in playgrounds throughout the city there are black rubber mats strategically placed beneath the equipment—presumably to protect kids from broken bones if they happen to fall off the monkey bars or the swing set. rubber mats are, one would think, preferable to plain old hard-core asphalt.
one would think.
it seems these black rubber mats can be rather treacherous. in the sun, they heat up to very high temperatures and have burned poor innocent children who walked across them barefoot. there were pictures splashed everywhere of one particular boy's badly burned tootsies. poor kid had to be hospitalized. parents throughout the boroughs are outraged and demanding something be done about these life-threatening playground hazards.
i admit i got sucked in to their plight initially. who wants to see a little kid in pain? i couldn't believe the city's parks department would be so foolish as to install such torturous mats in every playground.
then i read Mayor Bloomberg's response to the uproar.
he said (more or less), "uh, hello? don't walk barefoot on the mats. if the equipment is too hot, don't go on it. we can't air-condition the slides."
when i read his response i had an immediate flashback to the old playground at the Hatfield Township Pool circa 1984. there wasn't much to it back then, but we loved it. and every damn piece of equipment there was a death trap. the seats of the swings were black and made from some kind of rubber and you were a fool to sit on them in short-shorts or just your bathing suit. the big slide was a vertical metal frying pan (if you were dumb enough to climb up there on a hot day, your thighs would stick to the surface and it would be painful and embarrassing trying to inch your way down). the merry-go-round (the kind without the horses, remember those?) had bars that were always too hot to touch and a big rubber tire in the center that would scald you if you went anywhere near it.
and—and!—there was gravel on the ground. lots of tiny stones that would get lodged in the treads of our jellies, stuck inside our sneakers, embedded in our knees if we tripped and fell (which of course i did regularly).
and you know what? not one kid i knew ever wound up in the hospital from playing on that playground. no one ever complained if a kid fell jumping off a swing or got spun off the merry-go-round. we were kids. we did dumb kid things. we got hurt. we survived.
so i'm with Bloomberg on this one. it's not the city's fault these kids got their feet burned. why the hell are their parents (i mean, nannies) letting them run around shoeless on a city playground anyway? when is that ever a good idea? i love how these people make thoughtless decisions that harm their kids and never take responsibility. it's always someone else's fault. great example you're setting for your kids, folks.
so i don't know what these people want—plush carpeting under the jungle gym? feather beds beneath the swings? whatever it is, they're not getting it and—call me crazy—i can't tell you how glad i am about that. the yuppie parent madness has got to stop.