Make a Basket!

The sixth graders at Brown Elementary in California eagerly boarded the bus to Alliance Redwoods, a week-long nature retreat near the coast. I arrived just in time after a futile attempt to find an open store in order to buy Dramamine, a miracle-drug for motion-sickness. I possess a long record of motion-sickness, which spawned several family taboos, such as not eating Taco Bell before road trips and never leaving home while hungry. Confident, I pulled on my new, blue jacket and hopped onto the bus.

For part of the ride, I sat with my new friend, Liz, and we put on makeup samples from a magazine she smuggled past the teachers. Several hours later, we huddled around each other at a little rest area with a great cliff-side view of Marine World across the highway. Liz informed me that she wanted to sit with her best friend, and Sandy, a very frustrating former friend, needed someone to sit with. Reluctantly, I agreed with hopes of Sandy either ignoring me or acting normal. As we shuffled back onto the warm bus, I realized that I felt hungry. Since the teachers scheduled lunch somewhere only an hour or two away, I ignored the feeling and hung my jacket over the seat in front of me.

Unfortunately, Sandy did not ignore me. In fact, she proceeded to taunt and pester me for the next hour. For a while, though, we "socialized" until she started her teasing again. Grumbling in her direction, I began to recognize the signs: headache, tight throat, and odd stomach ache.

Telling Sandy to shut up, I glared angrily out the window and blinked. On the horizon stretched the ocean, blanketed by the slate-gray sky. My breath caught in my throat as I looked and realized that the bus drove dangerously on a cliff at least eighty feet high. "Look!" I exclaimed as I glanced directly below us. I did not see the road; I saw sand. Afraid of heights and horrified, I turned away and covered my mouth with my hands. Within seconds, I leaned forward and the contents of my stomach spilled over my hands into the hood of my jacket. Amused, Sandy yelled, "She made a basket!"

My mind raced; although I felt proud that I managed to throw up in my jacket and not my lap, I nearly turned red with embarrassment. As I walked slowly to the front of the bus, many of the other students shamelessly expressed their disgust. The parent shoved my soiled jacket into a black trash bag and offered to pay for dry cleaning. At first, I accepted, but I quickly changed my mind when she told me to pay her back later. My pride, which miraculously remained in tact after throwing up in front of a large portion of the sixth grade, refused to owe someone for something so trivial. If she did not help me out of the goodness of her heart, then she did not need to help me.

My jacket remained in that bag until I returned home at the end of the week. As I traipsed over to my mom and showed her the black trash bag, she shook her head. I grinned proudly. "The throw-up only got in my jacket," I said. "So, it wasn't that embarrassing."

The words, "Make a basket, Tracy! Make a basket," floated around the playground for months afterward. The "jacket incident," as my best friend and I still refer to it, taught me how to smile during embarrassing situations. My smile served me well through the next dozen embarrassing incidents, none of which rivaled "the jacket."