and a pat on the back.
As I left Pirate Island a few minutes later and headed for home, I felt a sudden thrill at coming in second place and realized, second place is a great place to be.