Granny Busts A Hip Bone

Another birthday looms next week, and as i approach 48 (which might as well be 50) my body has been reminding me that some of my parts may be entering the “Wear Out” regime of the bathtub reliability curve*.  My fitness quest no longer has a ‘target weight’ by ‘such and such’ a date.  i am painfully aware that i must continue to push my body out of the sofa zone for the rest of my life if i wish to live aggressively.

Over the long weekend, my workout buddy and i managed to put over 80 miles on the bicycles.  Time-wise?  That’s about seven hours of pedaling.  We try to make it fun, change up the routes, throw in interesting destinations.  But mostly?  We ride.  We sweat.  We ride some more.  We ingest metric tons of gnats.  But it still beats the hell out of being in a gym.

Friday night, we ended up at the playground in a local park. Farting around on the swings, i noticed the soft bed of mulch under my feet.  For safety.  Looking over to the lame plastic slide thingie.  No higher than maybe six feet, and surrounded by soft, shock-absorbing mulch.

It occurred to me that playgrounds aren’t much fun anymore.

Liability laws have driven the really cool stuff into the history books – those spinny steel merry-go-rounds were the best!  If you didn’t go flying off into the dirt when the older kids started twirling it wildly, then you got so dizzy you puked before you went home!  Doesn’t get much better than that when you’re ten years old!

And the mulch?  Really?  At my elementary school, we had a 14’ metal slide on the playground.  The landing zone – concrete.  It was a parking lot.  Under the swings – nothing but gravel. 

It seemed that at least once a day, the teachers standing around talking smack about the students during recess would be interrupted by a bleeding child.  Maybe pulling a dirty tissue out of a coat pocket for an impromptu spit-cleanse if it was a small raspberry on a knee, or shipping the kid to the school nurse for some mercurochrome and a bandaid if it was a little worse…

As my bike buddy and i wandered toward the water fountain to refill our bottles before heading back, we stopped at the teeter-totters. Tires, dug into the dirt, were placed under the ends of the teeter-totters making it impossible to hit the ground hard and bounce your fellow rider hard enough to crack teeth. i continued my rant about how pathetic it is that ‘safety overrides fun’ on the modern playground.

 With a little maneuvering, he was able to torque the wooden plank sideways just enough to miss the tires and hit the dirt… At that point, i pretty much shut up about how pussy-fied playgrounds have become.

Perhaps this is the playground of my future… 


* Well known “reliability” curve in the engineering realm. Failures early in the operational lifetime of an object are primarily due to manufacturing flaws, or other defects. These are known as “Infant Mortalities”. The object will likely then experience a long period of low failure rates, and this is referred to as “Useful Life”. As bits and pieces start to suffer damage during use, the failure rate again increases, and this is known as the “Wear-out” phase. This curve also explains why i am far more comfortable getting onto an airplane of ‘a certain age’, than i am leaving the earth in the shiny new ones…


26 thoughts on “Granny Busts A Hip Bone

  1. our local playground still has a hot-as-hell metal merry-go-round. But there is mulch underneath.

    someday, maybe i’ll share the story of how I skinned up my nose on my school playground. On picture day . . .

  2. Rob and I were just talking about this recently. We used to climb up the sides of that slide you mentioned, hand over hand on the pole b/c the ladder was too easy.

    Did you have gladiator type swing fights? Where you’d loop the middle to out of the way and then mount the outside ones like they were horses and fly at each other like trapeze artists jousting? The object? To knock the other kid off with a well placed heel. Awesome good times.

    Monkey bars? Dangling over the concrete or gravel? Gravel was the 70’s version of “safety cushion”.

    And the teeter-totters whole purpose was testing the strength of your friends’ tailbones and spines.

  3. Yeah, I’m with you on the “airplane of a certain age” – no “maiden voyage” for me, thank you.

    I’m mezza-mezza on the safety in the playground thing – while I agree there’s a certain amount of toughening up the kids today do not have to deal with, I was definitely one of those kids who hated getting “hurt” so much I never did anything – there just wasn’t anything so fun that it was worth getting injured over. I know, I’m a big babyhead.

