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…