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BFtP — The Teeter-Totter

Today’s, Blast From the Past, brought to you by: The Grownups Wanted Us Dead

The Teeter-Totter

The teeter-totter was originally invented as a torture device. I am certain it dates back to the Spanish Inquisition. Some enterprising parent saw a version of it in some ancient history book and realized it was the perfect murder weapon. I know exactly what he was thinking, “I’ll build it, I’ll put it on playgrounds, the kids will use it to kill each other – and it will look like some terrible accident. Muhahahaha!”

The teeter-totter is comprised of a horizontal, four inch steel pipe held about three feet off the ground by a set of tripod legs (that’s the teeter part). Across the steel pipe, secured to balance in the middle, are more four inch steel pipes – each with handles and seats secured to their opposite ends (that’s the totter part).

Here’s how the teeter-totter works: some (hypathetical) handsome, charming, fifth grade devil-child lures a sweet, angelic, innocent, gullible, smaller third grade child to the teeter-totter and cajoles her into getting on. The devil-child then hops on the other side and immediately – using his superior weight – suspends the small angel child about five feet above the ground.

At this point the devil-child relaxes and waits for reality to confront the girl. It doesn’t take long. Almost immediately the small child realizes she does not have the weight to get herself back on the ground. The next thing she notices is that the wooden seat is leaving splinters where she doesn’t want them. The third thing she realizes is that getting down is going to hurt.

First she considers jumping – it really isn’t all that far – but those splinters hold her securely in place. Next she tries pleading. That only makes her tormentor smile. She tries threatening. That makes her tormentor laugh. Finally she asks, “What do you want to let me down?” Negotiation ensues. In her desperate attempt to reach the ground unscathed the smaller child promises her tormentor every possession she owns – and a few her siblings own (don’t tell her older brother she offered his car to a fifth grader). Her tormentor pretends to consider her offer, but ultimately it matters not.

Finally, after endless torture too tedious to describe in detail, the devil-child makes his move and leaps from his seat. The other end of the teeter-totter, without the counter balance to hold it high, comes crashing to the ground. In the second and a half it takes to plunge to the blacktop the victim has several decisions to make: Which does she prefer broken, her legs, her ankles, or her tailbone? Does she want an excruciating pain in just one part of her body, or would she prefer to diffuse it a bit by spreading the impact across her whole body — from the soles of her feet to the top of her head (this includes biting off the tip of her tongue)? In truth, unless she has made her decision long before the devil-child jumps and has already positioned her body accordingly, her choice will not matter because by the time she makes it she will be prone on the backtop blinking stars – and possibly blood – from her eyes.

Incase you plan on finding a teeter-totter and a bully so you can enjoy this experience first hand, here is some knowledgeable advice. A.) Don’t lock your knees. One — if not both — of your legs will break when you hit the ground. B.) Keep your feet out from under your seat. True, the jolt will not be as hard on your spine if the pipe has to drill through your foot before it hits the pavement, but your foot will hurt so badly your spine won’t really feel like celebrating its salvation. C.) Don’t raise your feet up out of the way and take the whole impact on your spine. If you do you will bite the end off your tongue – and possibly chew up a bit of your stomach as well.

If you must undergo this experience the best way to land is with your muscles loose, your knees slightly bent, and your life insurance paid in full (Note: do not wear slick-soled patent leather shoes). If you are wondering how I can so clearly relay the details of each possible injury, all I can say is: some of us lose our belief in criminal rehabilitation slower than others.

Author’s Disclaimer: I am certain that any similarity between the Winton School child called Bruce the Bully and the Devil-Child in this story are purely coincidental. It was not the author’s intent to shame Bruce the Bully or make him feel guilty for the pain and suffering he inflicted on any small, helpless, trusting innocents who unwittingly crossed his path — again and again and again. Accordingly, any similarity between the sweet, angelic, innocent, gullible, smaller third grade child and the author are wholly a figment of Bruce the Bully’s imagination. Remember, I did not claim to be describing an actual incident, only providing a scenario for how the teeter-totter could hypothetically be used as a torture device.


  1. Mmm… some of us don’t even have to entertain the local neighborhood bully… some of us live with her as our big sister!

    Melli’s last blog post..A Lazy Day…

    1. Jientje — I wouldn’t have taken you for the type to enjoy someone else’s suffering. 😉

      I am glad you got a laugh. Something positive needed to come from the experience.

  2. There were some weird torture contraptions in my youth, too. I got through my youth, but adventurousness and accidents cost me 26 scars and 11 surgical operations.
    I wear some of those scars with pride 🙂

    Anthony North’s last blog post..TONY ON BRAVERY

    1. Oh my word! You must look like a road map! I have a few scars, but neither of my surgeries were accident related, and I’ve not broken anything (except my camera lens) and would like to keep it that way!

  3. We had one of these when we were growing up. Dad made it for us from a plank and half a Well Tile, but I or my Sister never suffered the anguish that you did. I think it had something to do with “If Dad found out, we be in a bit of trouble.”

    Bill’s last blog post..For Dr John

  4. Ah right, and I was skinny a kid as I am not a skinny adult. Man, I wish I could get my old tormentors back on the teeter totter, just once. I’d show ’em. I’d show ’em all!

    1. Doug — I know just how you feel. If you click on the link above, go to the original post, and check out the comments, you will see that Bruce the Bully replied!

  5. Did Bruce the Bully also offer to spin the merry-go-round and then maniacally laugh when kids were hanging on to the rail, their feet perpendicular to the ground? Every school playground seems to have a resident bully.

    Barbara H.’s last blog post..Book Review: Every Now and Then

    1. Barbara — oh dear. I am afraid that by the time I was in the fifth grade, I was the resident Merry-go-round pusher. Bruce the Bully was much too lazy for that bit of exercise. Before Bruce it was another young lady named Iola. No one ever complained about either of us though, they would yell, “Faster! Faster!”

    1. Church Lady — you are very sweet and caring. Even though Bruce the Bully was real, I don’t suffer any lasting trauma from the teeter-totter. I was trying to be funny. I guess you aren’t one to laugh at other people’s suffering — in which case you may not enjoy a few of these stories from TGUWUD, because they mostly have to do with my dare-devil childhood exploits.

  6. We didn’t have nasty people like Bruce on our play ground. Or should I say we didn’t have bad people not like Bruce on our playground. But it was still harder to get the right two people on a sesaw.

    Dr. John’s last blog post..Raven’s Challenge 66

  7. Sorry, but I laughed, and laughed….probably because I remember something similar all too well. There was one difference though, my tormentor didn’t climb off and let me drop. Instead, he used his much greater weight to flip poor little (well, back then) me right up and over the handle, flat onto my back, on the plank (ours was a wooden plank on a metal stand similar to a sawhorse). I can still remember his gleeful smile and maniacal laugh. It’s funny now, but it wasn’t then.

    Cindy’s last blog post..Saturday Photo Hunt- ADVERTISEMENT

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