Crawford Hart Guest Contributor
It was our once-a-month team dinner meeting and we’d chosen one of our favorite Irish bars on Third Avenue, somewhere in the low 20’s. The place was crowded, the sidewalks outside were packed, traffic was a nightmare, which none of us had to worry about, having ridden trains in from Brooklyn. It was 7:30. Time to begin. One of our guys arrived at 7:35, which he acknowledged as he sat down.
“I’m late,” he said, a fact sufficiently obvious that it required no particular embellishment from the rest of us. And so we proceeded with a dinner of 2” thick chops and took care of team business.
An hour later there was one more task to tend to and out in front of the bar, on the crowded sidewalk, we got down to it.
“Assume the position,” commanded our captain and we formed a line six abreast, hit the pavement and began doing push-ups and counting aloud.
I’d noticed two cops standing nearby as we exited the bar, but I became more acutely aware of the other passers-by. As we began our exercise, I heard some sniggers, some condescending rude noises and a woman’s voice trilling, “Aren’t they cute?”
And then the cops were in front of us. Where, I wondered, was this heading? A loud voice booming above us left no doubt.
“All right, gentlemen; if you’re gonna do this, do it right. Together! Down! SLOW! Now hold. Back up. And again. Down slow. Hold! Come on, hold, don’t be pussies. Back up.” And so it went, two of New York’s finest teaching a pack of dilettantes a lesson in commitment, pride and teamwork.
Truth is, we’d been a little arrogant, proud of our public display, assuming no one would get it, wearing our “otherness” like a badge. We could have waited till we got back to Brooklyn to honor the core tenant of all teams: they move in sync; one man fucks up, the team fucks up; one man’s late, the team is late. Balance disrupted must be restored. But we’d forgotten what it was about. “Look what we can do,” we were saying, “and fuck you if you don’t get it.”
When we reached 25 and started to fall out, we were met with, “The fuck you doing? You ain’t done.” And so they pushed us through 10 more. And yeah, we were exhausted when we finally got up. Most of us were older than we liked and fatter than we should have been.
I guess there were still some people watching, I don’t really remember. Our captain said, “Thanks, officers; we had some business to take care of.”
They laughed. “Sounds good to me,” one said, and they sauntered off.
Heading back to Brooklyn, no one said anything about standards, supporting each other, keeping our word, giving our best and staying focused on what really matters. The words sound kind of silly when spoken aloud. Besides, two guys whose lives depended every day on never forgetting the value of those ideals had just provided us with the experience. Sometimes you have to know when to keep quiet.