Circus Throws and the Value of Perception

Being a kid in high school means being an idiot, or at least it did in my case. You do dumb stuff, and you’re supposed to. Most will say that it’s because it’s for the experience of growing and becoming wiser, but that’s only about half of it. The main reason is because, if you survive it, you should come out of it with some funny stories to tell people later. Yes, of course, you should learn from them too, but they should also be good at parties.

This one was sort of a lesson in what happens when you give power to those who aren’t ready for it, kind of like teaching an unstable person forbidden martial arts. You’re arming them with an ability they aren’t otherwise fit to use. Such was the case when some poor idiot taught two other poor idiots how to perform what they called a “circus lift.”

Basically, you grab your left wrist with your right hand while standing opposite someone else doing the same, and then you each grab the other persons right wrist with your open left hand. What you should have between you when you’re done is basically a net of your arms. We were told – unwisely, as time would show – is that you can toss willing participants really, really high when you have them sit on your newfound arm-net. Just bend with the knees, count to three, and launch them.

And you know what? It works. It really, really works.

My buddy Peter and I became a regular sideshow attraction most lunch periods by the Senior Steps, taking volunteers and hucking them up into the air. We got good at it and an eensy, teensy bit famous for it. So it just became what we did for a few weeks. Then we had That Day happen. You know the one, the one that earns those capital letters, and the fateful dun-dun-duuuun piano bass.

It had rained pretty heavily the night before, and our usual launch pad was the grassy slope next to the Steps. As you could imagine, it was still slick and muddy by the time lunch came around, and that should have given our regularly schedule launches cause for postponement. But this wouldn’t be the Tale of Two Idiots if we did that. So of course we kept throwing people that day. (And in our defense, it should be The Tale of About a Dozen Idiots given how people kept stepping up, despite the slippery conditions.)

It comes to our last throw of the day, and a friend of ours steps up – we’ll call her Ana, for the sake of this. So Ana sheds her backpack, takes a seat, we do our countdown, we launch her, and…well, you know those times you get a feeling? A Bad Feeling? It’s the moment directly after doing some irrevocable that forces you to raise your eyebrow a bit and think, “Uh-oh. That might have been a bad idea.”

Right away, you can see that Ana’s trajectory and mid-air balance are off. She went pretty high, too. The way she hit her arc and is on her way down doesn’t look too promising, but there’s nothing to do but cringe and see how she ultimately sticks the landing.

She does not stick the landing.

What happens is she breaks her damn ankle. It was a loud, pretty sickening cracking sound that I can still hear pretty clearly in my head when I think about it. I remain pretty proud of my instincts, because I didn’t waste any time in acting. It was pretty clear precisely what had happened, and I’m off to the nurse like a lightning bolt. I’ve always been a tall kid, and as a seventeen-year-old Energizer Bunny, I made really good time. I get to the nurse, quickly explain what’s happened, and lead her to the site of the accident.

The only problem is that I didn’t tell anyone I was doing that. So to everyone else, I just threw this girl in the air, heard her ankle break, and Usain-Bolt’d out of the scene like a complete a**hole.

Things wound up alright in the end, and I’m a lot better at communication nowadays.