My grandson had his birthday party last weekend. He turned 11. Don’t quote me on that, I’m not very good with ages. He looks 11, so I’ll stick with it for the purposes of this story. The party was in a city park, close to their house, and was well attended by his friends. There were around, oh I don’t know, fifteen or so kids of around the same age. His parents were able, through a friend of their oldest child, to arrange for a jumping castle – well not really a castle, it was a “Sponge Bob” jumping thingy. I guess they call them jumping “houses” when they’re not really castles - and it turned out to be a big hit with the party goers.
The “deal” on the jumping thingy turned into a downer, when, on the night before the party, at ten o:clock to be exact, the provider of the jumping house tried to confirm that there would be electricity in the park. Those things are held up by a powerful blower that keeps them inflated and jump-able using a grounded plug that needs to be plugged in somewhere.
“Don’t you have a generator,” she asked. Smart kid.
“No,” he said. He explained that they usually set them up at people’s houses for birthday parties and they just plug them in. The sister was visibly upset and even made the comment that it might have been a good idea to ask about this electricity issue sooner.
After some discussion, and asking around, they remembered that Grandpa did indeed own a generator. So they called and I agreed to be there with said generator at the appointed hour, 11 o:clock Sunday morning.
“Are you sure it can run the thing,” my daughter asked? I assured it that I was pretty sure it could because it runs the AC unit on my camper, although, in truth, I wasn’t sure at all. I had no idea how many watts this jumping thingy fan would need. But I was now a “hero” for saving the day.
I actually hadn’t started the generator since I got it a year ago, and I was worried that it might be a little difficult to start even though it was virtually brand new. So I got up early on Sunday and almost ripped my arm off trying to start the damn thing. I must have pulled the cord a hundred times, and finally it roared to life. Actually, it’s a very quiet generator, made for camping in the woods, so it doesn’t roar at all. You can barely hear it. It’s a very nice Yamaha generator. I let it run for a while, filled it with gas and then loaded it up in the truck. We made it to the park in plenty of time.
But “Sponge Bob” was late and the parents were starting to panic. Before the placing of blame got out of hand, he showed up. In reality he was only a few minutes late. They set up “Sponge Bob” and plugged the fan into the generator. A cough, then a surge in the engine, and the blower sprung to life, as did the jumping house. Directions on safety and proper use of the jumping house were given after it was fully inflated and anchored down with five gallon buckets filled with concrete. They were to stay away from a giant patch that was flapping wildly in the middle of the floor. Shoes were tossed and the line formed. There’s not much of a “door” on these things so as to keep the jumpers inside, so you kind of slither in through a flap in the front. Throughout the party, they continued to have more than the five allowed kids in the thing jumping around when the adult supervision lagged.
After the water balloon fight, the pizza, the gifts, the cupcakes, and a pretty entertaining rendition of “Happy Birthday,” about two and a half hours had passed with the Yamaha running at full throttle. I figured I should check to see if the gas was running low. It was. In fact, it was on empty, and there were still eight kids in the jumping thingy and I ran over to the side screen and started screaming for everyone to get out. Nobody listened.
I went back over to the generator and what everyone thought they saw was me turning it off. I didn’t. It ran out of gas as I was leaning over it to look at the gauge. ”Sponge Bob” started to immediately deflate and kids started screaming as the roof of the thing fell in around them crushing them to the floor. Now, it’s made from a heavy vinyl, but I was never afraid someone was going to get trapped in there like an avalanche…but the parents did.
Through all the hysteria, we lifted the roof as best we could and kids started squirting out the front flap like Sponge Bob was giving birth. When everyone had slithered out we dropped the roof.
“There’s still a little boy in a white T-shirt in there,” a woman screamed.
“No,” I said calmly, “I think he’s standing right next to you.” I walked over to the visibly shaken kids, and asked one whose eyes were still wide with panic. ”Are you okay?”
“I was the last one out,” he said with a slight squeak in his voice, and shook his head as though he didn’t believe he had survived. I saw him later on his cell phone, probably telling his parents about his near-death experience in the “Sponge Bob” collapse. I’m worried about pending lawsuits. I see myself going from a hero that saved the day, to the defendant in a civil suit over an empty tank of gas.
In the aftermath, it seemed unlike a mine disaster. Personally, I couldn’t stop laughing, and retreated to the parking lot with my generator. My grandson’s mother said one of the other mother’s said to her, when the generator abruptly stopped, “He must be in a hurry.”
Her response was, “No, my Dad’s not like that.” I don’t know, maybe I am. I’m still laughing out loud. Maybe next time they’ll follow the rules and not have more than five jumpers in there at a time. Maybe they’ll listen when someone tells them to get out now, there just might be a reason, and maybe, just maybe, they wouldn’t be suffering from those nightmares about getting trapped in the bowels of “Sponge Bob.” WTF.