Safety Is No Accident

Some time ago, we unwrapped the many ways I felt blessed to still be alive—despite my parents’ lackluster effort on that front. Yes, they loved us and fed us and didn’t allow us to drink arsenic, but I think we can all agree there was some iffy judgment on their parts when it came to trampolines, nunchucks and furnace safety.

floorfurnace

We had a floor furnace similar to this. We three kids would sit around the firey-hot metal grates to warm up. It was so hot that if you stood on it, grate lines would melt into the soles of your shoes. So let me repeat, we’d sit around it in our non-flame retardant pajamas to get warm. Didn’t my parents ever worry that “warming up” would escalate into “catching fire?”

furnacefire

My imagination is overly vivid at times, but this is actually how I remember it.

Side Note: When the blazing fire pilot light would go out, I’d watch—in absolute horror—as my dad descended into the bowels of hell to re-ignite it. I was forever certain he would get blown up, and we’d be left with no Daddy and no heat.

As an adult, I can get around my parents “letting some things go,” but it’s harder to understand why our very schools and city parks were so negligent.

Times have changed in a major way. What use to pass muster—playgrounds, p.e. activities, safety measures—is somewhat mind-blowing.

Shall we head down that road?

Remember these scary-go-rounds?

merrygo

If not, let me tell you how these worked. A few kids would hop on, while a few other kids grabbed a led-poisoned pole, and ran in a circle until they reached top speeds. Once maximum speeds were attained, the runners could do one of two things.

They could either let go and watch the ensuing melee, or they could hoist themselves up to enjoy the ride. Unfortunately, a third option sometimes presented itself. Once in a while, a runner wouldn’t be able to let go, and he’d end up losing his footing and getting drug through gravel—and if he was extremely unlucky, a limb or two would get stuck under the death trap.

As for the gullible crew riding the giant sit-n-spin—well, their outcomes also ran the gamut. Generally, one or more kids would lose their grip and fly off (and I mean FLY.) The ones who were able to successfully battle inertia were either throwing up or getting pelted with other kids’ saliva and tears.

Thanks City.

Remember climbing ropes in p.e. class?

ropes

Well aren’t those images just adorable. A spotter? A mat? Assistance knots? A harness? Not one depiction in these lying images rings a bell in my mind.

I remember hardwood floors, a 40-foot rope and a lot of yelling. I do not remember being told what to do if I did made it to the top of the building to ring the bell. I do not remember any warnings about the ensuing rope burn caused by descending it like a fire pole. I do remember logging the memory in the category, “The moment I realized my childhood was over.”

Does this red rubber ball bring back memories? This was the kind of weapon we used in dodge ball.

dodge6

Cut to today’s cozy foam ones. You can pinch off pieces of these. The red rubber ones pinched off pieces of you.

Are you kidding me? I'd use that for a pillow.

Are you kidding me? I’d use that for a pillow.

This is how the boys looked when they took aim at you. In all fairness, it’s how I looked, too. I flat-out loved dodge ball and lived for days we got to play.

dodgeballthrowing

I’m not even sure it’s played in school anymore. If it is, I’d bet the farm the rules have changed. I’m quite certain there’s a heavy penalty for throwing today’s soft foam balls at an opponent’s face. You know what happened when you hit someone in the face when I was young?

They were out.

metalslide3

Some of you may be looking at this like it’s a photoshopped joke—saying, “I’ve never seen a slide that’s not red or yellow chunky plastic.”

When I was young, the slides did one thing all day—roasted themselves in the baking hot sun.

They were dangerously hot. They were also not regularly inspected. Some of them would have a split in the hand rails, which meant that if you were a nervous newbie—who slid down holding the sides—you could very easily end up with a laceration between your thumb and forefinger.

Yeah, too bad for you—they were painted with a color called “Tetanus Grey.”

You also had a pretty big decision to make, once at the top—and once you verified the surface temps of 150. If you pulled your knees up to your chin—to keep your calves and hammies from suffering second degree burns—you would descend at rates a 4th grader can’t successfully negotiate. Your landing would range from heroic, to one where your friends assessed your dislocated bone situation.

These teeter-totters—or see-saws, depending on where you grew up—look fairly harmless, right?

teetertotter

Well they are, if two well-intentioned, equally weighted kids play on them. Anything short of that left one or more participants nursing an injury. We used to add people to one end, if the other end had a “sturdy” occupant. I’m sure that would be grounds for juvie these days.

“She, she, she said she needed to add at least a first grader to her end so our weight would be even! She basically called me fat! Suspend her!”

Back then, evening out the ends was just basic street smarts. No harm, no foul.

We’d ride up and down forever—talking and laughing. These were good times with good teeter-totter friends. There were also some bad times, with bad teeter-totter friends-turned-foes.

About the meanest thing you could do to a partner was get to the bottom and jump off. It would send the high person crashing dramatically to the ground.

Juvie for that, too? Please. It wasn’t even worth mentioning to a parent, much less a teacher. It would be like saying, “Sara said she doesn’t like my shirt!” … “Yeah? And? Get back to your desk, you little snitch.”

scooter

Anyone remember these little gems? Was there anything better on God’s green earth than scooter-relay day?

