Recess Rules

When you’re overseeing an operation such as an elementary school playground, it’s important to have rules. Without rules, there is chaos. Of course, there is chaos even with the rules, but at least the rules give some parameters to the chaos.

Elementary students are bizarre little gremlins who possess this raging energy and no authority over their emotions. On top of that, you can’t trust them because they’re such newbies to the world that they freeze up and follow the first bad idea that comes to mind. Here, a textbook example:

The teacher circles the room like a vulture as the students color and paste their prescribed art projects (which require them to follow a strict set of rules) and something peculiar grabs her attention. In one of the cubbies, there are plastic legs sticking out of a camouflage lunchbox. Upon inspection, she discovers that the lunchbox belongs to Ben.

“Ben, did you know that there was a Barbie in your lunchbox?” The teacher asks, squatting beside Ben’s desk.

Ben looks sheepishly into her eyes. “Yes.”

“Did you put it there?”

“No.”

“Did you know Mary was missing a Barbie doll?”

“No.”

“Ben, I made an announcement about it this morning.”

“No.”

“Okay… Not a question, but. So you didn’t steal it?”

“No.”

“So how did it get there?”

“I don’t know.”

“I think you’re lying.”

“Maybe Mary put it in my lunchbox.”

“Ben, you’re full of shit.”

Honestly, their schemes aren’t even well-planned or well-hidden. So there needs to be some rules to hold them accountable, whether they like it or not (which they don’t).

Some rules just make sense, such as No Running during recess. You need to slow the chaos down. Back when I used to attend elementary school, this rule was viewed very seriously.

“Absolutely, under no circumstances, is there to be any running. Running is strictly prohibited. Running will result in severe punishment. It is dangerous and illegal to run at recess and it will not be tolerated. That sort of action will not occur at recess or any other point in the school day. To reiterate, no running. No running.”

“Can we skip?”

“Sure.”

So when recess began, the moment our velcro shoes hit the pavement, we’d storm the playground in a mad skipping frenzy, violently pumping each leg into the air after the other. One hundred elementary kids skipping towards the monkey bars, the swings, the jungle gym–like a wall of death. Our faces– grave, because we were determined as we skipped, our targets set and spindly legs being driven to the max. The teachers–eye lids hanging low. It’s true: we weren’t running, so no whistle blows there.

This made for some joyous-looking games of tags, where there were fifteen skipping children pursuing each other, skipping up to their classmate, tagging them, and bounding off with a leap.

In addition to common sense rules, there were some rules that resulted from troublesome behavior, like No Throwing Mulch and No Loitering by the Swings.

Which brings me to my story. I had a group of odd friends who greatly enjoyed the giant green covered slide. We were instructed one person down the slide at a time, which we followed. One person would go down the slide at a time, then the next, then the next, one after the other… We just didn’t exit the slide. So, by the end, we had effectively clogged the slide and would hang out in the different bends, holding ourselves against the sides.

For whatever reason, we thrived on clogging the slide, so that when other classmates wanted to go for a quick slip down gravity spiral, they were forced to join our party, illuminated in a green glow. Sometimes the other kids would just turn around and crawl back up the slide (something else we were instructed not to do), and sometimes they would crawl over us and exit the proper hole. Other times, they’d stick around and contribute to the clogging.

We had some deep talks in that slide. One time, Leandra confessed that she stole a box of crayons from the classroom’s community art shelf. Another time, we discussed what we would do if the world was taken over by zombies, including a full ten-step action plan starting with saving our mothers and hot-wiring an airplane. Once, Derrick revealed he had a crush on a girl in our class. He didn’t tell us who, but he said she had brown hair, which narrowed it down to every girl in our class except three. Ah yes, we had some of the most mentally stimulating conversations in that slide I’ve ever had with fellow students in my entire educational career.

Alas, the teachers soon realized the dark green shadows inside the slide and the echoed voices meant we were backed up in there, and from the bottom of the slide, the teacher stuck in her head and yelled at us to clear out. Thus, it was we who necessitated the rule “No clogging the slide.” Of course, we clogged again, as it was our instinct and passion to do so. But from then on, it was forbidden, so the clogging was exhilarating, and sometimes just plain stressful. But it needed to be done, so we’d have Ronald on the lookout and when the teachers meandered to the other corner of the playground, we’d slide into action.

It feels noble to be a part of the reason that rule was created. I have made my mark on civilization and my legacy will live on in that school with the rule of No Clogging the Slide. Parents will catch wind of this random rule and wonder how this came to be an enforced law. One day, I’ll tell my brother’s great-grandchildren, “I used to clog the slide. In those days, it was legal.”

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