August 25, 2010

The Tube

Who plans and designs playgrounds? Do they have backgrounds in construction, architecture, child psychology? Because I'd really like to shake the hand of the genius who created "The Tube," made popular on playgrounds in the mid-nineties. And by shake his hand I mean punch him in the neck.

If you're from my generation, you'll know what I am talking about. The concept really isn't all that complicated. It's literally a metal tube (usually green) resting horizontally on bars so that you can crawl through it. Seems innocent enough, right? Well, yes, if you disregard children and their need to mercilessly torture one another. For many little kids, this Tube was a site of some horrifying playground atrocities.

One of the favorite pastimes of third and fourth graders was to stuff as many preschoolers and kindergartners as possible into The Tube. They would get two big bullies, known as "Cloggers," to press their butts up against each end, sealing it off from freedom, dignity, and an adequate air supply. Meanwhile, "Collectors" would go around the playground grabbing the little kids by the neck and dragging them toward this cylindrical prison. You could be in the middle of doing anything on the playground when they would spot you and "take you downtown."

Once you arrived at The Tube, The Clogger would move to the side just enough to create an opening so that you could be stuffed in. Once inside, it was very dark and cramped.

Every once in a while, we little kids would organize an effort to break free. I learned that you could grip your fingers on one of the seams where the metal pieces connected and violently swing your legs into the Clogger's backside. As soon as it bumped him forward a bit, little kids would squeeze as much of their bodies out the opening and try to squirm to freedom. The Clogger would then slam his back side into the opening over and over to cram people back inside. I can't imagine why the teachers never intervened when they saw this:

Around third grade, The Tube took on another type of sinister. The Tube was taken over by The Kissy Girls. This gang of tough-as-nails floozies got its power in numbers. Hundeds of them would swarm an unsuspecting little boy like puckering piranhas, drag him into The Tube, and smooch him all over with their cootie lips. It was so bad, the boys had to set up a clinic by the monkey bars, giving out free cootie shots to emotionally and physically scarred survivors.

I did my share of time in The Tube. This concept, so simple yet so complex, changed the lives of millions of millennials forever. What a stupid idea.

August 3, 2010

A Helmet of Hair Makes a Mediocre Nest

Around the time I started 7th grade, my dad ruined my life by bringing home a sassy female parrot named Alfred. Alfred and I had only two things in common. We both kinda looked liked birds, and we both hated one another.

Alfred came to us from our cousin's house. My Aunt was intelligent enough to get rid of this demon bird who never shut up. My dad, who doesn't really like animals but is randomly a bird lover, was naieve enough to take her in. She came with some baggage, including a hatred for teenaged males and the ability to verbalize a range of annoying words and phrases. Having a talking pet that hates certain people causes some strange complications. First of all, whenever I entered a room, Alfred would go bonkers, swooping around trying to peck my eyes out.

Also, her voice sounded strikingly simillar to my mom's.

We missed approximately one half of our phone calls.

Once, the guy who rented the apartment over our garage knocked on our door to ask a question. Alfred called out, "Hello?" so the man assumed he should enter.

Other favorite phrases of Alfred's included saying "Oh my gosh" over and over in a gutteral voice (I think she got this from my teenaged girl-cousin), as well as repeating the name "Lou Bega" over and over again. Of all the musicians out there...

I think the worst part about Alfred was how much she and my dad loved each other. It was gross.

One morning before school, my mom was fixing her lunch for work. She had her makeup on and her usual perfect helmet of hair sprayed into place. My dad was reading the paper and had let Alfred out on her perch by the table. Then I rounded the corner to get some breakfast.

Alfred went homicidal. She launched herself into the air in full attack mode, only I ducked and she missed. She didn't know what to do next. There was no place to land, so she panicked and began swooping around, skwaking wildly. Finally, Alfred spotted the largest surface she could find, my mom's hair, and with her claws-out, went in for the landing. This didn't really suit her, as my mom kept moving, screaming and swatting at her, so she tried to take off again. The problem was that her talons were all tangled in my mom's hair. She kept skwaking and flapping about, trying to break free, while my mom screamed angrily at my dad for letting the bird out. The more Alfred wriggled, the more her talons became tangled. She just kept flopping up and down, yanking my mom's head around, while feathers rained down around the kitchen.

Finally, Alfred broke free, leaving my mom stunned, disheveled, and out of breath.

Alfred ended up going nuts a few years later and bit about half of my dad's hand off. The next day she had mysteriously "died of a disease," but I was suspicious.

Some questions are better left unanswered.