Yes. Three things.

  1. Days when you didn’t get your baby fingers run over by Angie Brown’s scooter.
  2. Days when you didn’t get overzealous in your attempt to swim your arms faster, faster, faster—and catapult yourself chin-first into the germ-laden gym floor.
  3. Days when you didn’t get kicked in the teeth by Rodney Wheeless, who always took wide and wild left turns.

scooterracescooter2

How about tetherball? We spent countless hours on this fun, yet ill-conceived game. The chances of it going well were next to nil. You’d literally spike the ball, with all your might, directly toward your close opponent. Yes, the intent was to pass her head and wrap the ball around the pole—but more times than not, her timing had yet to develop, and she’d end up getting tattooed with the unnaturally hard tetherball.

tether_ball

Did any school officials ever consider that some little nugget might actually get the rope wrapped around his nugget head and choke to death? Doubtful.

Did you ever play on these guys? We did “cherry drops” from them.

monkeybars

We’d hang from our knees and start a swinging motion. We’d work back and forth until we were swinging high enough to let go and stick our landing. There was a 50% chance we’d land on our feet. There was a 100% chance our bars weren’t on a grassy playground—but on a concrete floor in the gym.

We were never once told to stop doing cherry drops.

grrr

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I’m so thankful I grew up when I did. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Despite the “dangers” and “life-threatening situations” and “abject negligence,” I feel like one of the blessed ones.

I love that back then, we were allowed to play, explore and simply figure things out. I also love that it was permissible to nail people in the face with red rubber balls. I could use more of that.

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I Kid You Not

Kids fascinate me. Their cuteness; their grossness; their individuality. I love watching nature—not nurture—in all its glory.

Recently, I imagined what it would be like if little ones never outgrew their weirdo ways—namely in the work place.

Scene 1: Reese, our man-child, getting his boss’s attention.

“Lauren! … Lauren! … Lauren! … Lauren! … Lauren! … Lauren!”

“LAUREN!”

Lauren rushes to wrap up her conversation with Chad and says, “Yes, Reese?”

Reese then balances on one leg and pretends to blow a horn using his thumb.

Lauren stares at him, unamused, and walks away.

Scene 2: A human playground.

Reece runs full speed towards an unsuspecting Tina and jumps on her back—sending them both face-first onto the floor.

Scene 3: Morning needs.

Reece barges into work and declares, “I’m hungry! Lauren, I’m thirsty! Lauren! Hungry! Juice! LAURENNNNN!”

Scene 4: Who’s the boss.

Reese gallops into a meeting on a broomstick—uninvited—and unplugs the projector, disconnects the conference call, and gallops out.

suckas

Scene 5: Clothes are for punks.

Lauren calls Reese in for a meeting.

Lauren: Reese, you have to wear pants. You also have to wear underwear. You have to wear both. This is not up for discussion.
Reece: But whyyy?
Lauren: Because you have to. You can’t run around the office naked from the waist down. Do you see anyone else doing that? We’re not debating this. Clear?

Reece’s chin hits his chest and he crosses his arms as hard as he can while pushing his lips out.

Later, during an afternoon meeting, Reece seems to have complied with Lauren’s orders, though not without over-dramatized pouting. But when the meeting wraps and everyone pushes away from the conference table, Reece emerges with no pants or underwear—and a creepy grin as he runs away from Lauren.

Scene 6: Color commentating.

Reece walks around the office, seemingly normal, then assumes a snow ski stance, lets one fly and yells, “Silent but violent!”

Scene 7: Such a melodious sound.

Reece, as a means to expel energy—and generally annoy everyone—unhinges his jaw and unleashes a long, ear-splitting scream.

Lauren tells him, “NO. NO SIR.” Reece complies for just under two minutes, then does it again. Lauren tells him, in no uncertain terms, that screaming is neither appropriate nor acceptable. Reece manages to keep the next blood-curdling scream in for about 10 minutes.

britbigeyes

Scene 8: Sudden, unexplained shyness.

Reese is talking, making noises and doing anything he can to get attention, so Lauren says, “Reese? Did you want to elaborate on the new process?” Reese then dips his chin and pretends to talk, but all you see is his shifty eyes and moving lips—but absolutely no sound coming out.

Scene 9: What’s yours is mine.

While sitting at the lunch table, Reece grabs the glasses off of Alice’s face and shoves them onto Nathan’s—poking him in the eye.

Scene 10: An answer for everything.

Lauren: Reece, were you able to run that report?
Reece: Blaaaaaaaah, poop!
Lauren: What? Reece, come on. Yes or no? We need it for the 2:00 meeting. Will you please get it done so we can inform the team?
Reece: Poop! Booger poop! You eat poop boogers!

Scene 11: Reece the boomerang.

Lauren and Reece wrap up their weekly meeting and Reece leaves. He comes back into Lauren’s office 15 minutes later.

