by Sarah Garb
There presumably was supposed to be some kind of physical activity involved, but I can’t imagine what. The rope climb--sure. The exercise benefits are obvious. Strengthen those arm muscles! Work those legs! Cultivate calluses! Shuttle Run? Definitely. Build coordination! Run as fast as you can! Well, run as fast as you can for eight steps before slowing down as fast as you can! Those all seem like legitimate physical education endeavors.
One activity in my elementary school’s gym class rotation, though, was of rather dubious exercise or fitness value. It was probably called something like the Roll In a Tube station and it went roughly as follows.
Step 1: Get best friend to agree to roll in Giant Tube with you.
Step 2: Climb into Giant Tube.
Step 3: Wedge yourselves in place, your hands bracing against one surface of the cylinder, your feet bracing against another.
Step 4: Have other kids roll The Tube across the gym.
Step 5: Roll head over feet over head in Tube until step 6.
Step 6: Collide with wall.
Step 7: Stumble out of Tube.
The stomach-churning roll was thrilling and I delighted in the woozy feeling upon exiting The Tube. Thinking back on it, steps 4-7 seem to be quite the opposite of physical well-being, but darn it all if we didn’t have some good times in that Tube.
Though I wasn’t a particularly adventurous or risk-taking child, there were several other things I can remember doing that caused a strong sensation of wooziness. We did them for the thrill of feeling, well, of feeling mildly sick, actually. Diving into a sleeping bag headfirst and rolling around attacking my similarly bagged brother until we didn’t know which end was up was one pastime. An amusement park ride called The Rotor was another. Inside of a large, spinning centrifuge, you’d get stuck to the wall, unable to peel your head or arms or legs away from the black rubber surface. The nausea was 80% of the fun.
And who hasn’t twirled around on your belly on a swing, twisting the chains until the force of the untwisting spun you in dizzying circles? Add to this list the popular Sit and Spin toy, a handful of cartwheels, and one good roll down a steep hill, and it’s clear that a large portion of childhood is devoted to literally just turning yourself in circles for amusement.
The appeal was to feel discombobulated or bizarre or just different, and to marvel at that sensation. As an adult, “I’m about to fall over!” “Everything’s spinning!” or “I am going to puke!” might be symptoms of a worrying illness. Coming from a child, though, they’re most likely the exclamations of delight following a wall-crashingly spectacular roll in the world’s most questionable piece of P.E. equipment.
While all of the childhood spinning has managed to erase many of Sarah's memories of her own early years, she catalogs the entertaining antics of her elementary school students at her blog, Dead Class Pets.