Waiting on the Bus

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Posts Tagged ‘playground games’

Rediscovering that old playground bravado Part 2

Posted by Steven on March 23, 2011

During recess periods I would methodically trudge around the playground watching groups of kids play four square, kickball or basketball. They were most inflexible, sticking to one sport year round. My first year of grade school happened to be at the tail end of the Chicago Bulls’ first three peat run and consequentially, basketball was seen as the sport to play if you wanted even a remote chance at skipping college to join a league in the NBA that would pay you millions in guaranteed money before you warmed your first bench.

The basketballers never bothered to run any set plays, they would just attack the rim. High arcing shots would clank off the rim followed by a mad scrum for the rebound, and whoever came up with the ball would shoot a heavy jumper. Shots would bounce of the rim repeatedly, each one a reminder that perhaps the shooter should take up another sport, but these kids were too busy throwing their elbows around and trying to get enough air on one their rebound attempts for a put back jam to ponder such things.

Once I happened to be sitting with a small group of them during lunch and I tried to steer their thoughts in the direction of other sports by suggesting they play baseball. After all it was spring and the season in which a sport is played is a small but important part of its overall appeal. There was just something weird about playing basketball nonstop when they could’ve been taking advantage of the warmer weather by playing baseball. A girl speaking for the entire group looked at me like I’d just asked her to summon lightning from the sky.

“Why should we play baseball when we’d just embarrass ourselves? You may not be able to recognize it because you’re not a professional scout, but we happen to be good at basketball.”

“I’ve watched you guys and it seems like all you do is miss jumpers and curse as your fighting for loose balls. How much can you really be enjoying the game when you all suck?”

“We play basketball because we like it. Now shut up!”

With that they went off to play another mindless game of playground basketball and I had learned a valuable lesson: Never question whether another person can derive any fun from what appears to be a boring or difficult activity for them. Should you see your friend wincing as she tries to jump through the hopscotch course, don’t assume she has a torn ACL and go alert the nurse. She is having fun, and contrary to popular belief being skilled at something isn’t a necessity for enjoyment. If she wants to hobble along in total denial–let her.

Kickball is another playground game that’s remembered fondly by adults before the topic quickly changes to dodge ball. Women recalling how all the guys used to gang up on them at the end of gym class and pound them relentlessly with dodge balls, even when one hit was sufficient enough to knock a player out of the game, and guys claiming that they didn’t really throw the balls that hard, women just have a lower pain tolerance than men.

The only kickballs that seemed to be available on our playground were these scratch and sniff kick balls stylized to look like whatever fruit corresponded with the smell. There were cherry, grape, lemon, and apple variations, each sporting a wide mouthed toothy grin. They would magically materialize out of a old blue drawstring bag which sat out unattended off to one side of the playground, always positioned perfectly so they’d be grinning right at you when you opened the bag.

Do you want to play with a regular kickball or do you dare to tempt fate by reaching into the devil’s fruit basket? Just one kick and you’ll be hooked.

Other kids probably didn’t have time to develop up an irrational fear of the kickballs because they were able to exert some control over them. If the ball was creeping them out as it rolled towards them, they’d simply kick the crap out of it. I, on the other hand, could do nothing to combat the ball’s paralysis inducing stare. Every time I looked at it I could feel the eyes boring into my soul and always tried to kick it feebly in the other direction whenever possible.

It wasn’t uncommon to walk on the playground during a typical day and have the silence interrupted by the cacophony of four rubber kickballs being launched into the air simultaneously. As I passed underneath them, I always thought one would divert from its gravity path–and the last thing I would see before being knocked unconscious was the ball’s horrible grinning face.

PS: I initially wanted to do a whole post on the aforementioned kickballs since they’ve managed to burn so brightly in my memory for all these years, but apparently I’m the only one who remembers them. When I started writing this I put the phrase ” scratch and sniff fruit kickballs”, and every conceivable variation thereof into Google and got no relevant hits. I thought for sure as soon as I hit enter on the keyboard I’d get a hit from one of those websites that chronicles every aspect of 90’s nostalgia, which would give me not only the brand name of the balls but also I picture to go with this post that would prove to doubters that these kickballs were as demented as I claim. Alas, the only image I’ve found online that closely resembles them is this Bounder from the Commander Keen series.

