Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sound Bites

'Splendid' is the Sack's word of the month for March.  Your agent was solely responsible for the selection.

I used the word about three weeks ago when Computer Doug casually inquired about my recent visit to the US.

"It was a splendid trip," I replied.

Later, I pondered my use of the word.  It's not one I utter frequently.  I don't hear others using it very much, either.

I supposed I liked the sound of the word, because I started to use it more often.  Florence, the Wonders' next-door neighbour, purchased a new car recently.  When she asked my opinion of it, I said it was splendid.

I said the same thing when Big Doug asked about my welfare.  In that case, of course, I said I was doing splendidly.

The word was invoked later that day during a conversation with Oscar and Weed at the local coffee cathedral.  Weed was talking about our recent spate of sunny skies and double-digit temperatures.  Nodding my agreement, I said it had been a splendid spring, even though it was really wasn't spring yet.  Oscar immediately announced that 'splendid' should be the Sack's word of the month.

"That," I replied, "would be a splendid idea."

You have to find your amusements somewhere in the waning days of winter.

"One man's noise is another man's music."

Weed made the above comment during a discussion on the front steps of the Wonders' house.  It was early in the afternoon on a splendid Saturday in the Sack.

The subject at hand was a phenomenon that occurred on the previous Thursday.

On this occasion, it was just after the supper hour.  The sun was still shining and for the first time since autumn, the temperature outside was quite agreeable.  As your agent and Mrs. Wonders concluded their evening meal, a strange sound suddenly emanated from the street.

It was the sound of children playing.

Kids today.
With the advent of digital doodads, one could reasonably say that children don't play like they did in previous generations.  There seems to be more indoor activities now.  There's probably less group play, too.

In the Sack, kids are far less likely to play outdoors during the winter.  The only exception is young Doo.  He's outside constantly throughout the year.  Unfortunately, most of his play involves digging, shoveling and breaking things.

The rest of the Sack kids, however, rarely seem to gather outdoors during winter.  When they do, it's usually not for long.

Old codgers.
Your agent remembers childhood in a much different manner.  We were outside with hockey sticks in hand right after the morning cartoons.  Sometimes, we'd even skip the cartoons if conditions were particularly favourable for hockey.

Oscar and Weed recalled the same experience even though we grew up in different parts of the country.  We also agreed that we roamed further afield from our homes in pursuit of play at a much younger age.

We also recognized that we're slowly becoming old codgers.

When outdoor temperatures rise, today's Sack kids finally make their appearance.  Oscar says they're like migrating geese.  They suddenly show up en masse in the Sack's centre circle.

He was talking about the kids, of course.  Not the geese.

When Sack kids made their debut last Thursday, the neighbourhood soundscape was suddenly altered.  There was screaming, squealing, shouting and laughter.  The dull thud of a bouncing ball and the clatter of running shoes kept a steady beat.

It was like someone cranked up a stereo.

Who wants to make noise?
In the days that followed, a number of Sack residents mentioned the sudden appearance of the children.  It was interesting to hear their opinions on the matter.

Folks with kids were generally in agreement that it was good to see the little buggers get out of the house for a change.  At least, that's how Computer Doug phrased it.  It might have been noisy outside, but he said it was peaceful and quiet at his house for the first time in ages.

Big Doug, on the other hand, compared the kids' arrival to the appearance of the first mosquitoes of the season.  He said a few of them would probably benefit from a good swat on the arse, too.

He was talking about the kids, of course.  Not the mosquitoes.

Oscar, Weed and your agent were certainly in agreement about Sack kids and their enthusiastic play.  It was a pleasant sound indeed.

Your agent would far rather hear the sound of frolicking children than the incessant drone of lawnmowers, weed clippers and other gas-powered contraptions.  It certainly beats the noise from late night street theater at Burning Manor, too.

Sack kid in the future.
Oscar, however, did make a good observation about the current crop of Sack kids.  They are certainly noisier than the last group of kids who played on the street.  This would include Oscar's seventeen year-old boy, Dorian and his pals.  They wouldn't be caught dead hanging around a suburban cul-de-sac now.

There is probably some truth in Oscar's observation.  In fairness, the newest bunch are still very young children.  Only a handful are older than seven years.  Most of them have barely started school.

Nevertheless, Weed says there is already evidence that these kids are unique in comparison to the graduating class of Sack residents' offspring.

"Beyond a shadow of a doubt," said Weed, "they're the dorkiest kids I've seen in a long time."

According to Weed, one must only observe the nature of their play to see the dorkiness in Sack kids.  Haphazard, he said, is the only way to describe it.

"It's like they don't know what to do with themselves."

There is probably some truth in this, too.  It's quite a sight to observe the kids in action.  They seem to bolt out of their homes at the same time.  Each kid appears to be in a frenzy.  They whoop and holler as they sprint onto the street from different directions.

Once assembled near the Sack's centre circle, they engage in some kind of primitive street dance.  One little boy is particularly adept at pirouettes.  Another seems to have quite a knack for interpretative dance.  At least, that's how Weed describes it.

Get the round thing!
The dancing, however, is brief.  There's a sudden pause as if they're unsure about what to do next.  Seconds later, a plastic ball materializes and the throng of children pursue it like prey.  However, there seems to be no rhyme or reason for the chase.  No one seems to know what to do with the ball when it's captured.

Eventually, the ball is thrown in the air and the chase continues.

The ball chasing does not last long.  Suddenly, Sack kids are careening around the centre circle aboard a varied collection of bicycles, tricycles and scooters.  Most of the bikes have training wheels.

The trikes, bikes and scooters, however, are soon discarded.  The kids clamour over the rocks in the centre circle and make half-hearted, hopeless attempts to scale the small group of trees.

Alien messaging tools.
Moments later, they're writhing on the pavement with coloured chalk in hand.  A great deal of scribbling and scraping ensues.  When they're done, Oscar says their writing looks like some kind of alien message.

This artistic activity doesn't last very long either.  This is rather unfortunate because it's the only time when the kids aren't screaming at the top of their lungs.

In the next moment, they're back at the pointless ball-chasing.  Then the bikes and scooters reappear.  They run around a bit more, before returning to the pavement with their chalk.  This entire cycle of activities continues several more times in rapid succession.  

Oscar says watching Sack kids play is like watching a Japanese game show.  There's lots of screaming and squealing and it's not exactly clear about the point of things.

The problem, in Weed's opinion, is that the newest generation of Sack kids are lacking in any physical dexterity.  None seem to have any emerging sense of coordination or athleticism.  They also seem to have little knowledge of any formal games.  As a result, their play is scattered and disjointed.  The only common denominator is the constant screaming and screeching.

Oscar, however, says it may simply be a matter of time before they calm down.  He thinks they're still trying to get used to the fact that they're actually outside.  Once they calm down, he says we'll probably see them in a different light.  He could be right about this.

So as spring descends upon the old town and summer beckons, one can only hope that Sack kids will settle down a little bit.  Perhaps their play will be more relaxed and take place at a lower volume.

Either way, their presence on the street must be seen in a positive light.  It means they're happy to be alive and that warmer days are ahead.

That's a splendid thing on both counts.


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