When life throws you a gutter ball, roll with it

February 15, 1997|By Rob Kasper

IT IS FEBRUARY. Boring. Yawnsville. Nap time.

I suppose there are some sorts who stand up for February. There are those who regard all these dark, forbidding days as excellent opportunities for interior reflection. These are the kind of people who spend February afternoons rereading their New Year's resolutions, redesigning their life plans, pondering the meaning of existence.

While these brooders are lost in thought, the rest of us are staring at the walls, looking for some action.

Snowfall helps break the monotony. Last Saturday, as snow fell, phones started ringing around town, canceling most of the day's scheduled sporting events for kids. At first, most parents were relieved that we wouldn't have to ferry our offspring through the snow. But later, after the frustrated athletes had been racing around the house for a few hours, we were desperately trying to find a "kid barn" that was up and running.

A kid barn is a vast interior space where children are sent to spend money and scream. Some of the kid barns have a special attraction, like a miniature golf course, baseball pitching machine, or laser tag guns. But the idea behind all of them is the same. Namely, money pays for mayhem.

Your kids pay admission fees, or push quarters into machines. In return, they get to wreak havoc outside your home and outside your earshot. While any dad can accompany his child to one of these kid barns, a truly skilled father somehow gets other parents to chaperone trips to these infernos.

Throwing snowballs is another activity that can brighten this dull PTC month. I am, of course, talking about constructive snowball throwing, where the snowball hits an object, not a member of your family.

Last weekend, my 16-year-old son and I hurled snowballs at gutters. Why did we do this? To prevent avalanches.

Snow had built up on a steep roof behind the gutters. As the snow melted, great sheets of ice and snow would suddenly slide over the gutter and come hurtling down to the ground. These "avalanches" would make a lot of noise and would pummel anyone who happened to be walking by. So to kill a little time, and to save a pedestrian, my kid and I threw snowballs at the gutters.

It was a healthy toss, about four stories straight up. We quickly developed a gutter-tossing technique. It was similar to one we used last February, when we threw snow balls at icicles. We stood to one side and threw at the gutter from an angle, rather than attacking it head on. Any time a snowball hit the gutter, there would be a satisfying "plunk," soon followed by a sheet of snow falling to the ground. Out in the Rocky Mountains the ski patrols prevent destructive avalanches by setting off explosive charges. Here in Maryland, we prevent them by throwing snowballs at gutters.

Another reason we threw snowballs at gutters was that it was February, and our entertainment options were limited. I enjoyed the experience, but after a few tosses, the teen-ager found it so dull he decided to go in the house and do his homework. When a teen- ager would rather do homework than throw snowballs, you know it is a slow month.

Now we are faced with a long weekend. There are several ways we could fill it up. Instead of staring at the household walls, we could paint them. This urge to paint hits a lot of people on three-day weekends. If it hits you, remember, when buying a paint brush, look for one with bristles that have "split ends." A brush that has frayed tips, that is "flagged," will hold large amounts of paint.

Another choice is to spend the weekend in a building full of noisy kids. I noticed, for example, that our kitchen calendar shows that one kid has a laser-tag obligation on Sunday .

I will drop him off. I will pick him up. But I will not, repeat not, go inside the kid barn.

There is also some chance that it will snow. And that could mean another fun-filled weekend tossing snowballs at gutters.

Pub Date: 2/15/97

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