Movies in the Sitter's Playroom

Fair use! Don't sue me!
Cold weather meant I'd be staying indoors at the sitters and probably watching Disney movies or whatever other KidsSongs VHS they had stacked in the shelves in the playroom. We'd freeze on the dark, cold mornings the whole way over to the sitter's house in the car, waiting for it to warm up, and mom would be rushing us out the door with lies about how she was "already supposed to be at work" (at least I hope they were lies, because she would've been late every day!).

In any case, the morning would be dark, and we'd come into the well-lit playroom at the sitter's house-- a large den with a wide plush blue carpet, toys lined against the wall, a television in a case resting low on the floor, and a solitary couch we'd all fight over--and we'd hunker down with a movie until we had to go to school. The classic blue Disney logo with the pipes on the end would play, and we'd get maybe an hour into The Fox in the Hound, The Jungle Book, or The Little Mermaid, before we'd have to call it quits.

At some point we'd all be called into the kitchen, and we'd sit at the lower table and eat our Eggo waffles (always Eggos for breakfast, loaded with syrup... back when I liked syrup that is), and then we'd head back and resume our movie. Those Eggos were about the best thing to look forward to every morning. I could go for some now!

There were many movies I never got to see the end of simply because we had to cut it short to go to school, but there'd always be something playing, whether it was early morning Nick shows or a movie. Those of us with shorter attention spans might wander away and play with the toys, and those of us with less brainpower to resist the television spell would be glued to it. Needless to say, the moment a TV went on anywhere, I was losing brainpower (if I had any). It didn't matter how silly or weird or just plain girly it was-- if it was on, I watched it.

On the weekends when we didn't have school, we'd still be at the sitter's, and we'd be there all day long, so there was a hell of a lot more time to sit around watching movies for the umpteen-millionth time. I'd be there with my legs dangling off the couch, trying to be comfortable, while we watched tape after tape of whatever silliness was in store. I don't know how our sitter could stand it... endless repetition of the KidsSongs VHS's-- the "Skip to my Loo," the "Down on the Farm" one, the "John Jakob Jingleheimer Smith," the "Careers" one, with all the kids, and particularly the girls, singing along, each in unison... ad infinitum, ad nauseum. "Do your ears hang low? Do they wobble to and fro?" ... 

Needless to say, I watched it, and yes, I sang along too. "Do you hear farts blow?..." etc.

Hot Light Sneakers

How do you get a boy into shoes? Put lights in them. I didn't really care much about shoes since I'd given up on my old Thomas Engine straps, but the second my young eyes saw all those kids in the dim light of the commercials leaping over puddles with their heels ablaze in that colored neon light, I knew I needed a pair of Skechers Hot Lights... or heck, any shoe that lit up. They looked like something we'd be wearing in the future, and damn did I want to be first in line to board the Enterprise with a pair of those flimsy soles.

For sure they'd make your every step radiate with coolness, whether they blinked or changed color, stayed lit all the time or only when you stepped, but who knew what would happen if you stomped through a puddle? My mind only saw inevitable death by electrocution with all that "raw electricity" buzzing away at your feet, particularly in such proximity to all kinds of wetness, but little did I know the far more likely scenario was the things just going dead. Until that happened, I probably invented four ways to get them to blink besides just walking around (which never really seemed to work)-- one of which involved taking them off and slamming them down on the desk. For some reason, they didn't work very long...

Like much of our most futuristic stuff these days, once the lights went dead on these things, you could forget it. There was no potato test. All of a sudden you'd find that they were harder and harder to get to light, you'd really have to pound your feet down, and then they'd just go out forever. But for the short time they did work, they were certainly cool. What a way to join the 20th century and embrace the future... light the way to your smelly shoes!


In the 90s Kid Dictionary I will (probably) never write, between "Razor Scooter" and "Talkboy" comes Skitchin', the most rad game ever, for the Sega Genesis. Let's get an 8-year-old(ish) play by play:

10 seconds: Come on come on... enough WORDS!
21 sec: Spray paint! YEAH!
55 sec: Whoa! This is like a movie! Dun-na-na-na...
1:11 : Take that sucka!
1:16 : This bumper ain't big enough for the two of us!
1:41 : Ow! Someone's gonna eat a crowbar sandwich for that... OH DRATS!
2:50 : Damn, it's the law! Ain't skitchin' on that.
3:10 : Woohoo! Ride the ramp!
3:34 : Woohoo! First place! Movie zoom, losers!

What a long, long one way road. How does anyone get to those buildings? Are we ever going to get to that city back there? You think if I ride a ramp and end up SPLAT!! against one of these billboards, I'll be transported to another dimension? 90s kids know...

Alright Class, Form a Line...

If your elementary school was anything like mine, you probably spent a third of your day in line. There were lines to get into the building from the bus, lines to use the bathroom, lines to go to the gym, lines to leave the gym, lines to go to lunch, lines to go to recess, lines to come in from recess, lines to go wait for the bus...etc. They crisscrossed the school, went up and down stairs, stretched the length of the brick walls and carpets with no end in sight... unless you were the end (in which case, your day sucked). "Hey you in front of me, no farting!"

