The Simple Rules

According to a recent Pew research poll, 53% of American adults google each other.  This is not surprising news.  The ferocity with which the average citizen privately researches those they know, want to know, or don’t want to know is epic.  Why?  We do it because we can.  We climb the Internet because it’s there.  The trend-charting folks over at Pew aren’t in the business of chasing parked cars.

I know I’m coming late to the party in finding this out, but there is now an entire industry that caters to protecting your reputation online.  Beyond simple Internet security, these services, similar to private investigators on retainer, will ferret out unfavorable information that has been posted about you online and either take steps to have it removed or counter it with favorable information.  This enables you, for a fee, to protect the brand that is you.  Bothered by an Internet bully?  Hire a bigger bully.  It’s like renting a big brother by the month to defend your reputation.  We are truly back to the Brooklyn playground of my youth, a democracy where whoever showed up to play decided on the game, formulated the rules, and had a simple punishment for those who didn’t follow them:  they sat out the next round.  Cool beans.

Anyone who grew up in one of the New York City boroughs in the fifties and sixties can tell stories about street games and the now lost egalitarian aspect of play.  In the Brooklyn projects, no one made playdates.  I never heard the word playdate until my own kids asked for them.  The playdates of my childhood consisted of whoever was outside the building when you got there.  If it was the older kids and you were a small fry, your role was to wait and find out what game would be played and by which set of rules, official or adapted.  If the group deemed you too lacking in talent or experience to participate, you just watched until someone you could rollerskate with showed up.  Of course, a mouthy older brother or sister already playing always enhanced your prospects of being included.  So did a spanking new Spaldeen in your pocket.  Gender was less a factor than skill, except in skelly, a boy-centric game similar to marbles that was played with metal bottle caps filled with something to give them weight.  The popular choice of filler was melted crayons.  If your mother was already furious over ruined saucepans from previous meltings, you had no choice but to play with matches.

Each group of buildings surrounded its own playground that contained several fixtures cemented into the ground.  The one I remember best was the barrel, an open-ended structure you could either play inside or jump on, Johnny-on-a-pony style.  You could also sail right over it and knock yourself stupid if you couldn’t stop your running start.  In spite of the lack of playground equipment safety-oversight committees, I recall no maimings or ambulance sirens.  The sound I do recall is the Good Humor truck, whose ringing come-on could be heard from the parking lot on the other side of our building.  This noise required every kid on the playground to run to the grassy moat around their building and yell up for money.  As if on cue, dozens of window screens popped open and little pouches of wax paper or tin foil sailed down from the various floors.  Inside the pouch was 15 cents for the ice cream man.  You had to watch carefully to track where your packet landed once your mother released it or else it could be lost in the grass and you’d miss out.  These rare instances were childhood tragedies.  Innocent times from days when the worst reputation you could have was sore loser.

Daughter’s Featured Foto recalls the summer showers of childhood

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