I have an affliction that was at its worst when I was in school, but still hangs around, even all these years later, despite efforts to shed the disease. This condition is prevalent in the population, although it is often misdiagnosed and overmedicated. The formal name is Ants in My Pants, or AMP. The best medicine, of course, is copious amounts of exercise.
AMP manifests itself in myriad ways, from jumping out of your skin upon waiting in line to watching TV while doing six other tasks. During my school years, AMP constantly caused me trouble; sitting in classes for hours at a time is agonizing for AMP sufferers and spending too much time on homework without a break nearly impossible. In graduate school, when I left an 8 hour exam by lunchtime, the other students gasped in disbelief (don’t worry I passed. The weather was perfect and I needed to ride!). The elementary school years were the worst; I frequented the principal’s office on a regular basis and received healthy punishments for my bad behavior. In junior high, I realized I could make the day pass more quickly by reading books during class. When high school rolled around, one would imagine that I was too tired from early morning swims to cause much of a ruckus, but the chlorine induced malaise did not deter me much. I enjoyed talking in class, and was always happy when a willing accessory sat next to me, causing my comportment grades to always fall well below my academic ones. I realized that I had touched a nerve with teachers when my sister revealed that an English teacher she had two years after I graced his class exclaimed that he liked her “a whole helluva lot better than your sister”. Oh well, you cannot please everyone.
It took some years to learn effective techniques to attenuate the AMP during school hours, such as fidgeting in chairs and doing crossword puzzles. Prior to acquiring these skills I acted out and now own an extensive resume of exploits that are humorous in the retelling but certainly gave my parents premature grey hair. My favorite incident occurred in the 6th grade at the private elementary school I attended. To this day I cannot relay the story without breaking into peals of laughter at the memory of what transpired. It happened like this: one of the boys in class dared me to throw a dictionary across the room. The desks were arranged in a U shape, I was sitting on one side and he on the other. I pondered this challenge for an entire day; each time the teacher turned her back, the class waited expectantly for me to toss the book, but I never completed the task. Until the next day, that is. Without thinking twice, when she turned around to write on the board, I hurled the dictionary across room. Pages went flying everywhere causing everyone in the room to roar with laughter. Teacher turned around just as the dictionary left my possession. She put her hands on her hips and in her very thick Israeli accent she shouted “Joanna Zeiger, are you crazy or something?” The laughter turned to hilarity and mayhem ensued. The punishment: a neatly handwritten 500 word essay about books (try counting 500 words without the aid of a computer, a very tedious task for an AMPer).
I wish I could say that I have outgrown AMP, but this is not the case. On days with fewer workouts, I pace at 2 am in a manner similar to when I was 17 and we had a rare break from swimming; and I am no better at waiting for an appointment than a five year old. The most successful solution, I have found, is a vigorous workout in the morning and always having something around to bide the time. A book, a game on the phone, or talking to the person next to you, or better yet, all three at once, help subdue AMP.