You're only given a little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it. Robin Williams

Location: Kentucky, United States

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Finding the true inner child

Why aren’t there playgrounds for adults? I don’t mean “adult,” I mean grown-up, big people playgrounds, with slides, merry-go-rounds, and things to climb on. Of course there are grown-up games, golf, fishing, hunting, and the like. There are grown-up toys galore, cars, off road vehicles, any number of electronic devices, but what I mean is a “get back to your inner child” playground. I think we would all be better off if we never outgrew the ability to play, and not in some pseudo-mature manner, but real, dirt eating, knee-scraping, runny-nose kid type playing. Think of all the issues that could be worked out if the world leaders had to share a playground.

A few years ago at Kentucky Kingdom, they had this playhouse for kids and their parents. It was a two level building, open in the middle, with thousands of soft foam rubber balls lying all around to throw at each other. There were bags on the floor to collect them in, and air cannons mounted on the balconies that could shoot a foam ball to any point in the building. There was a huge bucket mounted near the ceiling to throw balls into, and at certain times an alarm would sound and the bucket would tip over and spill the balls down on everyone standing underneath. There were targets to aim at that would set off whistles or sirens, and some that played Bugs Bunny cartoon clips on wall mounted video screens, but the target of choice was the other people there with you.

Children and parents were everywhere, throwing balls at each other, running, screaming, it was a blast. It was a free for all. You would see grown men and women whacking some stranger’s kid with a ball shot from an air cannon, and no one cared, including the kid, who would just blast you back. I got into furious nerf ball fights with adult men and women, plus this one little kid who tracked me around for ten or fifteen minutes before I finally drove him off with a few well placed cannon blasts.

The rubber balls had enough heft to them that you could throw them pretty far, yet were soft enough that even up close they didn’t hurt. I say that to explain this, which I do feel a little guilty about, but the kid in me is still glad I did it.

When it came time to go, I found the boys and told them that whatever ammo they had left was their last, and to meet Mom outside the door when they ran out. I was down to the last ball and I wanted to make it a good one. I was looking for a target as I walked towards the exit. That is when I saw this gray-haired, grandmotherly looking woman turn and begin walking toward the door ahead of me. So… I popped her square in the back of the head… and then walked out with this innocent look on my face as she looked around trying to see where the ball had come from.

For days afterward I would laugh at the audacity of taking a cheap shot on a grandmother.

Now that I have written this far, I have to tell you, all that hoo ha about world leaders, playgrounds and the inner child was just a smoke screen so I could brag about whacking that old lady with a nerf ball.

I have found my inner child… and he is a brat.

Who knew?


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