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Anybody Else Have One of These Death Machines on their Elementary School Playground?

March 26, 2006

[Cross-posted at Braindead Shithead.]

Playground contraption 1It was a steel pole about eight feet tall, stuck in the ground. At the top a rotating hoop about two feet in diameter, with four or five steel chains equally spaced around the circumference of the hoop. The chains hung down and had forged steel handles at the end three or four feet off the ground.

It was essentially a more modern, more brutal version of the contraption pictured at this link.

Playground contraption 2In it’s normal mode of operation, a group of kids would hold on to the handles and run around the perimeter, jumping off the ground occasionally and swinging out.

To be honest, it wasn’t much of a ride. But we were industrious kids. It wouldn’t take long to devise a way to make this thing more thrilling…

Playground contraption 3What we discovered pretty quickly, was that if to start, one crossed one’s chain over the chain of the person behind oneself. Then, when one went to jump out and swing, one would fly up and over/across the back of the person in front. And the physics of this machine were such that even though one was following no more than two or three feet behind the person ahead of oneself, when one did make their jump, the tension on the chain would take up quickly enough that one need not worry about flying into their cohort who had allowed them to cross chains. It was a clean launch, with not so much as a brushing past of the person in front.

Funner. Yes. Better.

Playground contraption 4Isn’t there an expression to the effect of, “if one is good, then two must be better”? Well, as ten-year-olds, that was the prevailing theory we were working from at the time, anyway. The common sense wisdom that warns about “too much of a good thing,” is wisdom that comes with age and experience. But we were young and invincible. So one day I decided to cross two chains.

Now, I wouldn’t call this an act of courage. No, because there was no forethought whatsoever as to the possible outcomes of taking such an action. The risks were not calculated in any manner. Your Montag wasn’t exactly Jimmy Doolittle attempting the first blind airplane landing using only instrumentation.

The result? Pure unadulterated terror. As such, after my experience, all talk of crossing two chains on this apparatus would carry the same caveats as the Ghostbusters ‘crossing the streams.’

Playground contraption 5“Don’t cross two chains.”

“Why not?”

“Trust me. It will be bad.”

“What do you mean ‘bad?'”

“It’s hard to explain, but try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and finding yourself confined forever in another dimension.”

Still want to see the result? Click here.

Yep. Hori-fucking-zontal. And fast as hell. That quick take-up of tension and clean launch were amplified. Nonetheless, it was one of those slow motion events. No matter, it was the most terrifying moment of my short life to that point, a white knuckled, holyshitI’mgoingtodie moment. There was no doubt in my frantic mind, I wouldn’t be able to hold on. My melon would quickly and certainly be cracked open, contents spilled on the blacktop when I came crashing down. (We didn’t have that soft wood-chip mulch shit under the playground equipment. It was bituminous concrete all the way.)

Somehow I summoned the strength and managed the endurance to hold tight until gravity and the slowing machine did their work and returned me to blacktopa firma, where aside from the dizziness and staggering of shock, I was ok, and generally glad to be alive. Even the student-teacher that witnessed the event, seemed very understanding, and I was not reprimanded, but only verified to be ‘alright.’ She was probably equally terrified that she would have been responsible for letting me crack my head open. I don’t recall if it became an official rule, but after that, as long as she was on duty, there was no crossing of chains allowed.

So… did anybody else have one of these death machines on their elementary school playground?

  1. March 27, 2006 10:00 PM

    That’s good writing. I laughed out loud.

  2. March 28, 2006 12:04 AM


    You’re too kind.

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