  4. I was thinking the bathtub reliability curve was how reliably someone could survive being in a bathtub by themselves. Not surprisingly it looks the same as yours.

    I’m more mad at McDonald’s PlayLand looking all Chuck E. Cheese now. I would have loved a ballpit instead of having to climb up inside Mayor McCheese’s head or bouncing around in a Grimace-shaped cage.

  5. Even though I’m a bit younger I too remember a very different type playground, one were fun laughed in safety’s face!
    I hate how overly regulated pretty much all of ours lives have become. In just the last month I spied an old school metal playground and made a note to take The Boy, by the time I got there – replaced by a plastic one.

  6. We’re a little behind the times over here viv-à-vis abmbulance chasers. I’m not saying it won’t come, but for the time being we still have some fearsome playgrounds and kids still get proper scars.

  7. tysdaddy – oooh, that’s right! i forgot how the metal gets steamy-hot in the summer! those shiny aluminum slides would burn your ass cheeks! good times!

    kyknoord – someone had to be put together by the late shift…

    anniegirl – YES! the ‘horse fights’ on the swings! i was never athletic enough to climb the pole on the side of the slide, but saw kids do it… falling down, getting hurt, and getting over it was just what happened. we’ve taken that away from our kids…

    girly – you’re not a babyhead (although i adore your use of that particular word). avoidance of pain is a sign of intelligence, i think! i was never athletic, so mostly i just pushed the boys around (i was the biggest girl, so i was ‘the enforcer’) and stood and watched the other kids at school. a little more adventureous in my own neighborhood, but not much…

    renalfailure – as a parent, i found ballpits terrifying! small children leak out of every possible orifice. you want me to drop my kid in a bucket of plastic crap, coated with ever bit of bacteria known to mankind? attended by a pimple-faced stoner kid? ummmm….. no… let ’em play in the dirt. it’s where they belong.

    alonewithcats – i have a ‘cushy chair’. i sit in it. a lot. i like it here. nothing on my body hurts when i sit here…

    carlae & nursemyra – me neither! it was embarassing to watch the other kids swing across. on a good day? i could hang on one bar, and maybe reach to another before falling. i blamed it on being fat, but in hindsight think it was technique and confidence…

    rubytwoshoes – the plastic stuff sort of looks more fun at first. pirate ship steering wheels, firemans poles and all that. but if you look again, the kids really aren’t playing with that stuff much.

    jon – ‘proper scars’! exactly! i have several scars on my feet and legs that are a direct result of a whole lot of rough stuff when i was small. didn’t kill me… not sure it enhanced my life much, but i had a good time.

    DP – no. not for you. sit back, relax, and draw some more pretty match stick pictures….

  8. Honey, I wouldn’t DRIVE 80 miles much less ride it on a bike.

    You’ll also notice that at the newfangled playgrounds there are NO right angles. Everything has a curved edge. In New Jersey, the ground is made of shredded tires, giving it a bouncy, rubbery feel. My tax dollars at work.

    As if I needed another reason to stay away from Knightsbridge.

  9. It needed to be said. I know it’s different when it’s your kid that breaks their arm on the monkey bars, but come on. All the little wienies are going to turn out like one of the characters in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

    I can’t believe you hauled out the bathtub curve. Poindaisy.

  10. My employer is designing a play area in a housing project… the sheer regulations of what goes into a playground is mind numbing.
    There’s a playground near Casa Mak which still has those horses on springs, sans tire.

    Isn’t getting hurt/the snot beat out of you part of the playground experience?

