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.

Today’s Blast From the Past

June 6th, 2006 – A Day in the Life

Starbucks Coffee

I order. “Mocha Frappacino, venti, please. Yes, put all the unhealthy stuff on it. Oh, and I’d like a banana muffin, too!” I casually extend my arm from the window with the Starbuck’s card held jauntily between my fingers. The kid at the window makes a grab for the card, misses it and the thing goes flying out of my hand and under my car. UNDER MY CAR.

I am dressed up: skirt, blouse, high-heels, and my hair is just so. I open my car door and look down. No card. I step out of the car and kneel down. Still I cannot see the card. Of course the heel of my shoe has caught on the hem of my skirt. I lose my balance and topple into the car, leaving a clean spot on the driver’s door. Luckily most of the grime has landed on my hands and my arms which — thank you, God — are wash and wear.

I step back into my car, put it in gear and backup about 12 inches. I might have backed up another two or three inches, but the fellow in the bright red SUV behind me was honking his horn and yelling, “Stop! Stop!” I am not sure why. There were still three or four inches between our bumpers. Maybe he thought I didn’t see him?

Anyway, I get out of my car again and there is my Starbuck’s card, just peeking from beneath the edge of my front bumper. I grab the card and turn to present it to the kid behind the drive-thru window. He says, “Keep it, Lady. This is on me.” Darn, I think as I’m driving away. I should have ordered two muffins.


June 6th, 2006 — The Grownups Wanted Us Dead

The Swing Set

The daily injury report from the swing set ranged from paltry half-inch blood blisters to gruesome compound fractures complete with protruding bone and gore. I suppose the swings themselves were not really dangerous – but, oh, the things we did with them!

Playground swings no longer seem to exist, so incase you’ve never seen one, here’s a description: ten foot high steel frame; two sets of tripod legs, between them spanned a four inch steel pipe; suspended from the pipe were pairs of heavy steel chains; each pair of chains was connected to a thick, black, rubber seat.

The Winton School swing set had four seats. Four seats – if you’re a kid you know that means at least a dozen kids can play on the set at once. But sometimes – sometimes someone would get greedy – he’d want a whole swing for himself. One kid I remember in particular who did not like to share the swing was my cousin, Rumble.

I don’t know why I always competed with Rumble; whenever I tried I always lost – spectacularly. For instance one day we left Gram’s house – Caution, Rumble, Angel, Smiley, Tattle and I – headed for the playground. Somebody called dibs on a swing, I don’t remember whom, but they were echoed by five other voices. We went from walking to rushing, to running and shoving in three seconds flat — because every child knows that calling dibs doesn’t mean a dang thing unless you can enforce the claim.

Caution was the eldest, had the longest legs, and naturally was the strongest runner. He was going to win. Tattle was the baby and she was going to win because we didn’t want to hear the whining and the crying (from the grownups) if she didn’t. That left four kids and two swings. Angel and Grin headed for one. Rumble and I headed for the other. I have no idea how the girls’ race went, but Rumble and I were neck and neck, arms outstretched, until we were just a few yards from the swing.

Now, I don’t know if it was because Rumble was taller and his arm a little longer than mine, or if he’d pulled just a millimeter ahead, but I realized his hand was going to grasp the chain just before mine could; so I did the only sensible thing – I jumped.

So what if Rumble had the chain? If my body occupied the seat, obviously the swing would be mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!

I launched myself into the air; arms outstretched, and flew like Wonder Woman. Guess what? Linda Carter I’m not. Rumble’s fingers wrapped around the chain and he pulled. The swing lurched drunkenly to the left and, instead of doing a spectacular swan dive into the seat of the swing, I did a beautiful belly-flop into the dirt and gravel beneath it.

Twice in my life I have had the wind knocked out of me. It is not an experience I recommend. However, if you have the great, good-fortune to have Rumble as a cousin you are truly blessed. He abandoned the swing immediately and came to stand over me – in fact, all of my wonderful cousins did – and they made such helpful suggestions; things like: “Breathe!” “Talk to me!” and, “Stop turning blue!”

Tattle asked, “Is she dying?”

If I had had the breath I would have answered, “Not until after I kill Rumble.”

The Grown-Ups Wanted Us Dead

The grown-ups wanted us dead. I have proof. Winton Elementary School in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho was built on the edge of a cliff. There was a 35-foot embankment not ten yards from the back door where I lined up every morning before fourth grade.

There was no fence. There was no barbed wire. There were no patrol dogs. THERE WERE NO CONCERNED PARENTS.

We were told to stay away from the cliff, the grownups of my childhood thought that was sufficient. If some child wandered too close and fell off, the general response was: “Damn idiot kid. He was told to stay away from there. Don’t know what his problem is. When that back-brace comes off I’m tanning his stupid hide.”

The cliff wasn’t all though — there was also the playground equipment; that we weren’t told to stay away from. In fact, if a day at school didn’t sufficiently maim enough kids, our parents would send us back after school. “Get out from under my feet! Go play on the playground. I’ll call you for dinner.”

I don’t know why we never figured out that the grownups were trying to kill us. They’d paint us in Mercurochrome, paste band-aids on us, or brace us with splints, and push us right back out the door.

We went willingly — and called it fun.

More stories like this posted on my blog: The Grown-Ups Wanted Us Dead, where an observant person might even discover why my sister, Jackie, calls me CB. The latest story, posted just today, is: The Hole.