Random Prompt #299
Have you ever spoken up when you saw something going on that was wrong? Were you scared? What ended up happening?
When I read the topic sentence for #299 my mind immediately jumped not to a time I spoke up, but to a time that I didn’t speak up. My middle daughter Caroline was maybe ten years old playing on a town softball team and was eternally stuck in right field. There were older girls on the team and some travel players getting a little extra work in this less competitive league including the coach’s daughter. Caroline had endured this same scenario on the previous year’s team: stuck forever in right field while the travel girls and the coach’s daughter pitched and played infield. Bored to tears at the lack of action in right field she would start to play with the dirt at the edge of the infield or would twirl around with outstretched arms like a helicopter. I would encourage her to keep her head in the game and she tried, but she was ten and stuck softball’s version of purgatory. Who could begrudge her this lack of attention? Youth sports coach, that’s who.
Neither Caroline or I can remember if she asked the coach if she could play a position other than right field or if he just took it upon himself after she was lost in an extended daydream, but between innings in a game that they were hopelessly winning the coach, in front of her teammates, teammates parents and the whole town softball community, imitated her helicopter routine. This is a man of fifty plus years spinning around with outstretched arms telling a ten year she can’t play second base if she going spin around like a helicopter.
Though shocked and filled with fury, as my humiliated little girl took a seat at the end of the bench all by herself, I did nothing, I was paralyzed. I’d like to say my lack of action was the result of some high mindedness, knowing it was better to show restraint rather than escalating the situation, After all, I’m the guy who automatically pulls over and lets you pass when you’re riding my ass in your pickup truck (and it’s always some douche in a pickup truck). If you’re an ass to me at work I mostly look past it and never retaliate because I don’t want to be an ass too. I like poetry and despite the jeers of every self-styled tough guy I ever met I remain steadfast in my belief that Led Zeppelin sucks. But it wasn’t any cool Zen like state of mind that prevented me from acting. I was raging inside and wanted to kill that coach.
But no punches or even loud voices were used to resolve the issue. It was resolved with a simple, civilized phone call. The coach remained a jerk and didn’t really apologize, but Caroline, as well as some of the other marginal players did see more time at various positions for the rest of the season and did just fine. As for me, when I think about this incident or occasionally see that coach around town I still feel rageful. My anger for that coach, maybe youth sports and the unfairness that my daughter wasn’t a better athlete is misdirected though, the real culprit in all of this is me. I could come up with a reasonable explanation for my lack of action, but could never find a way to excuse it. My little girl was humiliated and instead of protecting her and fighting for her I just stood there and let it happen without a peep, thus perpetuating the cycle of fear and humiliation I also endured as a kid. Beyond the diminished respect from Caroline, a further punishment is that I will never forget or forgive myself for my lack of action or my lack of courage.
And that’s what comes to mind when prompt #299 asks: have you ever spoken up when you saw something going on that was wrong.