    Today’s kids are pussys…

  11. gnukid – clean or rusted. i’m thinkin’ it’s a tossup…

    unbearable banishment – based on what i know of NJ via “The Sopranos”, there are worse things that could be underneath that swingset… like Vinny the Parrot, or a horsehead…

    chris – my daughter broke no bones, but The Boy? three emergency room trips, which lead me to wonder if we’d get investigated by children’s services. as for “Poindaisy”? oh, shit… that’s a big ol’ geek snort right there… my purpose in life is to inform and entertain. hey, it’s a geek thing…

    stephanie – we went through the liability discussions when working with the city to build a skatepark. in the end, they are all ‘use at your own risk’. so long as there’s not broken glass under the slides? bring it!

    rob – nope. i’m still not thrilled with 757’s, either…

  12. holy crap! 80 miles in just a weekend? are you a dumbass? you’re gonna kill yourself girl, you’re not young anymore! rip and i are not nearly as motivated… we do what we like to call the old person’s triathlon.

    first we “casually” pedal to the beach, “walk” through thick sand until our ankles feel like they could break, tread water for 10 mintues, “walk” back through the sand to our bikes, then limp our bikes back across the bridge and then home to sit down. our bodies can’t take much more and sorry about the “dumbass” remark but i worry about you! 🙂

  13. I miss the good old fun playgrounds..what about when the swing sets weren’t properly planted in the ground..we used to get all of us going really high all together and try to tip over the whole set. Awesome..skinned knees and elbows..bloody noses.. It was a badge of honor to bleed all over everyone. Now one little scrap that is just red causes a lock down for contamination’s….and puking after lunch was an all time favorite thing to do..the strongest kids would run us fast and we always had to jump off when the whistle blew to end recess while we were still doing Mach 20 on the big metal circle.
    I don’t walk further than my car let alone ride 80 miles in one weekend.
    and that’s with being 9 yrs younger!!!

  14. “it occurred to me that playgrounds aren’t much fun anymore.”

    yup, the crack pipes and other drug paraphernalia alongside street drinkers really don’t make it a kid friendly environment any more…booooo

  15. Mercurochrome was for pussies. Back in my day, the big gun was Merthiolate (banned in 1990 as an over-the-counter antiseptic because of its mercury content.) That stuff would set you free…I had orange knees from 1953 until 1960.

  16. Oooh, thanks for the Bathtub Curve! Never knew there was a name for it. I’ve always been a “not-too-early” adopter of new technology – just because I always think it’s better to let them work the bugs out and read the reviews first. Case in point is our recent new car purchase – after it got awards in its class two years running.

    BTW – about playgrounds – kids find ways to damage themselves whatever you do. The safety aspect’s only there because local authorities get sick of being sued.

  17. We always waited till the ‘see saw ‘(correct name for teeter totter) was at the bottom then you jump off and let gravity fuck over the chump on the other end.

    Makes me realise about how much of childhood was about developing sadistic tendencies.

  18. lynn – yeah. i’m pretty much a dumbass. if i just didn’t like to eat, i could starve myself and just take walks but that ain’t happening. you guys should have your own infomercial for the geriatric triathalon! love it!

    hisqueen – oh, yeah! we used to call it “pumping the swingset” — getting it to lift up out of the holes in the yard. never tipped one, but not for lack of trying!

    manuel – ah, urban playgrounds are a different beast. but i’ve heard that the plump drunkards can be used for mini-trampolines…

    texastrailerparktrash – merthiolate! i couldn’t think of the name of the stuff that burned so badly that mom had to blow on it until it stopped burning! i, too, was an orange-kneed child, from june to august….

    mine – Ah-HA! See, Chris?!?!? i’m an educational nerd – preaching the gospel of engineering like a good dork! i don’t like to buy new models of anything, either… i find that the headaches outweigh the thrill of being an ‘early adopter’….

    alex – rolling backwards off the see-saw at the bottom was an art, but i had friends who had perfected it. damn it. sadism? just part of growing up. pulling wings off flies? burning ants with magnifying glasses? oh, yeah…

    syncopated eyeball – glad you liked it! one of the most ubiquitous engineering ‘failure’ concepts, it applies to damn near anything over time. bodies, too…

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