On a balmy afternoon about a month ago, while loitering on the deck of the beautiful Prince George Public Library, I spotted something I hadn’t seen in years: a grid for playing hopscotch.
Not just one, but three. Each in a different colour of chalk and each in a different configuration from the others.
I’ve always considered myself relatively observant, but it had never occurred to me there might be more than one way to lay out a hopscotch course.
Admittedly, advanced mathematics was never my strong suit. In fact, I have no idea which flavour of math covers permutations and combinations.
But given that the average hopper has two feet and the average hopscotch grid has ten squares, it seems reasonable that there’s more than one pattern that allows a sequence of one-foot and two-foot landings.
If Bill Gates and his ilk can deliver a world of calculations by combining ones and zeroes, how vast are the possibilities using ones and twos?
There may well be over a bazillion ways to lay out a hopscotch course.
As I contemplated those crude chalk drawings, however, it wasn’t abstract reasoning that occupied my mind.
It was the stark and regretful realization that I have never played hopscotch. Not once.
Suddenly, I had a strong urge to do it. Right then, right there.
I wish I could report that I gave in to the instinct, but that would be a lie. A month later I still puzzle over what held me back.
Was it fear of looking ridiculous to a windowful of library patrons?
Concern about snapping a bone and having to be put down, perhaps?
Paranoia about paramedics packing me off to a quiet place with soft walls?
Logical reasons each of them, but the truth is it probably had something to do with early conditioning.
You see, long before I was a man, I was a boy. And try as I might, I still haven’t shucked off all the gender-conscious baggage of my generation.
In the reptilian brain of a boy in the halcyon days of my youth, Venus and Mars had their own distinctive orbits and never the twain could meet.
Boys had ice hockey and road hockey. Girls had field hockey and ringette, whatever the heck that is.
The world of girls was about dolls and tea parties, Easy-Bake ovens and skipping songs.
The boys’ world was marbles and slingshots, armpit flatulence and complex engineering feats involving meltwater and mud.
A boy could track down outlaws with the Hardy Boys, but never with Nancy Drew.
It wasn’t that one gender was superior. Not really. Just that each had its areas of specialization.
A boy might put a Yo-Yo to sleep for aeons, but it took a girl to keep a hula hoop aloft.
Decades later, society has registered huge strides in awareness, right?
Venus and Mars are still distinctly separate entities, but surely they are equal – if not yet in full, practical application, at least in what we wish for our children and grandchildren.
So I think I’m ready to forget I used to be a guy. And as for the generation issue, well . . . if 70 is the new 50, I’m only just approaching middle age.
I feel like playing hopscotch; just once, to get it off the bucket list.
And goldarnit, if I’m ever back in Prince George I will. I really, really will.
It may not do much for mankind, but it would be a giant leap for a man.
Please alert the paramedics.