I was walking down the street after a weekly trip to the post office. It’s part of my Monday ritual, mailing bills and then seeing what else I owe. After being greeted by an empty PO Box I agreed no news was good news. As I made my way down the street, I passed a high rise building. It’s a place where the waiting list is years long, and a great many actors live there. As well, families who have been in the neighborhood forever also reside there. When I pass this establishment, I usually get a pang of envy because they all pay next to nothing in rent. However, the pang usually leaves the second I realize I have another errand to complete.
When I was almost past the building, I heard a chorus of small voices calling. I couldn’t tell where they were coming from. When I looked up, I saw they were coming from the roof top. Just then, I remembered they had a playground next to the health club in the building. The voices, while loud, were also extremely high pitched so the words coming out of their mouths were next to inaudible. Actually, I would have had better luck translating a dog whistle. After about a minute I realized they were speaking to me. “Hey, you! The bushes!” They screamed.
Confused, I looked around. What on Earth was in the bushes? “WHAT’S IN THE BUSHES!!!” I called.
“Our ball is in the bushes!” They informed me, a mix of shriek and panic. That is when I finally realized their crisis. Their tiny worlds had tumbled when they accidentally and errantly tossed their ball off the roof. What were they doing playing with a ball on a roof top playground anyway? Were they aware someone could get hurt? Either way, the universe had anointed me to somehow save the day.
So to the transplanted Manhattan shrubbery I went. From the roof, they gave me the best direction they could in their tiny, high pitched voices. I scanned the greenery, no luck. I searched for about two minutes until I came across a bright, lime green tennis ball. “This it!” I shouted to the roof.
“YES!” They screamed with glee. I had rescued their ball. As I held it in my hand, I realized how jaded adulthood makes a person. At this moment, the bright, lime green tennis ball was the most important thing in their lives. Sure, they could have probably been prepping for school to start by doing summer reading, or helping a parent with a chore or two. But this ball was crucial, and if they didn’t get it back it would be devastating. For better or worse, I held the key to their happiness.
“THROW IT UP!” They commanded, excited that their ball had not only been rescued from the evil, adult world below, but that they might get the coveted possession back. Yes, the bouncy thing that brought them much joy but brought any adult that encountered it much grief.
With all the strength in me, I tossed the ball to the roof. It bounced off the building and returned. The children let out a painful gasp. Perhaps they were not going to get their ball back after all. Undaunted and not ready to be defeated, they commanded me to try again. I tried and failed I did. If anyone knows me, they know my ball throwing skills suck. Kickball was my thing, and I was mediocre at best when it came to that.
So I came up with a solution, “Maybe one of you could come down and get it from me.” I suggested. It would be better than me tossing the ball, which I had done pitifully.
“We can’t.” The children said. Then it clicked. They were probably allowed to play on the roof as long as they were in calling distance, and if they left the roof they would get in trouble with whatever caretaker they had. This is why they couldn’t retrieve the ball in the first place. While that caretaker should have gotten them a better, safer toy, we were back to square one.
“Get that guy to do it!” The kids instructed as a random man walked by. Decked out in a suit, tie, and designer shades, he was now their savior. I had dropped the ball so to speak. Perhaps feminism lied. Men were still better at some things, and now their happiness rested on his shoulders.
“Excuse me, random dude. These children lost their tennis ball and I have tried to throw it up and failed. Could you perhaps help me?” I asked, feeling odd that I was now passing the mission given to me onto a complete stranger minding his own business.
To my pleasant surprise, the man in the suit took the ball from my hand. Without attitude or a bad word, he tried to toss the ball up to the roof. He too failed. Again, the children wailed miserably. Without their ball, life could simply not go on. Sure, there would be other balls, but in their small and developing world, this game they were playing was what their time and energy revolved around. For a minute, it looked as if all was lost.
Just then, two men sporting Roca Wear walked up. They were the last hope. It was all on them to save the ball for the children. Would they help? Could they do it? Walking up to these two random persons I pleaded, “The kids lost their ball. I have failed to toss it up. Could you please help?” I begged. The young humanoids atop the roof had desperate looks in their teeny eyes. Time was running out.
Like the man in the suit, the men in the Roca Wear didn’t protest. Rather, the one with the afro and comb stuck in his hair took the ball from me. With the tossing power of Mark McGuire minus the steroids he successfully tossed the tennis ball to the roof. The children cheered. This was a victory for all involved.
They had their tennis ball back. “YOU RULE!” They shouted. Within seconds they shook off the misadventure they had, and back to their game they went.
As I went back on my way, I said to the tosser in the Roca Wear, “Thank you, you were a life saver. You have no idea how desperate these kids were. I tried and failed. I cannot toss a ball.”
“No hand eye coordination.” The other dude in Roca Wear said. He had a hat on, opting for the lazy, no comb look.
“None.” We all laughed.
Just then I looked over at his buddy. I noticed that his hand was in a cast. The man who had tossed the ball onto the roof had only one arm technically!!! Both the suit and I had been out tossed by a dude with a handicap!!!!!!
I said, “You were the one to get the ball on the roof and you have one arm.” The two men laughed. What were we to do?
“That’s messed up but it’s true.” The tosser said. We all laughed again and on our ways we went.
The beautiful thing about this story, is that children remind us what is really important. In a crisis adults are so quick to meltdown, but the problem solving skills on the part of these youngsters was amazing. They lost their ball, they didn’t meltdown, and they asked for help until they got what they needed. Also, sometimes life is as simple as tossing a ball and having fun with your friends, it’s people who complicate it. Yes, there are people who will do the right thing for the right reason, even in New York. Of course, when things are busy and one is feeling overwhelmed, they should also take time to help someone else out, especially if they person can’t help themselves.
Sure, these whipper snappers could have invested in a better toy. However, the Tale of the Tennis Ball is a gentle little stick it note from the universe to keep it green.