The false giant bellowed above me. I couldn’t see his face, but judging from the slight bellows of words that reached my ears, it had to be a nice bright crimson. I stared at my shoes on the forward board. The muscles in my legs then fired like cylinders in a two-stroke engine, and propelled my torso toward the moon. My flight was abruptly interrupted by my toes, feet, and ankles which were actually shackled to the forward segment of the machine. Clang! The seat barked off the end of the track and sprang forward. My knees anticipated the sudden momentum reversal and bent automatically, preventing severe and automatic injury. Bang! I was back at my shoes again, wondering just how exactly they had become so filthy.
I was then hurtling away again, causing the chain to waive erratically and the fan belt to sputter in agony. Absently, I waived the paddle that was attached to the chain and zoomed back toward my feet. From the hue and cry that was reaching a fever pitch behind me, it was obvious that the Assistant Coach had some choice words about my non-existent technique. I wasn’t really listening, because I had been on the machine for five minutes beyond any of the other conscripts, and my herky-jerky noises, while aesthetically unappealing and technically incorrect did have a nice slave-galley rhythm in my mind. Then, as my direction again shifted, my smooth velocity inhaled something outside the wind tunnel of low speed and with a massive fabric rendering roar, I came to a complete stop.
Two days before, we had followed the last faded sign to a large conglomeration of folding tables and cheery students with copious fliers, signs, and propaganda about their respective groups. The Activity Fair was an event laden with plenty of sophists extolling the virtues of their groups in eloquent flowery prose, but no food. Cautiously, we avoided these adjectives and adverbs that were laid at our feet like snares, especially from groups that we had already inadvertently met. Somewhere along the way, Secret was netted by an absolutely horrific bunch of individuals who charitably volunteered to build houses for the homeless in war-torn nations. Grimly, Party and I pressed on, trying to avoid the remaining beneficial causes by closing our eyes and blundering on.
When we opened our eyes, we found ourselves outside of the reef of babble, and in front of a small, dingy three legged table with an illegible sign. There was no talk of heavenly rewards. In fact, the table’s proprietors were as grubby in appearance as we were. Coolly, we drifted in. After a laconic exchange, we found out that the booth was offering tryouts for the Crew team. We were told we could sign up, or not; either way, things were copasetic, because the team wouldn’t miss us either way.
Before we left, we were told that if we did sign up, there would be a litany of amazing benefits, such as physical fitness, which would result in us obtaining massively chiseled physiques, which would in turn allow us to attract only the most beautiful girls on and off campus; and if that was not enough, we would travel to such exotic and wondrous locales as Kansas City, Atlanta, and Chicago, and possibly Pennsylvania without paying a single ounce of our own money, and even more fantastic, we would row in races, and win grand trophies, that would rest in the hallowed school gymnasium for eons in their brass splendor proclaiming our individual glories.
Briefly, Party and I held a conference out of marginal earshot of the promoters. Both of us agreed on two things: that we knew nothing about the sport; and that it was clearly our ticket to becoming the big men on campus, since we had missed soccer tryouts with raging hangovers. Since it was such a super-duper opportunity, we took the only conceivable course of action. We permanently committed our respective names on their roster for the semester.