Child Can You Spare A Dime?

I stopped by my old elementary school this afternoon. I have revisited all my old schools this past year to tap into old memories and sort of re-feel different times and periods of my life. I am in a sorting out/rebuilding period in my life right now. I don’t plan on the visits, I just sort of end up there. Today is a good one because elementary school was such a golden time. I loved Burton Valley. Such fun. Such good memories. So I welcomed whatever it was to stir.

So I’m walking through the halls and smiling as I see the small railings that I used to climb on, and smiling bigger when I see the little coat hooks for the little kids that barely come up to my knee. It’s times like these when I know that I have to be a father one day. These little things are automatic joy.

I make my way out to the playground and cross the map of the United States painted out in detail, capitals and all listed. This is a new map. The States we had was on the lower playground and we certainly weren’t given the capitals.

I pass under the basketball hoops and pretend I’m shooting a shot. I do it every time I pass a hoop. Not full on commitment, but a lazy going through the motions while I walk.

And then I came upon the jungle gym. It is all high tech now and painted some odd colored blue, which somehow rubs me the wrong way from a purist stance. And there’s tanbark, new looking, still possessing it’s reds and oranges, filled up to the brim. I can still feel those little splinters that I used to dig out in class after recess.

But today there is this old guy. Older guy, to be sensitive to my parent’s age. Early to mid-sixties, I assess, but looks older than my parents -my parents look young for their age. Anyways, he is equipped with these massive headphones and is running his metal detector in these arching semi-circles through the ‘bark. And it immediately strikes me as funny and odd.

I don’t allow the opportunity for eye contact. I don’t want to make a connection. I just want a quick observation.

And the first thought that runs through my mind, is “what is this guy looking for?”
I mean honestly, what IS he truly hoping to find? To be logical, he has to be looking for loose change, right? What else is there on a children’s playground? I have to assume that he is looking to pocket nine and ten year olds’ lunch money. That is what struck me as so weird. Maybe he feels that after six months of hard work at playgrounds he will have made back what it cost him to purchase the metal detector.

And he’s wearing sunglasses and it was the time of evening where one certainly didn’t need them, plus this area was totally shielded by trees, so he must have wanted to maintain some anonymity. Perhaps even his wife gave him the sunglasses as an agreement that if he is going to pull out the old metal detector that he had to wear the glasses. And the hat too, maybe. He was wearing one as well. Or maybe that’s just the costume. I don’t know.

I understand the appeal of the metal detector. I get it. Or I used to at least. When I was nine, I used to sort through my Boys Life magazine, or Ranger Rick, or whatever it was. Flip back to the advertisement section in the back and fantasized that if I could buy one thing, or store up coupons or however it worked, what would I buy? The coolest thing to a nine year old, at least this nine year old, was the metal detector. It looked cool. I imagined skimming it through the sand like in the pictures or out in back of the house to unearth some centuries old coins.

Maybe this guy had reached retirement and he too had those old desires and finally was living out that dream. Or maybe this is an example of how long it would take one person to save that many coupons to get the metal detector. If so, I have to admire his persistence and dedication.

But the location. No old coins here. Logically there couldn’t be. And again something seems so inherently humiliating sifting through the bark to find/recover a poor kid’s lost lunch money. I mean what does that really represent? Some kid was unable to get a hot lunch, or that soda he or she was just dying to have after recess. Instead of its intention to provide a smile on a kids face, this quarter or two gets pocketed by this older, unrecognizable man.

I mean honestly, is this what you’re hoping to find, old man? I’m losing a little sensitivity here because your presence is kind of bugging me now. Is the rush that strong when you hear the “tap tap tap tap weeeeeee oooooo tap tap tap tap…..” that you know no shame as to how you look and what you are doing? I still can sort of make out your appearance even with those glasses and hat pulled low so don’t get too relaxed. And is the bounty justifying your actions? Maybe it is. Sorry if I judging. I’m just sort of amazed here.

Maybe it’s not the money. Maybe the jackpot is something a little more personal. “Tap tap tap tap weeeeeee oooooo tap tap weeeeeee ooooo tap weeeeeee ooooOOOOO WEEEEEEE”. Headphones come off in a fatal swoop of the hand. Drops to his knees. Pulls out his little shovel, -there’s got to be one, right?- and ferociously digs, carefully though, he doesn’t want to destroy his prize, and pulls out a “I (heart) Chad” or “Amy” spelled in little white ceramic cubes with an extra cube with a lady bug, all tied together with a little piece of wire that’s making the metal detector and its possessor come fully alive.

I don’t know. I don’t fully understand, but the whole sight was intriguing. Intriguing enough for me to write about. And maybe there’s a lesson wrapped in this for me. Maybe I need to stop and appreciate the little things a little more. Or like this man, stop and appreciate the little people’s little things just a little bit more.


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