Like so many, when I was a kid I really, really loved the ball room at Ikea. It was a special, magical world; so tactile, lurid, and fuckin fun!
I believe I was four years old the last time I went into one. It was a formative experience for me.
Now, the time before my last was special too. It was during this visit that I finally worked up the courage to go face-first down the slide into the ball pit. I’d been watching other kids do it for a while and really wanted to myself. But I lacked the guts. It was not until the very end of this visit, with my dad hollering at me from the parents’ area to, “come on!” that I finally did it.
I went down head-first into all those marvelous plastic balls and it was everything I had dreamed. Then my dad poked his head through into the ball room to yell at me directly and I really had to go.
I became completely obsessed about getting back to that ball pit to do the slide again. I could not stop thinking about it, and would not stop pestering my father to take me back. After about a week of this, he obliged me.
Everything about that visit is etched so clearly in my memory. Rushing in the entrance. Seeing all those balls through the play room window. The glorious slide standing so majestic above it all. Me struggling to take my shoes off as quickly as possible. And, finally, climbing to the top of that slide, getting down on my belly, and going face-first down into the beautiful colors.
All exactly like I had been imagining.
Except, it wasn’t just like I had imagined. These balls were wet. All wet. And the wetness is on my hands. And face, And some is in my mouth. It was at this point that I realized the wetness was piss. Some kid had pissed in the ball pit at Ikea, and not just a little bit.
And I had just slid face first into it.
Joy turned into claustrophobic, disgusted horror inside of a second. I remember my visceral reaction so well: the rage that something so pure and so fun should be ruined so completely by someone else’s ignorance.
But I realize now that I was looking at it all wrong back then. This experience was really a chance to get a head start on understanding how our world is. I should have been thankful! Thank you so much, fellow humans! Thank you for preparing me so well for life, in such a succinct, easily understood physical metaphor.
Oh boy, little me! I bet you can’t wait to go to school! It’s going to be so much fun! (Face first slide down into a pit of piss.)
Hey, a girl actually likes me! I get to have a girlfriend now! (Face first slide down into a pit of piss.)
At last, I’m going to university, where I can interact with intelligent and motivated people and be judged for the quality of my ideas instead of people’s fucked up preconceptions! (Face first slide down into a pit of piss.)
Hey, I’m getting engaged!
…well, you know the drill.