Throughout history, there have been many devious instruments of torture. There was the rack, the metal slide, and the iron maiden.
Now you haven’t really lived if you haven’t slid down a metal slide, in shorts, during the midday summer heat. There is nothing as satisfying as scorching the backs of your legs on a downward spiral into Hell; if you’re lucky, your shorts will hike up and cause your skin to adhere to the slide itself and you may be fortunate enough to get stuck halfway down Satan’s Skillet. You may even be lucky enough to sort of stick and slide all the way down, causing amazing degrees of Indian Burns from the friction of your skin on the metal. Talk about adding insult to injury.
My mom taught us a trick. And she says she loved us. Yeah, right. Anyway, we used to add to the fun of a hot metal slide by sliding down on wax paper a few times, or just using the wax paper to rub on the metal slide, making it super, SUPER slippery. It worked like a charm, let me tell you! It created a whole new level of thrill.
Now my Grandma Jimmie was a rather hip grandma, and she and my mother both loved to go down the slides with my brother and me. That’s how I remember it, anyway. Of course, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the coffee in their thermos had been spiked either…I mean, they did have my brother and I to deal with after all. Anyway, on this particular day, my Aunt Margaret joined us for the fun. Nothing like having a few witnesses. We had been waxing the slide a couple of times that day, and maybe…just maybe…it was a little slicker than we had thought.
My sweet grandmother climbed the metal rungs of the slide, and perched at the top for her innocent, fun ride. She gave us a smile and a wave, and set off on her journey.
Perhaps you’ve read about my grandmother in some of the more obscure history books; she was the first grandma ever to achieve space flight. And we were there to witness it all. She flew down the slide at Mach speed, and sailed off into the unknown at the end. Her feet never even touched terra firma as she flew into orbit. I’m telling you, she flew. All things that go up, must come down as they say. She landed on her rear end, about ten feet away from the slide. It was impressive, really.
I’d like to say we were right at her side, concerned and helping her to her feet. I’d like to say that, but the reality was we were laughing too hard. Luckily, my grandmother was okay. Told you, she was a hip grandma. And apparently tough as nails to boot. My mother, my Aunt Margaret, my brother, and I were useless to our elderly astronaut. If they had cell phones in the 70’s, I cannot even imagine the fame she would have gotten on YouTube. It would have been phenomenal. Truly. Naturally, once we saw my grandmother flying across the playground, we all wanted our turn on the Amazing Slide of Doom.
We live in a generation of kids who have plastic slides to coddle their behinds and will never know the joys of burning yourself to death on metal slides at the playground. In a way, it’s a shame. Third degree burns on the playground are a rite of passage. Not to mention the joys of becoming airborne when the right accoutrement is used.
Today’s playgrounds feature rubberized mats, monkey bars that are only about three feet off the ground, and safety swings. In my day, we had solid concrete under our feet, skyscraper monkey bars that we were afraid to try to climb back down, and chains on our swings that ensured we would get our fingers caught in them at least once. I also remember one unfortunate incident with a hippity-hop, a jump rope, and a baseball bat, but I digress.
Is it evil to want to see little Tommy Joe, in his perfect Osh Kosh B’Gosh overalls, take the searing slide of sadism?
If I have any consolation, it’s that the new plastic slides feature those gigantic metal bolts at the end that guarantee an unbelievable electric shock from the static built up during the slide.
It’s a beautiful thing.