This is an old story of March Madness that a few have hinted at me telling. Here goes.
I would practice pivoting over and over again when we had the basketball unit in high school. Left foot firm, right foot, step. Something like that and something I could do, which was really very important to a sixteen year old girl who could not do much of anything else in gym class. Grace and physical fitness were not my forte. Balancing on a balance beam? It didn’t happen. Hurdles? I may be the only girl actually capable of snagging her 1960′s one piece gym suit while trying to leap over it, dragging her tail behind her.
I did pretty well at basketball, however, and I could pivot. Basketball was the one activity where the teacher actually pulled me aside. A watershed moment. She said she was proud of me.
Pride cometh before the fall.
It was years later, in this All-American season known as March Madness. College hoops at its best. Tournaments. Excitement. Unexpected victories. Heartbreaking losses. March Madness reigned as I was deep in the throes of a local campaign and the family room was being carpeted.
Two workers moved back and forth, removing furniture. Paperwork in hand, a speech for a candidates’ forum playing out in my head, and stress building, I went to open the blinds. With a slight rise to get to the window, I used my left foot to step up, twisted the wand with my free hand to open the blinds, stepped back on my right foot, and proceeded to sink into the floor. A flash of pain, then bewilderment, as I realized I couldn’t move. No matter how well I pivoted, my foot wouldn’t budge.
Unbeknownst to me, Tom had pulled the floor grate off of the heating duct. I was stuck, up to my knee. I pivoted, left, then right, then back again, trying not to panic and laughing at how I must seem! No matter the practice in gym class, the excitement of March Madness, or the fact that two hefty workers kept walking past, paying not a whit of attention to me, I was stuck in the duct, hobbled at the knee, with nowhere to go.
I said, rather meekly “help”.
They kept working. “Help”!
Then, loudly, ” HELP“!
Two astonished carpet layers suddenly stared at me, wide-eyed and uncertain. What do you do when the lady of the house is stuck in the floor you are about to carpet, pivoting, no less. “Oh! Lady!” One tried to dial Tom’s office, but, didn’t understand my instructions. He grabbed his own cell phone, thrust it at me and said “here”. I dialed Tom’s number and rather calmly, considering my predicament, left him a message to please come home. There was a little problem.
The men tried to help me. They brought a chair, but, with one foot in the crawl space and the other on the step, I could only teeter on the brink. They pulled and twisted, to no avail. My leg, stuck to the knee, in a hole in the floor where the carpet would be.
In the midst of the tugging and pulling of my right leg, the door opened, and there was Tom. You can only imagine the look on his face as he opened the door and saw two strangers, kneeling, as if in prayer, at the foot of St. Penelope, patron saint of pivotal moments.
The carpet layers returned to their work and my trusted knight to the garage for foot extracting tools. Then, down he went, to the basement and through the rabbit’s hole into the crawl space. I could hear him moving about, underneath the floorboards, trying to find the devilish duct that had swallowed my foot. A few choice words and out he came – the wrong tools exchanged for the right. My foot was assessed as he carefully removed my shoe, then twisted and bent the duct and whatever else needed to set me free, gently pushing my leg back up to the family room, where it needed to be.
My shoe and small shoe size allowed my foot to fall through without a break. My leg was bruised in a colorful hue but I was still in one piece. The carpet was laid, I gave my speech, and I managed to win, while March Madness played out across the land. The heating duct, forever bent and mangled, grumbled and shook each and every time it forced hot air into the room.
I have often wondered what the carpet layers had to say as they drove out of sight.