The elementary school student is plagued by a succession of small but monotonous trials and tribulations. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches soggy from a day spent in a humid cubby. The indignity of being dubbed the weakest runner in a recess game of Red Rover. The questionable cleanliness of the hallway water fountain. And the multiplication tables.
It’s a typical Wednesday. You’re slogging through a phonics lesson that is trying your third-grader spirit. Your uniform sweater is itching uncomfortably at your neck. Your afternoon promises only a spelling test and a 4:00 pm dentist appointment. You dropped half your chocolate chip cookie on the floor during lunch, and before you could determine if the floor was clean enough to act upon the five-second rule, that kid who always makes fun of your red hair has snatched that cookie off the floor and stuffed it in his mouth. No forethought. No remorse. Jerkface!
And then it happens. You walk into gym class, that unholy hour that requires choosing teams and hitting fellow students with stinging playground balls, and it’s there. Next to the bleachers. Resting in soft folds on the scuffed floor.
Oh yes. It’s the parachute.
Parachute day in elementary school gym class is the great equalizer. Sure, the more athletically inclined might prefer more aggressive activities — the thrown elbows of nine-year-old basketball or the knee burns of volleyball. But I was a gym class pacifist, and I appreciated parachute day. Lined up along the seamed edge of the parachute, your classmates become collaborators and compatriots. The small injustices of elementary arithmetic and the surprisingly cruel civil wars between cliquey girls evaporate as your entire class of thirty lifts mosquito-bitten arms together. The silk mosaic of the parachute balloons toward the fluorescent can lights, filling like a sharp intake of breath, and everyone crowds underneath, capturing that whiff of stale, gym-scented air in a rainbow dome.
You even manage to smile conspiratorially at the cookie-eater, the ill feelings of the lunch room erased by the exuberance of parachute day. (Revenge can wait. Revenge is best served cold, after all, and on Thursdays. Oh yes. Thursday revenge is sweet. Like a stolen chocolate chip cookie.)
I’m approaching the ripe old age of thirty, carrots readers, and I miss parachute day. We need to bring parachute day back. Into our backyards. Our parking lots. Our boardrooms. Let that glorious parachute unfurl over our cubicles, our dinner tables, our dog parks. I don’t want to buy the world a Coke. I want to buy the world a parachute.
Think about the exhilaration of the parachute the next time you are waiting in line at the grocery store only to be delayed by a rude customer digging exact change out of a bottomless purse while gabbing on her cell phone. Or when you are waiting in an endless line at the DMV, behind a gentleman who considers it acceptable to bring his chihuahua when he renews his driver’s license. Or when you are on hold with the cable company, trying to dispute an incorrect charge, growing only angrier as you listen to a Musak rendition of a Michael Bolton power ballad.
These are difficult times, carrots readers. And difficult times call for parachutes. Everyone looks a little friendlier in the many-colored light of a parachute.