I'm the kind of person who skips to the conversation when reading a book.
In my spare time, I officiate at high school swim meets. It’s something I love doing. I love interacting with the kids and the coaches, and, if I haven’t said it before, I love the sport.
A typical swim meet has twelve events always in the same order: four swimming events, then diving, then a second warm-up, followed by the final seven events. Last night I officiated a meet at a local high school. It was their last home meet of the season and, therefore, senior night, a time when the graduating seniors are recognized. Senior recognition generally takes place after diving.
When we got to diving, there was only one diver, a nice young man named Trey from the home team. I went over to talk to him before we began.
“Did you dive at the big meet this weekend?” I asked him, referring to an invitational diving meet held at one of the other high schools.
“No, ma’am,” he said.
When a teenager calls me “ma’am”, it can mean a variety of things: one or both of his parents are from the south, one or both of his parents were in the military, or he’s a wise guy. This young man definitely wasn’t a wise guy. He was respectful and polite. I appreciate that.
I went through my typical pre-diving speech. “Listen carefully when they announce your dive,” I told him. “If you don’t think it is correct, speak up and we can check. If something happens in the course of one of your dives, a door slams, a cell phone goes off, –” Here, as if on cue, one of the many balloons decorating the deck popped. We both smiled. “If a balloon pops, for instance, while you’re diving and it distracts you, signal me as soon as you come to the surface, and you may be allowed a re-dive. Do you have any questions?”
“No, ma’am,” he said.
“You may make one practice approach and entry before we begin,” I told him.
“Thank you, ma’am,” he said.
As Trey climbed the ladder to the board, I turned to signal the announcer that we were about ready. The announcer was on the side of the pool, talking. I tried waving at him to get his attention, but he wasn’t looking my way. Trey took his approach and chose not to enter. He climbed off the board and waited. I turned again to the announcer. It almost seemed intentional, like he was ignoring me.
Hmmph, I thought. This is annoying. I waved again and got nothing. My next option was to blow my whistle. A woman who helped with the team came bustling over to me.
“We trying to stall a little,” she said. “Trey’s father is a custodian and they’re trying to find him.”
“Is Trey a senior?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said. “And his father works evenings so he rarely gets to see Trey dive. This is his last chance.”
I felt almost guilty for being annoyed. There was a little flurry of activity at the door and several people entered, one of them a burly man wearing a gray custodian’s shirt.
“There he is,” she said. “We can start now.”
I looked at Trey and saw his face brighten. His father smiled and gave him a little wave.
I used to think one of the most beautiful sights was a father holding his newborn child, but it was rivaled last night by the look of pride on one custodian’s face as he watched his son dive.
And I was privileged enough to behold it.