Posted by: robinsonwarner | July 21, 2008

The Kids Who Ate Glue, Recess and The Rest of your Life

I was thinking the other day about my elementary school experience and curious whether there was a real life equivalent of “recess”.  Having only been in the “real world” (not a full time student) for two months to the day, I wouldn’t necessarily call myself the expert on the matter.  There is no other state of your life where your supervisors drop everything and say, “Go!  You’re free!”, except when you retire, but by then you are too old to appreciate your freedom because your lower back is hurting, you can’t eat the same things you wanted to, and that BMW you bought didn’t make your dick any bigger.  Imagine your bosses in the middle of the day saying, “All right folks, that was a good staff meeting.  I’ll see you after lunch and recess.”  What would adults do with that free time normally reserved for children in elementary school?  My guess is that local bars would see a massive influx of people desperate to escape their meaningless cubicle-dominated lifestyles.  People would be showing up to their jobs retarded and drunk and I’m not even talking about the current presidential administration. 


Recess was a more innocent time where “play” was emphasized.  And by “play” I mean that “the teachers needed those little shits to work off some of their energy so they wouldn’t go insane and have to go back to the days where beating children was considered the mild form of punishment in public schools.


The strange thing about recess is that the same basic groups can be found on every elementary school playground in the United States.  There are around a half dozen groups of individuals that dominate the recess playground:


The “Jocks” – These are the kids who played sports such as kickball, football or even four-square.  The teams may have varied from day to day but there were certain things that remained consistent over the school year.  It was always the second most gifted athlete or at least the most charismatic one that brought The Ball to recess.  He was a relatively skinny individual who was able to manipulate the masses by verbally artistic putdowns.  As a result he had developed a certain swagger and was able to force others to obey his command.  Usually this individual was a developing megalomaniac who was terribly insecure himself.  But this psychiatric case study would always pick the most athletic person on the field because, as the owner of the ball, he was entitled to the right of “First Captain” and therefore first pick.  The two teams would play against each other in kickball, basketball, and maybe even tackle football (if the gods permitted), but the only consistency was that the team with the First Captain on it won heartily every time.  The “Second Team’s” captain would pick a ragtag, almost Mighty Ducks like group of individuals that might just have enough heart to pull out the upset.  It was at this time that the Second Captain realized that life was indeed not fair and that those who owned the ball, most likely would win.  It was like American economics except there was more skinned knees and self esteem deficiency


The Swingers – No, these are not “hepcats” who listen to the Cherry Poppin’ Daddys or The Brian Setzer Orchestra.  These are the young kids who took the swing set very, very seriously.  They were not afraid to defy physics and also call out the “swinger” who would swing for more than “ten Mississippi’s” per standard playground rules.  They were devoted physicists who had developed a passion for their craft and flocked to the swing set after they had consumed their French-bread pizza at lunch.  These kids would swing as high as possible all the while understanding that their lives were being spent in a futile struggle with physics:  they would never go all the way around.  This is the earliest sighting of existentialism in a young individual’s life.  This also included opening Capri Suns. The swingers were also the first to venture into the realm of dismounts at the pinnacle of their swing, something that took balls far bigger than nature intended at this time in their life.


The Early Bloomers – This group of elementary school kids was generally comprised of girls who were tremendously interested in kissing boys.  This, of course, required recruiting a small gaggle of sexually advanced ten year old boys who may or may not have had access to their father’s collection of porno with titles such as “Star Whores”, and “We Ran out of Puns, But These People are Still Totally Having Sex Vol. 9”.  This was one starting point for boys on their trip through their early and mid-teens by discovering who they were while also compromising their rational behavior in the pursuit of unattainable women who ignored them. 


The rest of the boys in the grade would begin puberty upon their first viewing of Britney Spears’ first music video “Hit Me Baby One More Time”, like God intended.


The Troublemakers – These were the kids who were under constant surveillance by the teachers and administrators.  At some point though, there were too many troublemakers in elementary school, so some mischief and shenanigans was always being gotten into. The Troublemakers that had been apprehended could be seen near the lunch ladies on the playground, their chaotic souls desperately yearning to be free.   These kids were kept on a short leash for their penchant for punching and lighting other students on fire.  Troublemakers also involved the kids who were convinced that they could outsmart the teachers by leaving the school ground at recess to attend more pressing matters such as eating Gobstoppers and discovering they did indeed have pubes. 


The Snitches – These are the kids who spent a lot of time identifying with the maternal figure of the lunch lady at recess.  Perhaps these individuals had terrible separation anxiety from their mothers upon attending full time elementary school.  Or perhaps there was way too much freedom at recess, too much variety.  Better play it safe near the lady with the whistle, Tommy. 


Either way, these students generally wore wind-pants three to four days a week and were wearing Power Rangers t-shirts.  I mean everyone liked the show, but a t-shirt?  Come on.


They got a rise out of having more information than you and sharing it with those in charge.  They also were the types of kids who had way too much mayonnaise on their sandwiches and owned extensive stamp collections.  It was easy to identify these childhood canaries by their uncanny ability to be first in line on the way back into school after lunch was over.  Being first, or line leader, meant that you were the cat’s fucking meow in kindergarten, but the idea lost its novelty thereafter.  While this remains the fact, jealousy was always harbored for these classmates as they received what little praise doled out by otherwise vicious lunch-ladies.


