Last weekend Kish and I saw some of the kids in the neighborhood running around on a warm spring day. I listened carefully, but didn’t hear the dreaded cry of “Tag! You’re it!”
Every kid loves summer, and games like kickball and red rover were were as much a part of summer as hot dogs and riding bikes and roasting marshmallows. But I hated tag. The reason? I was a tubby youth who was by far the slowest kid in the neighborhood.
Every game of tag that I was involved in followed the same humiliating pattern. Someone else would be chosen to be “it.” That kid would then immediately scan the kids in the neighborhood. His eyes would find me and light up with a feverish gleam. As I tried to run away — in reality moving at a stately pace that could be timed with an hourglass — he would zip up, easily tag me, and dart away. Then I would spend seeming hours trudging unsuccessfully after other lightning-quick kids. After a while the speediest kids would come closer and closer, taunting me with their proximity and daring me to tag them — but I couldn’t.
Hide and seek wasn’t much better, but at least there I could hope to find a good hiding place, then trot to the base while the seeker went far away after somebody else. But with tag, there was no hiding option or strategy that could compensate for the lack of quickness and speed. After I was reduced to a hot, sweaty, red-faced mess and the game got boring, another kid would inevitably allow me to make a “pity tag” so the game could go on. I didn’t care. I was just happy to not be “it” for a while — or at least until the second-slowest kid decided he needed an easy target.