In the Ninth Seat
"WEIGH ENOUGH!" I yelled this tonight at 8 adults. Miraculously, 8 adults immediately complied and held their oars steady, stopping our racing shell in its tracks. Which was awesome, because I was steering us right into the side of a bridge. So yeah. There were a few hiccups during my second week of training to be a coxswain. It is just as sexy as it sounds, believe me. To be entrusted with this position on a team, you must be small enough to fit into a seat made for wee people. Wee people who justify their dead weight with straight steering, smart calls and a sharp eye for rogue logs.
I'm still not exactly sure how I ended up in the 9th seat. A few weeks ago my friend from the gym messaged me on Facebook saying her rec team had the crew for two boats, but only one cox. I seemed to possess all the qualities, being so small and persuadable. Add to that the worldly experience one gets teaching two indoor rowing classes, and it was only logical to put me at the stern of a 53ft boat. Worth a couple tens of grands. No big.
Of course I said yes. Who cares if I can't parallel park a car! I am small dammit, and this job was made for me! (Also, fuck wall balls.)
How hard could it be? Truth be told it's not that taxing when the coach does all your calls for you. Which at first she must, because you're zigzagging across the river like a drunk. The first outings I just pulled at the strings that control the rudder a little, then climbed back into the launch to watch a pro cox take over. This is like, so easy!
When I was four practices deep and coach started entrusting me with more calls, the learning curve showed its tricky self. I'm no dumb hunk of meat attached to a rudder. I'm also responsible for timing and cuing and drilling and docking the fricking boat and remembering my port from my starboard. OH. This is coxing.
But the hardest part is coming to grips with the fact that the final practice of the week happens on Friday. Friday. When I heard the schedule, I didn't believe it either. Does the entire team have a martyr complex? Are they from another country, where everybody doesn't work for the weekend?
Tonight was my first Friday practice and I'll be honest, I was a little meh about going. But then when I walked through the door, greeted with enthusiasm from my team, I got it. They needed me. Even if I was to eventually steer them into a tangle of low hanging branches, I'd help them avoid a log or two. A novice cox is a heck of a lot better than no cox.
The city was washing back a hard week with their Miller Lites, but we got the whole river to ourselves. We wobbled, we found our rhythm for a few glorious strokes and we all worked together. One boat, y'all.