Sky High!A Story by Rena
A comedic dissection of the hell house full of trampolines and children known as Sky High! Sports.
Somewhere in the suburban area surrounding Chicago, is the pride of north shore moms, who have had it with conventional playgrounds and swimming pools. “Oh yeah? My child takes trampolining lessons.”
The building is very large and nondescript. There’s some signage out front before you enter the parking lot, and a big logo above the door. ‘Sky High! Sports’ it reads, the exclamation point seeming out of place and confused among the letters. I enter more slowly than the people ahead of me who I’ve come here with, and try to remind myself to keep a positive mental attitude, as positive outlooks can breed wonderful things such as disappointment (much like E-coli to a Petri dish). Positive mental attitudes are like eating old fish. It seems fine to begin with but you get indigestion the next day.
In the lobby, there are dividers that allow for people to stand in line in a zig-zaggy fashion. Groups of children whose heights vary up to four and a half feet tall idly stand while their mothers talk to the cashiers. “Do you have your waiver? Do you have your waiver?” They distribute plastic wristbands and, after adorning them, the kids scamper off into the next room over. The bright yellow of the band is fluorescent and ugly and, if personified, would be the kind of person who would scream at random intervals for no apparent reason.
I hand in my waiver, signifying that I am aware that Sky High! doesn’t care about my safety, just my lack of legal action. The girl at the desk who seems too young to be out of college reads my name, punches some buttons into her computer and straps my wristband. I disband from the front desk and follow the lead of the people who I’ve come here with, walking through a large doorway to an even larger room.
It would be wrong to call this space a room. It’s super-sized and more like a warehouse. It’s enormous and loud. High-beat pop music sets a base tone underneath the shouts of small children. The concrete floors do little to absorb the sound coming at me from all angles. But I walk forward and look around.
I look out over the warehouse and recognize that there are moms everywhere, and what a variety! Three kinds: Soccer Moms, Tiger Moms and Tired Moms. Soccer Moms and Tiger Moms are essentially the same, although a Soccer Mom escorts a group of children, whereas a Tiger Mom parades just one. The only Father I ended up spotting was a small, religious, Jewish man pushing his glasses up his nose, wearing his tallit fringes under his sweater and a black yarmulke on his head.
At twelve o’clock is a huge platform with several trampolines " square patches of material in a grid, separated by large, bright yellow mats. Above it is a sign reading ‘Main Court’, as if this warehouse were a place where people would be jousting and doing something exciting and gory, and this court, the main court, was where the festivities would preside.
By the ‘Main Court’ lies a small shelf with cubbyholes for taking off shoes, and I do exactly that. I walk up the ramp to the ‘Main Court’ and step onto the first bouncy square. “Hey!” Had I set off an alarm? I look up to see a gawky teenager glaring at me. He wore the shirt of his people, the same ugly yellow as the wristbands. “No socks allowed.”
I stare down at my feet in to check that I am, indeed wearing socks, although he took the gesture as one of submission. “Get off the court.”
I take his kindly-put advice and leave. Upon examination of other feet, I recognize some children wearing shoes on-court while others are barefoot. Presumably, shoes can be worn, however, should you feel the urge to take them off, socks are absolutely forbidden. As I strip them from my feet, I understand this rule is merely to enhance your experience " to make sure you can feel the dirt and sticky splotches of spilled sugar drinks on the freezing concrete floor.
After disrobing my feet, I half-heartedly jump on the ‘Main Court’ for about three minutes before giving the teenager a dirty look and leaving. The people who I’d come here with were beckoning me over to the adjacent platform, above it a sign read, ‘Foam Pit’. Small cubes filled a large tub, reminding me of a salad of assorted diced cheeses; however these cheeses were either exotic or rancid, as they were dirty shades of blue, green and crème. Although, I suppose small, grimy bodies diving onto them at all hours of the day might do that to a foam square.
There are three lanes where children belly-flop and front-flip into the pit. Another teenager stands on duty with soulless, absent eyes. This place has broken him and he has lost the will to go on. I feel sympathy for him and hope the next world over is a kinder one than this hell that he is enduring.
