When I was a little kid, I wanted a pogo stick so bad, bad enough that one year I got one for Christmas. I can’t describe to you my disappointment when I finally stepped on to jump up and down. In my little kid head, I imagined it to be like this magic bouncing stick, that all I would have to do was hold on as this tool took me on a wild up and down bouncy bounce ride.
But pogo sticks aren’t really bouncy. They’re springy. It takes a lot of muscle and weight to slam that thing down hard enough on the ground so that it’ll launch you even an inch or two upward. I think if I had to blame someone for my misconception, yes, I’ll take part of the blame, but there was also this popular toy when I was in first or second grade, the Pogo Ball, that I feel deserves most of the credit for leading me to put any hope of fun into a boring pogo stick.
The Pogo Ball was essentially a volleyball sized thick rubber ball with a little circular platform wrapped around the middle. Imagine what the planet Saturn looks like, and that’s basically the shape of the Pogo Ball. I had one of those as a little kid, and while I didn’t really have the motor skills necessary to actually bounce around, that was the idea behind this toy. All of the commercials showcased kids my age flying around town, dramatic leap after ridiculous bounce.
I couldn’t get it right, and so I assumed that it was because the Pogo Ball was a poor man’s pogo stick. All I needed were handles, and I’d be able pogo with the best of them. But that Christmas morning, one look at the pogo stick had me realizing that I’d been fooling myself all along. The dead giveaway was the solid bottom, the fist shaped piece of hard black rubber on which ground would meet stick.
How was this thing supposed to bounce? I’d been picturing some sort of an ultra bouncy inflatable ball, or maybe something like flubber. And again, those springs, it’s so hard to get that thing to want to go.
A couple of years ago I was at my parents’ house and, for some reason or another, I wound up snooping around the garage. Hanging on the wall was the old pogo stick. I figured, I’ve got the weight now that my ten-year-old self lacked, let’s see if I can’t get this going. And while I did manage to successfully pogo, it wasn’t all that fun. I mean, maybe it would have been fun if I could have made this thing work twenty years ago, but now, I don’t know.
I guess bouncing up and down isn’t as fun as it used to be. I always used to love jumping on trampolines. One of my friends had one when I was high school, and we’d spend hours catapulting ourselves as high as we could, catching each other’s bounces, trying not to break our arms on the sides. But ten years later I remember being at someone’s house, also with a trampoline, and the up and down motion made me instantly uncomfortable. It wasn’t nausea, and it wasn’t a headache, not really. I don’t know how to describe it other than I felt like I was losing control of my eyes, like they were slowly drifting out of orbit, that if I didn’t stop bouncing, they’d roll up to the inside of my head or cross permanently. It was just really disorienting I guess.
And it was the same with my adult pogo stick experience. Sure, I was going up and down, but I couldn’t really stay focused, I kept pogoing in a circle that I couldn’t control. The springs were really, really loud, and the nails-on-a-chalkboard screech only added to that vertigo effect.
I’m still blaming the Pogo Ball. If it wasn’t for that cheap piece of crap, I would have never got it in my head that pogo sticking was something worth wanting to do. Man, I think about a lot of the popular toys from my childhood, all of them stupid pieces of plastic that never really delivered on the advertised experience. Skip-it was basically a wheel attached to your leg by a piece of nylon string. What a piece of junk. It never even stayed on the ground, so the counter never counted anything. Skip-it. They should have called it Don’t-buy-it.