The Playgrounders – These were the kids who not only spent most of their time on monkey bars, bouncy bridges and potentially unassailable structures, but they took it seriously.  They looked upon their playground occupation with pride and would push not only the limits of their bodies, but also the very laws of physics.  These were the individuals that many kids truly envied.  They lived in a world without fear, without boundaries, and ultimately, ten years later, would live in a world without their L23 vertebrae and were subsequently unable to feel anything from the waist down.


The GirlAthletes – This was the group of girls that understood already that the fragile male psyche could not handle the fact that the female body was capable of the physical rigors of football.  So these humble, feminine athletes spent time in the ranks playing games such as “Hop Scotch”, “Double Dutch”, or, because of their natural predisposition towards chores, they would go back into the cafeteria and help wash dishes.  If Snow White has taught us anything, it’s that chicks love cleaning up after untidy men.


It wasn’t a malevolent and purposeful act on the girls’ part to dominate boys at red rover and asses-up.  It’s simple biological fact that girls develop at an earlier age than boys.  What many people don’t realize is that the separation of boys and girls in sports is not to rescue girls from certain physical annihilation, but to rescue boys from lifelong trauma due to the unthinkable, unconscionable, unforgivable event of losing to a “cootie monster”.  Loss to a girl in kickball could only be remedied by a series of “circle, circle, dot, dot” injections.


In all seriousness though, these girls would soon realize their ability to succeed in the world.  Parts of this success are natural, but also due to the fact that in their formative years females tend not to be as obsessed with their private parts as males are.  As a result they are accepted into colleges at a higher rate as well.  This is a recipe for success.  Much like when pizza places starting delivering to drunk college kids.


The Godfather – This was one of the smaller children who realized that he might not make it off the playground alive the first day and thus began a plan to ensure his survival.  Possessing exceptional intelligence, masterful in the ways manipulation, and instilling loyalty among other kids, this individual would ultimately surround himself with much, much larger individuals who would hang out with him, tell him how smart and cool he was.  Any bully who knew anything knew not to mess with little Jacob because he had it all figured out.  This kid was terribly adept at having candy when he wasn’t supposed to, never getting in trouble, and always having a hall pass for someone in need.  For a price. 


The kid who ate grass – This is pretty self explanatory.  These kids also ate their boogers, their earwax, crayons, Elmer’s glue and pennies and smiled about it.  Their poop probably looked like, to quote the immortal Tucker Max, “a tapioca abortion”. These were also the kids who were unexplainably dirty EVERY SINGLE DAY, even days when it rained outside and recess was held inside the gym like a WWII internment camp.  Nobody knew where the stains came from, and nobody asked.  There was always a mustard stain.  Always.   These kids almost always had that red stain around their lips from just loving the shit out of the fruit punch their mom packed in their Ninja Turtle lunch box.


Who knows what these various types of children did when they reached middle school, high school and beyond.  They could be a fellow class mate at your college or they could be bagging your groceries.  They could have upper management written all over them or you could be asking these people to get you a latte after lunch.  What’s most important is that you and these kids shared a common bond of freedom that will never be shared again.  All you can do is reflect upon the unique experience you shared and remembering fondly the recesses of yesteryear and you most likely will never see any of these kids again.  Except Jacob, you owe that guy a ton of money.  He’s made you an offer you can’t refuse.


What we can take away from this trip down memory lane is the reality that recess isn’t taken away by the structure of the American education system, the government, school administrators, or our parents.  We as a culture let recess be taken away because recess wasn’t serious enough and the formidably distressing reality of life is that it is very serious; that is if we let it be.  This moderately tragic part of life is that as life goes on our freedom is restricted even more even after recess is taken away.  We need to make money, “focus on our studies”, play organized sports, get girlfriends, take the SAT’s, go to college and plan out our whole lives. 


The disappearance of recess is a sad commentary on the fact that people take life too seriously in general.  And no, I’m not naïve enough to believe that life doesn’t require serious endeavors, but honestly, when was the last time you went on a swing?  Or maybe just enjoyed the rush of wind on your face as you simply enjoyed gravity and friction on a slide? 


It might seem juvenile, but that’s only because you’ve been told it’s juvenile.  Being outside and just playing is one of the most pure, true things a human can do.  It is when this is taken away from us that we lose perspective on the important things of life.  Yes, we get older numerically, but that doesn’t mean we have to age.  Age is a measure of perspective.   


So if the “real world” has gotten you down folks, I have a simple, part time remedy. On your lunch break or on a Saturday, find a playground go down a slide, take two minutes to swing.   Take a deep breath, forget the stress if only for a moment and you’ll find your world is a little bit brighter.


Much Thanks to Tom who gets co-authorship for this post.  Say Wayme.





  1. Haha, I wish recess happened in the “real world” of adult life. I think it’s called daydreaming now. Or Facebook. Good post.

  2. […] of irony, but it is a kind of their irony that really just means “makes you look like you eat paste for breakfast.”  They don’t fully understand true irony because they didn’t ascribe to the […]

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