One of my earliest memories of Ohio University was waking up cold, alone, in the wrong room and bed, and unable to move my legs.
Just kidding – I’m way too lame for that. I was in the marching band, my normal dorm (oh, sorry, residence hall) was closed for construction, and this was the dawn of day two of freshman training.
Day one had been in the 80s and dry. We marched back and forth so long and hard that the dirt developed long, geometric ditches. After we halted, the dust cloud obscured us freshmen like a foul mist. We practiced from sunup to high noon before we took a break, when we learned the only thing worse than feet that screamed in pain with every step – those same feet after you had sat down for a few minutes.
It felt like your feet, deprived of the pressure of your body pushing down, had swollen like a water balloon.
As soon as you stood on it, it felt like you were squeezing out your feet like they were two tiny air mattresses. And then we marched some more.
When I woke up, I first tried to swing my legs off the bed. Other than to ache, they did not respond. I grabbed each one with both hands and lifted them, one at a time, off the bed. It was nearly impossible to reach down and put on my shoes. I didn’t dare sit, because I was fairly certain that I would not be able to make it back up.
Then the strangest thing happened. Marching didn’t hurt so much. Maybe I had beaten on my feet so much that they had finally given up trying to resist.
The next day, we would meet the upperclassmen. Our morning stomp-around was run by a dance commander rather than the field commander, which was fun – he was a lot more laid-back.
That is, until he saw one of the new tubas chewing gum on the field. Based on the response, you would have thought that he had been chewing on a baby bird.
The dance commander screamed, “Is that gum? Get set!” Everybody snapped to attention as he continued. “Don’t you ever, ever have gum on this field! Up into four!” Five whistle blows later, we all were in hell.
“Up into four” is a bit of a difficult concept to describe. To experience our pain firsthand, stand up, and clasp your hands in front of your face. Then, as quickly as you can and all in one movement, try to lean back about 30 degrees, twist your upper body to the left (keep your hands in front of your face), and lift your left leg until it is a bit above 90 degrees to your other leg. Try not to fall over. Then hold that. Keep holding. Don’t stop until your legs muscles feel like they’re going to snap. Then, unfortunately, keep that leg up there. We kept this up for five whole minutes while the dance commander screamed about respect.
Finally, he called “Back down!” With a sigh of relief, we started to return to attention. Before our legs were halfway down, though, he again bellowed “Up into four!” Then he yelled again for five more.
You know, I felt uneasy around gum for two years after that.