Wayne Wasden - Perfect Hour

The Perfect Hour

By Wayne Wasden

There is little in life that is perfect.  Dust, confusion, makeup and hair just not quite right, the gestures of road rage, halitosis, and various sundry disappointments litter our lives, That’s why when you encounter an event, a situation, an experience that meets and exceeds your expectation a sense of “something perfect” is felt.

A just cleaned house, a fresh cut lawn, a lunch made just the way you like it, someone, with a listening ear, who, for a fleeting moment, perfectly understands.

I once enjoyed such an event, sublime in its reality, and now, in my memory almost ethereal.

I, like you, am simply an average soul, and in most regards find myself striving and working, day by day, just to reach average.  But once, a long time ago, in a moment now far, far away, a blink from the past, I experienced something well beyond average, I experienced the perfect hour!

…I’m 14 years old.  It’s the summer of 1968, the summer before my 9th grade year at old, now dearly departed, Midvale Jr. High School. 

My summer’s occupation finds me gainfully employed as a summer janitor charged with a variety of cleaning assignments to ready my old alma mater for the autumn and the coming new school year. 

Lockers to scrub, burnt lights to replace and windows to wash.  But one ordinary assignment of labor laid the foundation for the perfect hour.  This transformational occurrence was shrouded in the tedium of floors that needed to be stripped and rewax. 

Now, we are not talking about any ordinary floor, we’re talking about the Junior High gymnasium floor...the basketball court.

As is still the case at schools all across the country; elementary, junior high and high school, “gym” floors must be stripped bare of all the wax and build up from the years events.  Stripped and scrubbed and then revarnished with a beautiful clear gloss veneer.

It’s the first day back to work just after the Decoration Day holiday.  Don Nelson, the fulltime head custodian, leads our small but hearty rag tag group of boys…er young men as we gather with mops, buckets, scrubbers and all things required to center court of the gym floor.   Several hours later the scratched and marred basketball court has been stripped bare then transformed into a glistening, unblemished, newly finished surface. 

After 14 days of drying Mr. Nelson and I approach the new floor with towels on our feet to buff the partially cured court to a finished crystalline shine.  You know, the kind that squeaks with each change of direction on the court.

So, upon completion of this buffing task, what do you think my first inquiry to our beloved head custodian was?  Yup, when could I shoot hoops on the new floor? 

His response 2 weeks… …2 agonizingly long weeks.

During the 2 week interim, in anxious anticipation, at lunch, and, after consuming my mom’s carefully prepared lunch pail sandwiches, I would steal away from the group, head down to the far end of the main hall, open the main gym doors with the sign “Do Not Enter” and carefully touched the floor to check it’s progress.

On one of those floor check visits, I decided that being the first person to play on the brand new gym floor wasn’t enough.

In addition to the fact that I would have a newly varnished, untouched court… I decided that I would purchase and wear brand new, never before worn, basketball shoes, …and, to heighten the occasion, utilize a brand new, never before bounced leather basketball.

The remaining 14 days of curing were finally extinguished.  With permission granted, I took the master key for the school, opened the supply closet and cracked open the box of a brand new, leather, Wilson basketball.  I bounced the ball, for the very first time on the untouched floor, I took 10 running strides, planted my never before worn, new, white high top Converse Allstars basketball shoes, and changed direction with the delightful squeak of brand new shoes on a brand new court with brand new ball…a moment of perfection.

And so, on a July afternoon in 1968, “The Perfect Hour” of hoops was realized, better than a state championship or a D-1 college scholarship, an hour of hoops, under perfect conditions, never again to be replicated.

If I could go back in time to that bygone Summer’s day, I would, in a heartbeat, and do it all again, because, despite what the beer commercial says, “It just doesn’t get any better than this!!