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.

Let’s link up on Facebook and Twitter!

 

Patience Cards™

T: West, can you spare a few Patience Cards™?
Me: Sure, what’s up?
T: My mom called and they’re having issues with their router. She asked if I could come help my dad sort it out.
Me: *sympathetic silence* Please take what you need.
T: I wouldn’t ask, but I just loaned my sister my last two PCs™ because our cousin needs help with her resume.
Me: What’s mine is yours. I have nothing in the foreseeable future that necessitates any, so take ’em. Godspeed.

Patience Cards™ were born out of a desire to be patient with people you love. … keep reading

Wanna Play?

I’ve lived and breathed competitive sports for most of my life, but I’m surprisingly not that competitive.

Whoa! To those of you who know me and are yelling at the screen, hear me out. I love competing—games, sports, anything with an opponent (I also think smack-talk is a sport in and of itself. YES, even during board games.) It’s just that my favorite part of it all is the ride itself. I rarely get bent out of shape about losing, if the game’s been fun.

Side Note: I actually win a lot.

When I say I’m not overly competitive, I mean not in the way you hear about certain people—where you barely recognize them. You know, the ones who will stop at nothing to win even the most inane argument, like how many of Grisham’s books have “The” in the title? I mean really, if you have to Google it, then you didn’t win. Google won.

Google: 1
You And Anyone Searching For the Answer Anywhere But Their Brain Vault: 0.

I refuse to accept that the look of satisfaction on your face is because you were the fastest Googler. You’re better than that.

carrollstrut

I’ve heard many stories about people getting competitive with their workouts. Just regular fully grown adults who workout to stay fit. You’ll never hear about me running on a treadmill, sneaking a peek at the screen of the person to my right and adjusting my speed so I’m running faster—because here is the thing:

1. We’re not actually racing. We’re on a conveyor belt that leads to a land called nowhere.
2. I don’t care, even in the slightest, what you’re doing.
3. Because this warrants repeating: We’re not racing.

Side Note: I could have stopped the original sentence after “You’ll never hear about me running on a treadmill” because while I triple-love being active, I have to PLAY … racquetball, flag football, catch, tag, softball, in the pool … anything not in the monotonous family.

I laugh because sometimes Jocelyn will come home from a run and appear a little extra amped up as she guzzles water—telling me about the three people she beat. I cock my head, wondering if this calls for a high five or dap of some sort, but I’m too confused about why her run turned into a race at all. I usually think I’ll lay the conversation to rest by simply asking, “Did they know you were racing?” But she’ll catch her breath and reply with peaceful satisfaction, “No, but I did.”

See? I don’t have that need. I can’t fathom a day where I’d be on a run and thinking about anything other than how I’m going to make the torture stop. I wouldn’t even know who I passed or was getting passed by, because my one singular.laser.focus would be to get the suffering over with.

I know people (oh how I know people) who want to win everything … from games to arguments to how many shiny things they own. When I imagine that type of brain or outlook, it exhausts me. It must be so emotionally draining to feel the need to “win”—if we can even call reading a trilogy the quickest—winning.

competition

I’m trying to conjure up that existence and how it would feel if I “lost” at a few random things. I’m imagining:

  • Getting rip-roaring mad if my sister-in-law is able to open the jar of pickles I couldn’t. I’d huff around, saying under my breath, “Hmph, must be nice to have never fractured the thumb that helps you grip.”
  • Feeling completely defeated if I couldn’t swat the aggravating fly on the patio, but my dad could. “Yeah-yeah, go ahead and cheer him on, see if I care—he’s wayyy older than I am so he’s had more practice. Like, decades.”
  • Being livid if I can’t get my niece to stop crying but her mom can. “Whatever. That’s such an unfair advantage since you provided her an umbilical cord in your womb. Must be nice to have connections.”

I’m bone-tired just picturing it!

I mean, I have a healthy amount of drive, but it seems to stick close to me—living in and around my own personal goals. I rarely wonder how I can get what someone else has (unless it’s a big crock pot of buffalo chicken dip, then all bets are off because I WANTS.)

It's impossible to be unhappy when this exists.

It’s impossible to be unhappy when this exists.

But on the off-chance I do want what another person has … I don’t want to take it from them, I just want it, too.

  • Oh, you have a vacation home on the Italian Riviera? I hope to one day, too—do you have any advice?
  • Oh, you have a kegerator with perfectly cold, carbonated beer at the ready at all times? Where might I purchase this treasure?
  • Oh, you only have to visit your gynecologist once every three years? Is she taking new patients?

I’m much more competitive when it comes to team sports. I really love strategizing, working and winning as a team. I also like knowing that the losing team can pick each other up and have some help getting over the loss—unlike a tennis player or gymnast who loses and just has to sit there with her own stupid losing self.

tennis1

I never thought it was fun to beat someone one-on-one. Well wait, except tether ball. In elementary school, I was unstoppable and enjoyed the perks of tether stardom. But winning a dance off or Checkers made me feel no more good than bad. Even in racquetball, which I love, I prefer cutthroat or doubles, because it means 3-4 of us are playing—which cuts down on the awkwardness of winning or losing.

Winning is winning—we’ve all done it and it doesn’t suck. Losing is losing—we’ve all survived getting beat. But what I love is the journey … the game itself. Whether it’s a sport or a board game or air hockey, the most fun part to me is the process and every step leading up to the end. The outcome is relatively unimportant if it’s been fun.

Side Note: My sister does not feel this way and won’t hesitate to gain a suspicious advantage at every turn. And by gain a suspicious advantage, I mean cheat. Let me give you an example. Every Easter my fun, awesome parents have an adult Easter egg hunt for us “kids”, where they place gift cards in big plastic eggs and get our nieces and nephew to help hide them.

We’re quarantined during the hiding process, then let out and corralled until they say, “Go!” Well last time, right when the light was green and we bolted out, my sister “pantsed” me—putting me back a good 30 seconds and scarring my nephew for life.

I thought there was a lesson in all this for my sister, when I still scored iTunes, Home Depot and Amazon, but no … 4th of July weekend she was caught pinching our niece during 3-on-3 when we were one hoop away from winning.

Bottom line: I love sports, games, competing and playing. I enjoy winning but can handle losing if we’ve had a good time getting there, even if—especially if—I start out with no pants.

I’d love for you to join me on Facebook … it’s good for your health.