Why My Super Ball Is Probably Still In Hong Kong


When I was a kid my mother, who loved to travel, would take advantage of TWA’s offer to break up the long flight to the States from Arabia with as many stops as you like, and for the same fare. (TWA doesn‘t have that policy anymore; indeed, they have no policy at all, having ceased to exist.) Anyway, while my father simply took the quickest, most direct flight from the Eastern Province to a stateside golf course, my mother and her children visited places like Denmark, London, and Hong Kong and Thailand. Naturally I was too young and stupid too appreciate the experiences, although now I understand how such experiences, layered down over the developing imagination and mind of the child, go a long way toward creating a deeper, more thoughtful human being. That’s the theory. Nowadays I could lecture for hours on the importance to a child of simply “doing” these things: regardless of how little the kid knows about the Bridge over the river Kwai, or the Vikings, or anything. It’s a reversal of the “progressive” notions I had when I was younger, when it was fashionable to think in socialistic terms like “elitism” and “equal opportunity,” and scold people who had “economic advantages.” So while it is true that all I remember of visiting New York is that my sister got her head stuck in a hotel elevator, and that all I know about Hong Kong is that I attempted to drop a Super Ball from a 20 story building into the street because I wanted to see how far up the ball would bounce — it just vanished into space — I’d like to think that my mother’s determination led to making me a little more complicated, in ways that are probably impossible to discern. So, yes, let the children travel: that’s what I’d say now if anyone asked me. The children can learn about the places later — or, as my siblings seem to have done, never learn about them at all. (Which seems to undermine my entire argument here.)

I had to Wikipedia a Super Ball to rehydrate my memory of the toy. The Super Ball, invented in 1964, was supposed to bounce almost as far as it fell. In my imbecilic adolescent reasoning, dropping the ball 20 stories meant it should bounce back 19 stories, right? It never occurred to me to consider things like wind, the earth’s rotation, and galactic tidal pull. I didn’t have the patience to think anyway. I just wanted to bounce the ball. When I was 50 I was still “doing stupid stuff” like that. I was once in a ten story building playing nerf football with some annoying kid. Impulsively I chucked the ball over the balcony. I think at some level I reasoned that the kid, who was a brat, would maybe leap over the balcony after the football. He didn’t. As a result I didn’t spend 30 years in prison. So I’m grateful to him there.

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