I have a friend with a problem. Let’s call my friend “Emma” (because that is, in fact, her name).
Some people cope with life’s problems by eating salty snacks (OK, that would be me). Or they take steaming hot baths (again, me). Or they watch the opening credits of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” 27 times in a row, laughing hysterically every time the line “A moose once bit my sister” pops up in the subtitles (that would be Mr. Coach).
“Emma” copes with life’s problems by staging 5K fun-runs.
Not running in them. Putting them on, as in telling some charitable organization, “Hey! I know a great way to raise money!” and then going out, finding a 5K running course, getting sponsors, printing up t-shirts, collecting money and – this part is critical – calling me and asking me what I’m doing at 6 a.m. on (fill in the date).
That’s because, sometime early in our friendship, “Emma” figured out that most coaches’ spouses are born with an event-organization gene in them. Give us a spreadsheet, a Thermos full of coffee and a box of honey-dip glazed doughnuts, and we can herd people into performing feats of physical exertion – and make them thank us for it. I’m not proud to possess this ability, but I almost always use it for good and not evil purposes.
But I thought I was off the hook when “Emma” moved away almost two years ago. Her husband makes a living running universities and he found a new job at a new school (whose school colors, it should be noted, are much more flattering to “Emma” than our school’s, so I couldn’t blame her for letting him take the job).
But, no, “Emma” was not going to let a little something like 822 miles get in the way of 5K event management. She even managed to frame it in terms of her birthday.
“What are you doing on April 26th?” she called and asked me last month.
“No,” I said, “you cannot stage a 5K to raise funds for your own birthday.”
“It’s not for me!” she said chirpily. “It’s for…,” and she went on to detail some truly demented but creative scheme to raise money for a middle-school jazz band that involves people competing in “trios” and “quartets” in award categories named “Woodwind,” “Brass” and “Rhythm.” (Look, I’m only best friends with the woman. I don’t tell her how to seat her jazz bands.)
So, long story short here, today I am going to be somewhere in the New England tundra, relieving the local citizens of $10 a head ($25 per family). But it’s for a good cause: Come fall, when Mr. Coach’s swim team is planning to stage a fundraiser of some sort, “Emma” is going to have to travel here and return the favor. And I don’t care if her new university’s football team is storming the beaches of Normandy that weekend and a $15 million alumni donation hangs in the balance. She will be here if she wants me to keep enabling her little 5K addiction.