I'm the kind of person who skips to the conversation when reading a book.


All day Saturday was spent at a swim meet. I love swim meets, but I was totally wiped out by the end of the day.  It can be like 10 hours of herding cats.  Kids can be so clueless.

Anita is a twelve year old girl on our team of the clueless variety.  Whenever I talk with her, I feel like, at best, she’s half there.  I know that she will mature out of this, but, right now, it can be painful to deal with her.

At swim meets, I station myself in one spot of the deck where I can see the races and see that the swimmers are behind the blocks when they should be.  We had about 40 swimmers there on Saturday, and four coaches, which makes for a very good ratio.  There is no reason anyone should miss their event.  And yet there were swimmers who did.  You can guess who one of them was.

As Anita’s event came up, I started scanning the masses of kids milling around behind the blocks. I could not spot Anita.

“Where’s Anita?” I asked the coach next to me.  We both stood there looking, looking, looking.

The referee blew the series of short whistles which signaled the swimmers that their event was going to start.  I could feel the anxiety rising in my chest.  Anita was supposed to be in lane 5, the very lane where her mother was timing.  I watched her mother look at her clipboard, realize Anita should be there, and start scanning the crowd, too.

The referee blew one long whistle, the step-up command for the swimmers.  No Anita.

“Take your mark,” the starter commanded and then sounded the buzzer.  The swimmers dove in, the swimmers that were there, that is.

It was right about that point when I saw Anita, hovering near lane 1, talking to one of our coaches.  She rushed over to lane 5, and judging by her mother’s hand gestures, heard something along these lines:  “Where were you?!  You just missed your event!”

Anita said something to her mother.  Her mother looked at Anita’s hand.  Then Anita was gone.

About half an hour later, I saw Anita, dressed in street clothes, loitering near where the times were posted.  She looked so sad, I didn’t have the heart to say anything to her.  Plus, I figured that her mother was going to give her what-for for the whole car ride home.

Back on the pool deck, one of the other coaches was talking with Anita’s mother.


“It’s all my fault,” the mom was saying. “I wrote it wrong on her hand.”

Swimmers often write their events, heats, and lanes on the their hands to help them get to the right place at the right time.

“I transposed the heat and the lane,” she went. “I wrote Heat 5, Lane 1, when she should have been in Heat 1, Lane 5.”

It wasn’t Anita’s fault after all.  I thought Anita’s cluelessness led to her missing the event.  I was wrong.  I thought Anita’s mother was upset with her for missing the event.  I was wrong again. I had misread the whole thing.


4 comments on “Misread

  1. Theena Theen
    January 14, 2013

    That is so sad for Anita. I can imagine how disappointed she was. I feel for her. Thank you for sharing!

    • sarahlangdon
      January 17, 2013

      She was bitterly disappointed. I hope it never happens again.

  2. marymcleary
    January 16, 2013

    When I taught, I often felt like I too was herding cats. They needed it! Bless you for taking the time to herd. So many don’t have anyone who will.

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