At least 10 minutes of every hour was spent lining up at the end of every major class before being shuffled on to the next. What were they teaching us? How to use a DMV branch? How to get a deal on black Friday? And if you cut, it was just as painful as either of those scenarios. If you so much as cut one space ahead, you were going to bare the sting of poison arrows of death, and they'd be coming at you in the words, "Hey! No Cutting! Teacher! He cut! No Cutting!!" If you cut, sometimes you had to go to the back of the line, to hang out with the other losers. Other times, you'd be sent to death row and executed (...a lineup there too).

During all that useless tedium in the lines, we usually tried to find ways to entertain ourselves. One game I remember was the staring contest. You look the kid in front of you in the eyes, and they look back, and the first one to crack up loses. Now I can't stress enough how much I sucked at this game. A tomboyish girl and I once engaged in a staring contest while in line, and she was going cross-eyed, sticking out her tongue, pulling her lips open.. and I was busting! She wasn't cracking up, per se... just visibly in hysterics behind buttoned lips. As far as I know, that's cheating, but then again, I didn't know too far.

Less of a game and more of an annoyance was the classic flat tire. This was usually only doable if the line was in motion. You simply step on the back of the kid's shoe in front of you as they are walking, causing it to come off their heel, and thus causing temporary hilarity. This worked best with girls who usually wore less rugged shoes, but man did they go off every time I tried it! Let me take this opportunity to apologize to any girl out there whose expensive shoes may have had a buckle snap thanks to my ingenious attempts at momentary comic relief...

Probably the grossest game you could play in line was the spit swap, where you spit in your hand and then shake the hand of the person behind you. Depending on how coordinated the line was, this might set off a chain reaction whereby the shaker becomes the spitter for the kid behind him...etc. It's kind of like the grade school version of passing around STDs, and I don't think I could recommend doing it, although it probably accounted for some of the chronic strep throat that gained me many a day off from school in my time.

The funnest game though was without a doubt the domino effect. This should be self explanatory. One kid (usually at the back of the line) pushes another, and that kid knocks into another kid, and before you know it, the whole line is going down... and by the time it gets to front, bodies are hitting the floor! It could be revenge on the kids in the front of the line, or just random idiocy, but when it happened, it was the highlight of any day for sure. The teachers may have cancelled our recess once or twice over it, but it was worth it.

At the end of the day, I remember the minutes ticking down as we all stood in line, waiting for the buses to show up, minute after minute, inching further and further up... I remember standing there with all these fantasies snowballing in my head about laying down and falling asleep right there, and what would probably happen. If I did, nobody would be allowed to "cut" me, so they'd all have to wait for me to move. Then they'd all miss their bus and they'd have to all cram into the office and place about 30 different calls to come get picked up. Damn the bureaucracy!

Battlefield Snowball and the Fort

It's not really winter unless you got snow, and it's not really fun until you've hucked your first snowball. That's right, snow... soft, fluffy, white, "melts in your mouth and in your hands," nature's ready-made water-flavored desert... and yet it makes for the best fire power around. The art of the perfect snowball has been passed down over generations--we all know you got to melt them a little in your hands to make them crystallize nice and hard, and that you got to make a few dozen of them to stockpile behind your obligatory snow fort...etc.

We all remember that energizing feeling you get when you thought you weren't going to last twenty minutes out there in the icy wind and then somehow went four hours in change, when you're actually starting to shed layers because you're all worked up... when your hands, ears, and cheeks are beet red, and your clothes soaked, but you go on hucking at the ramparts anyways because... well, it's wintertime damnit and there's fun to be had. That, and you got to nail that other kid who just got you in the back of the neck! The weak spot!

When you first step out on the crunchy white of the backyard, it was like setting the first line of footprints on the moon or some high tundra place where nothing but the neighbor's cat has ever been. Oh the joy it was to be in it up to your hip! Then by the end of the day, after all the shots have been fired and your mittens and boots are soaked right through, not a single patch of even snow exists anywhere. The battlefield sure was a hallowed spot by the end of the day, scarred by the scorch of twenty thousand footprints and a few pairs of mittens. They'll be found in the spring, along with that shoe of yours that came loose at some point. (We boys have a knack for losing shoes and not even realizing it).

Second only to throwing snow was eating it, and like I said earlier, snow was a real treat... piquant, crunchy at times like you had to swirl it around in your mouth to get it to melt... but the best stuff was the powdery fluff that dusted up in your mouth and stuck to the sides before melting down. It was like cotton candy. Then there were icicles, which were a delicacy... you crack them off whatever they're hanging on, and suck on them like a Popsicle. If they hung from a wooden porch, they were wood flavored (pine was the best). If they hung from a gutter, they could've killed you. If they hung from a car's tailpipe... they would've killed you. But then again, you know the rules: "white and clear ain't so severe, but grey and be an idiot." That's a lesson for the kids.

I believe it was 1994 and we got hammered by this massive snowstorm. We shoveled so much snow off the driveway that it made a really nice snow pile, nay, snow mountain, up against the fence. It got so large that my brother and I tunneled out the center and made our own snow fortress or "igloo" big enough to fit three kids. The Inuits really have the right idea because you'd be surprised how warm it is surrounded by snowpack. I remember we fashioned a little snow bench on the inside and everything. It was so cool that had I not fallen through the roof a few days later (having decided to get up on top of it), I'd like to think it could've been my first bachelor pad.