Bouncing And Bouncing And Bouncing 🤾🏽♂️
Some scientific observations from midair...
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When you enter a trampoline park, they give you these bright green socks with gooey rubber treads on the bottom so your feet stick to the floor and you won’t slip and pull a muscle or fall on a child. Each step makes this “skshhhh skshhhh” noise as the socks stick and unstick from the floor, adding an undercurrent of TV static to the soundscape of mostly children screaming.
When the timer starts and the usher shepherds us up the ramp, we sprint across this grid of one-person trampoline squares. People (again, children) hop from square to square, some of them running across a whole stretch of them, others (me) taking their time, making tall McDonald’s “M” arches between squares. We try out every move. Jumping high, jumping low, crossing squares diagonally, bouncing into a sitting position, bouncing out of a sitting position. Every lifestyle is welcome on the trampoline.
Bouncing brings the best out of us. Especially the children. I’m happily jumping up and down on my own grid, enjoying the thrill of the bounce, but then I turn, and I see this chubby little boy doing a series of front flips in his trampoline grid, one after another after another, just spinning around in the air like an antsy video game character, or like a particularly hypnotizing bowling ball, just rotating forward, backward, and even diagonally, until eventually, having blessed us with his personal physics demonstration, he stops and bounces to a new square, and everyone around him blinks themselves back to real life, waking up and looking around like a concert just ended and realizing that there were at least seven other people staring at this child with them. As I come back to my senses, I attempt to front flip like this boy, but mostly just land on my ass, which already feels undignified, but doubly so because I bounce half a foot upon landing and my neck does a little bobblehead thing.
Soon, I reclaim my dignity, though. There’s an American Ninja Warrior-type obstacle course in the middle where you have to balance on a narrow beam, leap between hanging ropes, and climb sloped ladders to reach the end, and if you complete the whole thing unscathed, a man clad in camouflage will pull you aside as you pant for breath and enlist you in the military on the spot. (I am proud to say that I completed one of the two courses and rejected the man’s offer.)
In one corner is one of those setups where you and another challenger stand atop a narrow ledge and beat each other to near death with giant padded q-tip things. After ramming my friend’s leg with my weapon, a small boy approaches. A new challenger has arrived. He picks up the dropped q-tip and starts attacking without warning. It’s bigger than him; he’s flailing. I consider how I play this out—I’d rather not batter a child, even if his eyes are filled with bloodlust—but before I can take a dive and let him have his special trampoline park moment, he swings with such gusto that he loses control and falls into the foam pit.
Later, during a little intermission period, my friends and I skshhh skshhh our way upstairs and pound a couple boxes of trampoline park pizza. It is unbelievably adequate. Each slice is hollow. I feel like I’m eating air. Maybe the cashier just breathed into the dough. That’s okay, though. Air is great for high blood pressure.
After ripping through our meal, we head back and wind up in the dodgeball courts on either side. We split into teams and look each other in the eyes and, like all professional athletes do before a match, we deeply internalize that we are mortal enemies and nothing will change that until the end of this game. The child that I battled earlier with the q-tip thing joins my team. He likes us. He’s talking to us, planning strategy. You get on this side, I’ll get in the front, he says. Stuff like that. His future is bright.
But before I can dwell on the beauty of a child’s unlimited potential, a whistle is blown, and I’m leaping across trampoline grids towards the middle. We snatch dodgeballs and run/bounce to the back of our sides. It feels ridiculous, but my blood’s pumping. I’m throwing these foam balls at mach speed. People are getting smacked in the face. I can’t help myself. I catch a few balls, pass them to the little kid, who’s so small and hard to hit it’s unfair, and we run train on the other team. Balls are exchanged until just me and the kid remain. Our team wins. Sweat drips, we stop bouncing, game over.
On cue, the buzzer sounds, and our time’s up at the trampoline park. We use our t-shirts to soak up our face sweat. We take a bus to a train to another train to my apartment. Gravity feels foreign. The ground feels too hard. It’s kind of like getting off a treadmill after twenty minutes and feeling like the floor is moving forward with you. I shower and massage my sore back. My sore shoulders. My tense feet. It has been a day. I close my eyes at some point and open them the next morning. A savory soreness ripples through my back with each step. Hips are ridiculously tight.
I don’t know the kids do it.
Other Things Of Note
Question! I miss learning and being in a classroom with people, and I’m tired of the Internet. So now, I’m looking for any group, community, or school in/around NYC that offers in-person classes, lecture series, communities, readings, or other academic/intellectual events. (Preferably free/low cost.) Leave a comment or reply to the email if you know of anything!
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—Chuckry Vengadam (@churrthing)