Saturday, July 12, 2008
Daddy to the Rescue Part Two
The person who invented the fast food play structure owned hamsters. He thought to himself “My hamster Fur Ball is the happiest creature I know. He plays, eats, sleeps, exercises and goes to the bathroom in his hamster habitat. I think I could make millions of children just as happy if I made a home for them just like Fur Ball’s.” Thirty years later children play, eat, exercise and in some cases go to the bathroom in their favorite Fur Ball habitats. Early fast food play structures even had a huge water bottle at the top and a giant hamster running wheel on the bottom until parents complained that their children smelled like cedar chips and loved being scratched behind their ears.
Before I was a parent I have to admit that I secretly wanted to go on a fast food play structure. I grew up in the pre-play structure era of the late 60’s and early 70’s. Our playgrounds were made of steal and concrete. Our playgrounds were tough, unforgiving and highly dangerous. The inventor of my childhood playground didn’t own a hamster, he ate them as appetizers. My playground was so tough that my parents used to punish us by sending us kids there for time outs. There were only four pieces to every playground. A huge metal swing set with metal chains, metal monkey bars, a hard wood plank seesaw, and a metal merry ground (AKA the disc of death). We also had little to no parental supervision. Neighborhoods were safe and the kids ran free. The combination of metal, concrete, and no supervision was the result of many of my childhood injuries. Needles to say I was curious about these new fast food play structures and I wanted to someday invade this new children’s sanctuary.
So as I said in my last blog, I hear a cry of distress. My son Noah is crying for help somewhere in the upper regions of hampsterville. I’m now forced to enter this unwelcoming world. There is good reason why the rules for these play structures clearly state no adults allowed. The first is that once you are on the inside, chances are you will never want your child to be also. The second reason is that for the average adult it is much like stuffing yourself through a sausage casing. These things were not designed to be ergonomically spacious. Children fly through these structures like a pinball with a purpose; adults travel through these things like a slug being chased by a salt shaker. I enter into the structure to be greeted by the unwelcoming stares of children who on the outside of this play structure lovingly obey their elders but on the inside of this maze the tables are turned. I’m now invading their world. “Hey what is that old guy doing in here?” “No old people aloud.” I felt like a pork chop at Passover. My knees throbbed in pain and my back screamed for freedom from the confined quarters. I focused on my son’s cries somewhere above my head and forced myself onward. When I reached the greasy tube that would lead upwards to my child’s sobs I looked behind me to realize that I was the cause of an inpatient traffic jam of angry children. I gathered my courage and grabbed hold of the rope and began the ascent upward. The traffic jam behind me seized the opportunity and used me as an unwilling staircase to world above. I felt like a Sunday driver in the passing lane during rush hour. Children were literally riding my bumper. I finally managed to make it to the top. The unfortunate part of this reality is that heat rises as do bad smells. The two companions held me close as I worked my way through the second story maze. The good news is my son was no longer crying. The bad news was that I couldn’t find him. I searched through every hamster corridor and in all of the hamster bubble forts. I was drenched in sweat as I made my way to the last bubble fort and looked out the window. My knees and my back were screaming in pain. I was determined. I was driven by love and I would not be deterred from my mission. My wife and my son wave hi as my son is sitting at the table playing with his happy toy. Extremely embarrassed I slide down the greasy twisty slide to be welcomed by the stares of miserable parents and my laughing bride.