While waiting in line between several children that barely reach my waist, I look out over the balcony to an abyss several feet below. Here, long party tables are parked. Women sit at these tables either preparing birthday cakes or reading on their kindles. Against the wall resides a set of four large televisions, each playing a different channel. I was relieved that the Sky High! Jumping corporation recognized that its patrons might be bored during their stay and, therefore, need something else to aid the over-stimulation of their senses.
After several failing front flips, (“Tuck in your chin! Bend your knees!”) I ultimately give up and walked over to the area allotted for eating, along with a few others of my tribe. Without my socks (which would have offered some thin layer of protection), I feel every drip of Popsicle, every splotch of ketchup, and every smattering of sticky, old soda that had not been cleaned from the floor in what I took to be a very long time.
I walk over to the counter and stand in a short line. I glance over to the other section of the area, clogged with booths sitting back-to-back. Children sit here, compulsively shoving ice cream products into their mouths. It’s as if a single lick won’t suffice in absorbing the flavor. Instead, it needs to be consumed in a sawing motion " back and forth, back and forth. As I watch with what began as only mild revulsion, I begin losing my faith in the act of denying American stereotypes.
I order fries and a drink. “Coke, please.”
“We don’t have coke, only Pepsi.”
I stare at him as if he’d just told me to moonwalk on the back of a rabid horse. Finally, I say, “Alright, a Pepsi.”
I’ve been told I have to wait twelve minutes for the fries which have been promptly shoved into an industrial microwave, so I sit down at the tight booths with a few of my peers. They drink sodas as well. As we converse, I examine the black table top. The color was well chosen. All the crumbs from fries and other deep fried orders before mine show up as clear as day. There are still wet marks in the semi-circular shape of a cup that were there when we sat down. In an effort to at least pretend like I’m eating in a sanitary space, I try to push the crumbs off the edge of the table. They only get stuck to the edge of my hand, the residual liquid proving itself to be a formidable adhesive.
My fries have finished being defrosted and recooked, and I’m informed of this by a stressed black girl whose shift-partner has completely copped out and stands idly in a corner. I get up and grab several packets of ketchup, wholeheartedly looking forward to the experience of tearing them and having the condiment squeeze out sideways onto my fingertips. The fries are bland and salty (which is not entirely terrible) and I end up excusing myself to the restroom.
The restroom, though moderately clean and tranquil, has stoppers on the toilet paper dispensers so you are only allowed three or so squares per tear. From this I was made aware that this establishment does not trust their clientele to use appropriate amounts of toilet paper. Small things really do speak volumes and the amount of ‘small things’ here definitely made a loud statement.
We dispose of our paper cups and tubs where fries once were and head over to the arcade. It’s a sparse little corner of the warehouse. Graphic thugs and speeding racetracks animate on the screens, battling for both your attention and quarters. While some of my cohorts waste their money, I look around in exhaustion. Suddenly, like a beautiful oasis, I see couches, pushed together and stored away in disuse.
I collapse onto the nearest one, glad to find a sanctuary somewhat secluded. As I rest, I look forward. From here you can see a side of the main court and bouncing children silhouetted by the netting. They run and climb and fall, but always get back up. Watching from this discreet place, I find myself becoming sadistic, earning a small sense of amusement as I guess if a child will twist an ankle or perhaps land flat on their face. “Just a little further.” I think.
My little game becomes boring and I close my eyes. I imagine a small man who always wanted a trampoline growing up. “I have an idea.” He says to himself one day. “What if there was a huge room full of trampolines?” He shares it with his friend Ted and Ted tells him that it is a great idea. It was his dream; it is fast becoming my nightmare. As he opens for business using the last of an inheritance, many other people, too, agree that this is a great idea. And then here I sit staring at my eyelids, just being one against the crowd.
© 2012 Rena
Added on June 16, 2012
Last Updated on June 16, 2012
Tags: Sky High Trampoline essay David