When I was a freshman in high school, the yo-yo became my salvation. It wasn’t until the second semester that I finally brought the toy to school, but the day I did I became a new person.
I spent the first semester quiet, reserved, scared. I ate lunch with two guys I wasn’t very good friends with. They listened to Metallica, stayed up watching late night HBO and were about as popular as I was, which was the only reason I sat with them. They would take my hat during lunch—in itself a traumatizing moment—and mock me with it. Once they spit a jolly rancher in my hat, leaving a purple stain across the white mesh.
I would sit near the back row in all my classes. Not in the back row. That’s where the real slackers sat. I wasn’t a slacker. But if I sat in the front, that many more people would see me. And I didn’t want to be seen.
On the first day of school I didn’t say a word to my eighth grade girl friend. She was even in my first hour class. I just didn’t have a chance. I didn’t say a word to her on the second day, and she didn’t talk to me either. Pretty soon it was a week, and a friend came over to chew me out. What was I doing? I honestly didn’t know.
Second semester came along and my schedule changed drastically. I ate lunch with two different guys. They were just as popular as me, but unlike the guys I ate with the first semester, these guys were content with that. They knew they weren’t cool, and that was okay. In this atmosphere I popped out of my shell, and the yo-yo came with me.
I had picked up yo-yoing the summer before. Adam showed me how, and we spent many late nights filming yo-yo antics with the family video camera. An edited version of that video sits on a shelf at home, and a copy of it sits in the Yomega Yo-yo Corporation Office. Yomega yo-yo’s were our favorite, and when we heard they were looking for someone to make their next video, we compiled our best stuff and sent it in. I’m still embarrassed to even think about the video. But we received two hundred free strings and two limited edition yo-yo’s for our troubles. The company even called us our freshman year of college to offer us a $24,000 a year job, but were both pursuing our education.
The first time I yo-yoed in public was middle school. It was after school, during a Science Olympiad meeting—rather appropriate. I was showing them my skills at Walk the Dog and Rock the Baby, tricks I could now easily do on my new Yomega yo-yo. It was a vast improvement from the AT&T yo-yo I found buried in the pantry.
But when high school came the yo-yo didn’t come with me. It took a full semester before I brought it with me. I started yo-yoing during lunch. After we finished lunch Dan, Brian and I would wonder the halls. As we walked around I’d toss my yo-yo. The bell would ring and we’d have ten minutes before class started. We’d stand outside the door, Dan and Brian leaning up against the wall, watching me yo-yo. Other classes were emptying, kids heading off to lunch, watching me yo-yo.
A dark skinned senior with round glasses and a letter jacket watched with his friends. Do that again, he’d say, and watch as I did the exact same trick and he’d be just as amazed. Before he headed off to class he told me that if anyone ever messed with me he’d take care of me.
And so my yo-yo career began. It was those vital minutes during lunch when I refined my yo-yoing skills. Everyone asks if I practice a lot. They think if you’re good at yo-yoing you have to be some dork who spends all his time yo-yoing. No, you just have to be a dork who takes his yo-yo anywhere he goes. And so I took it all the way to Chicago.