There’s a good reason why my wife Laurie and I are married: She’s been a preschool teacher for 24 years and I’ve been a big kid all my life. The highlight of my day is when I get to go pick her up at work a bit early and get to play with the kids in the school’s playground.
I remember the playgrounds of my younger days: huge slides made of metal that got hot in the Florida sun, big swing sets that offered massive heights to jump off of, push-and-go-rounds where you could get your shirt snagged and get taken for a wild ride whether you liked it or not, high monkey bars and rope ladders with no foam padding to cushion your fall, and who can forget the seesaws – teeter-totters for you new-schoolers – that could result in a tailbone-jarring drop.
My friends and I used to come home with abrasions, contusions, lacerations and, in the worst cases, fractures because, if you didn’t, it just wasn’t a good day on the playground. No room for weakness, as it was a pure test of Darwinian survival. Our parents would give us the necessary first aid or drive us to the ER while cursing our endeavors, but they never sued.
Either you adapted and perfected whatever it was you were trying to pull off, or you went by the wayside. If you fell, you got back up, ignored the injury and tried again. That was then.
Soon came the ambulance-chasing trial lawyers and the lawsuits. We started noticing that the swing sets, slides and monkey bars got smaller while the push-and-go-rounds, see-saws and rope ladders disappeared. Then came the kids whose parents were too afraid to allow them to enjoy the playground environment of before. There went the neighborhood.
Nowadays, playgrounds are much safer and boring. Worst yet is the effect this has on the gene pool. Because of the self-proclaimed safety Nazis, rules came about that assure the weakest of the gene pool get to survive and thrive. But it’s not only on the playground where this effect is seen; it happens in all aspects of society.
Acts of stupidity have been renamed “being a victim” and are rewarded on a daily basis. Who can forget the infamous McDonald’s hot-coffee incident? Sure, the coffee was hot, but the physics governing a fluid in a vessel undergoing momentum have existed for millions of years. Besides, coffee is supposed to be hot.
The list of frivolous lawsuits by “victims” is long. Check out the Darwin Awards or FARK.com and see what I mean.
In a lot of cases the “you can buy what you’re not” mentality plays a role in creating more so-called victims. Let me put it this way: Just because you saw it on the XGames and you’ve perfected it on your Xbox does not in any way mean that you’ll pull it off in the real, greater-than-two-dimensional world.
Many times I’ve seen the yokel in the mountains with a brand-new $2,500 downhill bike wrapped around a tree in the least challenging section of the trail. There’s always the guy with the latest and greatest in snowboard gear and apparel hugging that pine tree on the bunny slope. Yeah, you paid lots for the gear, but skill is something you can’t buy.
I remember the dad and 16-year-old kid that came in to the skateboard shop I used to skate for in Santa Monica. They asked for a refund on the purchased board because it was defective. The defect consisted of the fact that their son couldn’t stay on the board whenever he went off a jump ramp.
I was asked to take said board outside and put it through the paces. A couple of ollies, a kickflip, a 50-50 grind and shove-it later, it was determined there was nothing wrong with the board other than tight trucks.
I asked junior to hop on and give it a run. His simple lack of balance and skill led me to tell the dad the following: “It’s not the board that’s defective; it appears to be your son.”
The irate dad threatened to sue the skate shop for providing a faulty product and not giving him a refund, even though the problem was obviously not the board.
So now we have safer playgrounds and laws to protect the dumb since society has lowered the Darwin bar to a dangerous all-time low.
Well, at least we have “America’s Funniest Videos” to remind us that there still exist some brave souls willing to put physics to the test and pay the consequences with a big smile for the camera and the possibility of getting $10,000 for their efforts. At least, unlike the victims out to scam a buck in court, they make me laugh. Pi