At first blush the vehicle looked about as steady as Willie Nelson at a cannabis convention. But what it lacked in structural integrity it more than made up for in imagination.
It was a motorized scooter — little more than a skateboard with a handle. On top of the 4-inch-wide deck there was a square board duct-taped to it. Now, duct-taped to the board (which, remember, was duct-taped to the scooter) was a flimsy lawn chair. On top of the lawn chair sat about a 9- to 10-year-old kid cruising down the pavement at about 15 mph. In the cup holder, contained in the armrest, was a juice box, so you know the little kid was health conscious.
There are a lot of overprotective parents in today’s world. The kind of parents who insist their kids be supervised, organized and sanitized. None of those parents seem to live in my ’hood.
I don’t mean to suggest that those parents, on my street, are bad or in the least negligent — far from it. But simply that along with the family time, organized activities, camps, clubs and school, the kids in my ’hood seem to have some time to be kids — creative, reckless and sometimes foolish kids. Street hockey, touch football, skateboards, scooters, bikes and pogo sticks, much like the kids of my generation.
The summers of my youth were filled with unsupervised play and mayhem. Every weekend, almost all of the summer, I would ride my bike about a mile to this park and ball field. We would pick teams for games of baseball, football, basketball and rock fights. When I was the youngest I was picked last; when I was older I did the choosing. Tears were occasionally shed, noses were sometimes bloodied, lifelong friendships formed and a pecking order of cause and effect and accountability were learned.
We would stay out all day only to return when the street lights turned on. Coming home with a fat lip or bloody nose was ignored but ripped clothing was not. “If you are going to get into a fight, take off your new shirt first. I didn’t pay good money so you could rip your clothes the first day you wear them.” (Actual quote of my mum’s.)
When the schools are out of session and the local kids begin to run roughshod through the neighborhoods it allows me to somewhat relive my own joyful days of summer. I never was a good student, thus disliked school. I later learned that I had a serious learning disability. (I think the clinical term is “lazy.”) I learned more on the playground and ball fields than I learned in class.
Per my wife’s orders I was out in our front yard weeding. (She deems it me sharing in our home’s upkeep; I consider it foreplay.) We live at the bottom of a slight hill with an intersection. I look up the street to see the aforementioned child flying down the road at about 15 mph. The purr of the engine and rumbling of the small plastic wheels could be heard from a half block away.
The child looked in control and relaxed with a flip-flops on his feet, helmet on his head and both hands on the steering stick. He arched a perfect turn at the bottom of the street and cruised by.
He slowed down, took one hand off the steering stick, took a sip from his juice box and raised one eyebrow as if to say, “What do you think?”
I took a look at the tiny wheels, puny brakes and the judicious use of duct tape and gave him an honest answer, “What could possibly go wrong?” I watched with envy as he cruised away. Envy for his youth and optimism and for the fact that he has an entire unencumbered summer to enjoy both.
I can only imagine the fear and concern parents feel when they send their children out into the world. A world, that is far safer here in the U.S.A. than in many other nations but still a world not without danger. Like anything that you cherish there must be that temptation to do whatever is necessary to protect it. But just like a newly designed mode of transportation, a youngster can benefit from being tested by the bumps in the road of life.
I think, for the most part, all of us worry too much — I know I do.
Mark Twain said, “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them have never happened.” And he lived before duct tape was invented.
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias Biff America, can be seen on TV-8-Summit and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.