I Was as Erect as I Could Be

The year was 1979.  I was in fifth grade at Carver Elementary School in San Marino, California.

Toward the end of the school year, we had an Olympics-style competition, where we competed in various sports and won ribbons for First, Second and Third Places.

I won nothing.

But at the end of the sports was a competition called — prepare yourself here — The Posture Parade.

The glorious Posture Parade involved a team of 10 people, all of whom stood in a straight  line and proceeded to walk along a designated route across the playground.  Judges graded your team on how straight each of you stood as you walked.   The more erect, the better.

Like in the sports competitions, I expected to win nothing.

But lo, the wheel of fortuna turned in my favor that spring day.

All of the slouchy kids (and the kid with the spinal disorder, affectionately nicknamed “Johnny Hunchback”) were all assigned to other teams.

I, Stephan Pastis, was left with a team of absolute ringers.  Our point man, Bob, was perhaps the most athletic person in the school and walked so erect he was practically on his tip toes.  Sarah, just behind him, could balance a stack of delicate pottery on her head, like those women you see in National Geographic.

And there, in the third position, was yours truly.  After Bob and Sarah, I had only to hold my own.  And hold my own I did.

I walked like a superstar.

I think my greatness that day was due to the fire that raged inside me following my many losses in the various sporting events.  Take, for example, the pull-up competition.  While some kids could do a dozen, I couldn’t do one.  Worse, everyone in my class stood around at the base of the pull-up bar watching closely as I failed.  A dark day, indeed.

But the Posture Parade was my shot at redemption.

And I ran with it.  (Well, walked erectly with it.)

When the judges gave out the ribbons that day, my team came in first.  I was so excited, I jumped up and down.  This looked odd, as none of the other kids on my team showed any reaction.

But it meant more to me.

I was a champion.

17 thoughts on “I Was as Erect as I Could Be

  1. Thus the purpose of the “erect” race. So non-athletic kids like Pastis could win at least in something. (Trust me, Been there, done that in elementary school).
    P.S. – very mis-leading title. I thought it was about your experience with Pay-per-View t.V. 🙂

  2. Wow, in fifth grade we did something very similar to that Olympics-Style competition. After each event, the announcer dude would say the names of the top ten students in each event. Like you, I did not win any of them, except for the speed walking contest, they said I got eighth place…which was strange, because I did not compete in that contest. But, of course, I wasn’t about to correct them.

  3. I got good grades in grade school but my proudest achievement was getting and “N” on my report card for “needs improvement” when it came to keeping a clean desk. It was so messy you couldn’t close the top. Much cooler than a posture prize, but I bet your mother was proud. Walk on!

  4. Oh my F#@!ing christ…that is hysterical..
    And I now feel so much better for my own
    grade school ineptitude…lol
    although I did win in a strange -shoot hoops” competition in 8th grade..and I didn’t play basketball and I HATED the gym teacher ,who upon me winning shooting ,like ten baskets in a row non stop, tried to enlist me on the team,wherein I replyed” I don’t enjoy or believe in competitive sports”..thereby ensuring his everlasting hatred of me for the rest of the school year……

  5. I remember in Fifth grade we had something like this but it was called a “Field day” instead. We did random activities on the soccer feild next to the school and at the end the so called “winners” got ribbons… I woulnt know who won, my friends and I found the water balloon stash (was one of the activities) and had a water balloon fight during the awards. I never will know if I won anything.

  6. Nice title. Now, I know that there’s at least one person who’s more of a loser then me.

  7. like you i never win at sports. but i could not win an erict line contest. but still i would`ent get so #@$! excited. but congrats any way.

  8. lol.. reminds me of field day as well.. All I ever participated in was tug of war and we never won, not for a lack of skill so much as a lack of weight. we were the skinny school and in tug of war the fat kids ruled.. unfortunately my school didn’t hand out conciliatory “we’re sorry you’re not athletic” prizes.. leaving me with the self esteem I have to this day. =P

  9. We had field day too. One event included taking an egg on a spoon and trying to walk a distance without dropping it on the ground and breaking it. Then there was the tug of war where one team ended up in the mud. Somebody always ended crying. I usually ended up with a “participant” award.

    Stephan, you look fit now. You could clobber those 5th graders now.

  10. You are like my hero. Well sorta… Kinda… umm….

    I at least really like your comic. And your blog posts. And I guess the chain-smoking thing is kinda cool too.

    So yeah, your totally my hero.

  11. I went to Carver! I was a fifth grader EXACTLY twenty years after you, Class of 1999! We most definitely did not have a Posture Parade. We did, however, have awards for PE and I won one that year. For a kid who hated even walking to the kitchen, not too shabby!

    Anyway, congrats on your championship stature.

  12. Joshua, actually, Stephan said that although he drew himself as a chain smoking cartoonist with a toilet specifically reserved for his “gender”, he doesn’t smoke in real life. At all.

    Keep up the healthy lifestyle Stephan, and keep the jokes coming. I like where this “Pearls without Pig” is heading.


  13. When my non-athletic geeky son was in Jr. High, he joined the track team for unknown reason. One day he came home from a meet and I asked him how it went. “I came in third!!” he said excitedly. “That’s great!” I replied. “How many kids were in the race?” Pause. “Three.” I knew I had to say something supportive, so I told him he had performed a heroic duty that day. He had kept someone else from coming in last and feeling bad. Ever since then, my son (now 26) has taken that to heart. From then on, anytime he came in last at anything, he knew he was performing a charitable act!

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