The Wall

I had a moment where I was going to give up. At the Rio Hondo College Police Academy this morning, for the required physical agility test in hopes of being accepted as a cadet, I almost quit before I got started. In my group of applicants, in which I was the oldest by seven years over the next oldest and more than 20 years older than most of the rest, our first test was the six-foot solid wall climb. I threw myself at the thing and never quit trying until the monitor called time, but the end result was him writing “DNC” (Did Not Complete) on my time sheet. I had been unable to haul my carcass up and over the wooden planks. Six feet might as well have been 60.

Embarrassed I went to the back of the line for my second and final attempt. I was seething. Fuming. Pitying. I alternated between silently berating and encouraging myself. And by the time our group cycled through the first round, I was the only male who hadn’t defeated the obstacle. I was crushed. I was angry. And for a split second I wanted to run to my truck and just get the hell out.

But I stayed, and I tried to use that anger. I stared at the wall and I cursed it as those in front of me took their second turns, some of them practically vaulting over it so effortlessly. And I tried to picture myself in pursuit of a bad guy. And then it was my turn, and I called out my last name as had been instructed, and the monitor yelled “Go!” and hit the stopwatch and I charged the wall. Again I tried the technique that failed me the first time. I tried to use my legs, but my feet could get no traction on the wood, and I flailed against the panels, ending up standing in the dirt.

I suppose in that split second I could have walked away. Or I could have tried that same technique again and again until the monitor called time. But instead I crouched down low, sprang up, grabbed the top with both hands, and kicked my right leg up, trying to hook it over the highest plank,. But I didn’t quite get it and I ended up where I’d started. Again, I could have listened to the devil and just given up, but I crouched again, jumped again, grabbed again, and kicked again, and this time my right foot cleared the wall, hooked and held.

Then it was something easier said then done, but somehow I managed to haul the rest of me up and over and I landed in the dirt on the other side of the wall and sprinted the 20 yards to the finish cone. I heard cheers and claps behind me.

The monitor called out my time: 13.6 seconds.

I wasn’t the fastest. I wasn’t the strongest. I wasn’t the toughest. But I was the proudest. I beat the wall after it beat me and I let out a triumphant yell to celebrate.

PS. I went on to slowly and steadily and successfully complete all the remaining components of the test: the-six-foot chainlink fence (9.6 seconds), the 99-yard obstacle course (19.4 seconds), the 30-foot, 165-pound dummy drag (5.2 seconds); and the 500-yard run (2:09).


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Will Campbell arrived in town via the maternity ward at Good Sam Hospital way back in OneNineSixFour and has never stopped calling Los Angeles home. Presently he lives in Silver Lake with his wife Susan, their cat Rocky, dogs Terra and Hazel, and a red-eared slider turtle named Mater. Blogging since 2001, Will's web endeavors extend back to 1995 with, a comprehensive theater site that was well received but ever-short on capital (or a business model). The pinnacle of his online success (which speaks volumes) arrived in 1997, when much to his surprise, a hobby site he'd built called VisuaL.A. was named "best website" in Los Angeles magazine's annual "Best of L.A." issue. He enjoys experiencing (and writing about) pretty much anything creative, explorational and/or adventurous, loves his ebike, is a better tennis player than he is horr golfer, and a lover of all creatures great and small -- emphasis on "all."