Witness a park attendant. Dressed in mouldy yellow uniform, bereft of all humour, the expression on her face bearing witness to a life defined by strict adherence and little imagination. The ‘play’ area is her domain. Within all children endure constant observation, all enjoyment bracketed within rigidly enforced parameters, while parents alternately marvel, protest and despair. True, she has treated grazed knees, broken up infantile fights and retrieved wayward asthma inhalers, yet the responsibilities of the post appear to weigh too heavily upon her angular shoulders.
Or do they? Now and again, a particularly astute parent will wonder if they spotted a twinkle in her eye. If, underneath the growling, spiteful armour of misery there lurks a beating heart, perhaps soured at a lost childhood but beating nonetheless. Maybe the outward experience is but a façade, constructed to extract obedience from terrified toddlers, but breaking through the shell would reveal much more than stone.
These parents are right. But little do they suspect the true story. As the sun sets on the park, Little Mr. Overadventurous and Little Miss Shoutyscream are forcefully removed. Unidirectional shouting creates an exodus of the traumatised, tears attempting to ward off inevitable bedtimes.
When peace and emptiness reigns supreme, the gates are locked as the light fades, then a lone park attendant performs a final patrol. The equipment must be tested. For… safety reasons. The seesaw tilts. The turntable is spun. The swings fly back and forth.
A gleeful chuckle rolls amongst the trees.