The school obviously had a tiny budget for track and field equipment. My dad made the hurdles out of used 2 x 4s. The high jump and pole vault standards were made of metal poles cast into concrete-filled truck tires. The coolest thing though was the landing mat for the high jump and pole vault. It was made of what appeared to be an old sewn together fishing net filled with brick sized pieces of foam; like the kind that you use when washing your car.
The mat was sort of a makeshift gathering place for hanging out after track practice. We would sit out there, smoke cigarettes and swap stories about school. Okay, we never smoked cigarettes, but one time somebody did bring some pop rocks and wax lips, both of which were strictly prohibited on school property. I was always uncomfortable hanging out with the cool kids, but because it was a carryover from track practice, I was tolerated.
One day, 6 or so of us were sitting out there on the mat, including Lindsey, a girl I had a huge crush on. Right in the middle of a serious conversation about how Mork tried to kidnap Fonzie last night on TV, all the guys jumped off the mat in unison, leaving just me and Lindsey. Before I could react, they folded the mat over on top of us, rolling us up inside. I was fear-stricken. I don’t remember ever being claustrophobic before or since, but at that moment, I was convinced that I was about to die. I was probably pressed up against the cutest girl that I had ever seen, but all I could do was scream like a little girl that I was suffocating.
Despite my pleading, the guys sat on top of mat for what seemed like an eternity. I didn’t even acknowledge Lindsey. I just kept screaming. Eventually, they unfolded it and let us out. I didn’t make eye contact with any of them, including Lindsey. I just ran across the playground as fast as I could, got on my bike and pedaled home. I never, in my whole life, said a single word to Lindsey ever again.