If any of my readers know the line of kickballs I’m referring to or could provide a picture, please comment below.

If nothing comes from this plea for information I will regard the above paragraphs at the very least to be a fitting homage to Stephen King’s short story, The Monkey. A story far scarier than it has any right to be.

Who said kickball is for socially inept people who just like to kick things?

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Rediscovering that old playground bravado Part 1

Posted by Steven on March 17, 2011

Growing up I don’t remember being envious of many obvious talents possessed by friends or family members; only being keenly aware that I didn’t seem to have any overt skills that I could use to readily earn friends within even the most obscure niche groups of people on the playground, including the group of kids that chooses to remain ignorant of, either by choice or parental conditioning, advances in technology and team sport. They are content to play the games of yesteryear . A teacher stands guard in the shadows, making sure nothing more modern than a Mattel electronic football game is allowed to be introduced into their native environment. This is where I come in and make a general inquiry.

“Hey guys, so how exactly do you play tiddlywinks?”

“You play in teams trying to propel your chips into the center pot using a squidger while squoping your opponent’s chips in the process. There’s so much more I could explain to you but it’d probably be better if you just watch Dario here. He has a killer squop shot that obliterates everybody else’s winks and before ya know it he’s totally rabbit bashing the rest of us. Show him Dario,” a kid named Reed says.

Dario, playing with the red winks, eyes a lone green wink some distance away from a larger wink pile and delicately places his squidger towards the end of the wink, angled for distance purposes. Sweat drips off his forehead and threatens to obscure his vision as he tries to calculate how much force is needed to cover the wink. He closes his eyes and fires. With a minute clicking noise the wink leaps forward and bounces up and over the green wink, finally coming to rest near the cup.

“Oh God, I talk you up like that and then you up like that and then you turn into a first class choke artist with a total feeb shot,” Reed moans.
You can’t expect to become a professional winker if you can’t learn to keep your squidger straight when you attempt this shot How many times have I need to tell you that need to fire it from a high enough angle that the wink bounces off the ground twice and lands on the target?”

“I was trying to do that, you idiot. My finger just slipped because I’m hot as an overcooked turkey in this custom made ‘Winks Club’ letter jacket that you insist we all wear. It’s 80 degrees out today!”
“My mom paid good money to have those jackets made and with yours there was a surcharge because she ended up having to go to a big and tall shop and it took her forever to find the right material for your requested Rocky Road color scheme.”

“You leave my favorite ice cream out of this or I’ll pound you into the asphalt.”

“Hey Steven where are you going?” Reed calls out “Next week we’re playing this new game called pickup sticks, you don’t want to miss out.”

Like many around the age of 5-6, my initial belief in what my strengths were came from my parents, who were always quick to point out that I already had a well defined sense of humor at a young age and could read above grade level. I agreed with them for the most part, knowing that the areas in which I could show potential in were severely limited by my physical disability. There was no childhood spent playing a multitude of sports at my parents urging, with the silent hope that I’d develop enough athletic ability to earn a scholarship to a prestigious university. I’ve always had my sense of humor and my writing ability–and that’s it.

Having a high level of reading comprehension really isn’t anything to brag about either. After the first couple of grades teachers stop caring so much about how well you’re reading, assuming of course that you’re not borderline illiterate, and the act loses its qualitative value. According to the statistics generated by this test, most people read an average of 200 WPM and stop trying to improve their reading speed after age 12, so everything evens out in the end. No one wants to watch you employ speed reading techniques to blast through Atlas Shrugged.

My thanks to both The North American Tiddlywinks association and English Tiddlywinks Association (ETwA) websites for giving me a general overview of tiddlywinks jargon and explaining the rules of the game. Between the article on squoping by Larry Kahn and An Introduction to Tiddlywinks by Andy Pervis, Charles Relle and Mapley (both of which can be found on the ETWA’s website), I was almost convinced that Tiddlywinks is engrossing and complex enough to be worthy of my time.

Nothing pushes an issue closer to irrelevancy more than a meaningless Facebook group

Finally…

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