Lauren: What’s up?
Reece: I’m thirsty.
Lauren: Okay, go get a drink—but then I need you back at your desk.

Ten minutes later, Reece slinks back into Lauren’s office, with an insecure, semi-creepy walk.

Lauren: Reece. What is it?
Reece: I can’t work.
Lauren: WHY NOT.
Reece: I’m scared.
Lauren: Scared? Scared of what?
Reece: I’m scared Sara is hiding under my desk.
Lauren: Sara? Sara Lawrence? Why would she be under your desk? Why don’t you just look under and see that she’s not there?
Reece: No, you.

Lauren gets up, exasperated, and leads Reece back to his desk. She makes a big production out of looking under the desk and proclaiming, “Nope. No Sara.”

Fifteen minutes later, Reece is back in Lauren’s office. Lauren just stares, defeated.

Reece: My chair is uncomfortable. It feels funny.

not_amused

Scene 12: Working lunch.

Lauren: Thanks everyone for tolerating another lunch meeting. Hopefully these sandwiches make up for having to stay in. Let’s go ahead and get started. As you all know, we …

Cut to Reece purposefully dropping his sandwich on the floor, staring right at Lauren and saying, “Uh-oh.”

Lauren gathers her patience, hands Reece another triangle of sandwich and returns to her intro. Reece holds his hand high outside his body and drops his can of Coke, “Uh-oh.”

Scene 13: The highest form of flattery.

Lauren: Hey Reece, stop by when you get a sec.
Reece: Hey Reece, stop by when you get a sec.
Lauren: What? Really, I need another set of eyes on the graph I’m showing Will next week.
Reece: What? Really, I need another set of eyes on the graph I’m showing Will next week.

grrr

Scene 14: The heart wants what it wants.

Sara: Hi-ya, Reece. Here’s your copy of the report for the meeting.
Reece: But I wanted my copy on blue paper.
Sara: Um, blue paper? We don’t make copies on blue paper.
Reece: But I wanted it on blue!
Sara: Look, it has the information you need—that’s what’s important.
Reece: BLUE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Scene 15: Adventurous palate.

Lauren: I’m so happy we could all get away from the office and celebrate an amazing quarter. Here’s to eating, drinking and being merry!
Waiter: What could I get you, Ma’am?
Sara: Hi. I’ll have the filet, medium rare, asparagus and the Dijon mashed potatoes.
Waiter: And you, Ma’am?
Lauren: I’ll have the Portobello gnocchi, and a salad with the house dressing.
Waiter: Nice. Sir, what’ll you have?
Nathan: Let me get the pork shank, risotto and the bacon jam Brussels sprouts, please.
Waiter: Great choice. And you, Sir?
Reece: Chicken strips and a large chocolate milk.

Scene 16: Say Cheese!

In every picture taken, Reece’s fake smile looks like someone told him to show all 32 teeth and look as surprised as he would if an 18-wheeler was heading directly at him.

Sweet Sam. This phase will last a full year.

Scene 17: Let’s GO.

Nathan: Say, Reece, you ready to go down to the presentation?
Reece: Yeah. I mean no. I’m a helicopter.
Nathan (5 minutes later): Reece, come on man, we need to head down or we’re gonna be late.
Reece: Yeah, ‘k. (continues being a helicopter)
Nathan: (2 minutes later): We have to go. Now. I’m leaving, so come on if you’re coming. And get your notebook.
Reece: (stands there, slumped over, with his arms hanging all the way to his feet) I’m cominggggg, ugh! (continues to stand)
Nathan: That’s it, I’m leaving. Do what you want. (walks off)
Reece: WAAAIIITTT!! NATHAN WAIT! NATHAAAAAAAAAAAAN! (runs for Nathan and lunges, throwing his arms around Nathan’s mid-stride leg)

Scene 18: Storytelling.

Lauren: Hey gang, good meeting. Before we head back to our desks, I wondered if Reece and Claire wanted to tell us about their experience at the conference this week. Guys?

Reece: Yeah, so, so, so, so when, when, when we, we like – like it was yesterday and we, we had, we went, when we went to …
Claire: Yeah, we headed into Stratton Hall and …
Reece: ME! I’m telling it! I’m telling the story!
Claire: Fine, tell it.
Reece: So like we, we, we went and when we went, we … Stop Nathan! Nathan’s making faces at me! Stop it! Stop making faces!”

Scene 19: Name calling.

Lauren: Thanks for coming in guys. I understand the two of you are having some difficulties relating to one another and I thought we’d see if we can come to an agreement today. Nathan, why don’t you tell me a little about the circumstances that led to yesterday’s confrontation.
Nathan: Sure. I approached Reece about the email he sent to …
Reece: You’re stupid. You’re a dumb stupid-head.
Nathan (hands in the air): See? This is what I’m dealing with—and he’s done this in front of clients.
Reece: Because you’re an idiot dumb-dumb poopy diaper face.

Yeah, so the next time you want to throttle a co-worker for making your work life twice as hard as it should be, just be thankful they wear pants and don’t ask you to nurse them during a meeting.

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