Honolulu Lite


Monday, July 2, 2001

Psst! Wanna buy some
playground equipment?

How do you get rid of hot playground equipment? I don't mean hot, like it's been sitting in the sun and when you go down the slide you fry your buns. I mean hot, as in stolen.

Whatever scumbag recently stole playground equipment from Barbers Point Elementary School is probably trying to figure out how to get rid of his booty. The thief or thieves got away with a couple of jungle gyms, a merry-go-round and a sandbox.

There's been so much publicity about the theft that whoever took it can't simply put it all in his yard. How do you explain to your neighbors how you suddenly came to possess snazzy new playground equipment that coincidentally looks exactly like the stuff that was stolen from the Head Start program at Barbers Point?

("Stolen? Nah. We, uh, ordered it from Playgrounds R Us on the Internet. Got a great deal. Whole shebang cost, uh, $12.45.")

Let's put aside for a moment a discussion of what kind of sleazy jerk would steal playground equipment from children. Aside from being heartless, the thief also is obviously a few planks short of a seesaw. That little gerbil running on the exercise wheel that passes for our outlaw's brain is working overtime, no doubt, to figure out what to do with the playground equipment now that he's stolen it.

Unlike other stolen merchandise, you can't just drag a jungle gym into your average pawnshop or down to the swap meet -- although it would be fun to see our Brainiac try.

Pawnshop owner: You want to sell a merry-go-round? What are you, some kind of nitwit?

Bonehead Capone: OK, I'll toss in the sandbox.

Pawnshop owner: What do I want with a sandbox? You know what cats do in sandboxes? Get that thing out of my store.

You might have predicted stealing playground equipment was going to happen. You can trace it directly to how sue-happy our society has become.

In the old days, you fell off a slide -- as I did when I was 5 -- your parents took you to the hospital, and then yelled at you for not paying attention.

You fall off a slide today, your parents take you to a lawyer who shakes your hand and says, "Atta boy! You plenty hurt? Yeah? Great!"

Sure, the old playground equipment was dangerous. It was all steel, chains and concrete. It was hazardous as hell, not to mention heavy. But NOBODY TRIED TO STEAL IT.

Nowadays, every accident is someone else's fault, and every injury, from a stubbed toe to broken noggin, has a price tag. And frankly, I'm all for it. If it weren't for the statute of limitations, I'd sue the hell out of whoever allowed me to take a Greg Louganis from that slide.

Today, the public schools are putting in $3 million worth of new, safer playground equipment, roughly $100,000 per school.

When you leave anything worth that much money outside overnight, someone's going to find a way to cart it away.

Alo-Ha! Friday compiles odd bits of news from Hawaii
and the world to get your weekend off to an entertaining start.
Charles Memminger also writes Honolulu Lite Mondays,
Wednesdays and Sundays. Send ideas to him at the
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-210,
Honolulu 96813, phone 235-6490 or e-mail

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