Sunday, March 18, 2007

Nuts in a Box

My daughter loves bouncing on our trampoline. She has worn out three trampolines with her daily routine: round and round the perimeter, jumping and listening to her iPod for hours on end. In the morning and at night, in the sun, the rain, the snow, in the searing heat and the bitter cold, she's out there, lost in the music and the ether of her own thoughts.

Sunday it was finally time get a new one, our fourth. The old one had begun popping springs at an alarming rate, and it seemed to be getting dangerous. The neighbor complained that he needed a helmet to walk out of his back door. My daughter didn't know that we were going to buy one. I had only told her that we were going grocery shopping. So she was pleased when we pulled into the Sport Authority parking lot.

We entered the store and one of the young sales clerks directed us to the back where there were two large models to choose from, a twelve foot model and a thirteen foot model. The one we were about to replace was a fourteen-footer, so unfortunately both were smaller.

Neither were set up. Both sat in their respective boxes, nearly indistinguishable at first glance. But there was a novel difference between the two: while the twelve foot trampoline had standard metal springs, the thirteen foot model had heavy-duty elastic straps. I was drawn to that one because metal springs had always seemed hazardous to me. But what of the stitching? The metal springs were ripping and being flung all over our yard. If the elastic straps weren't sewn more securely than the metal springs, then there seemed to be no point to buy this more expensive model.

The teen-aged clerk said nothing when I asked that he open the box so that I could examine the trampoline's construction, but disappeared around an aisle. He seemed irritated by my request. My daughter and I just looked at one another and giggled. "He probably hates us," I whispered with a smile.

The large, heavy box was kind of beat up, and had been re-taped. I can be pretty picky about that sort of thing, but this time I fought it in my head. "It's fine, it's brand new inside," I told myself. "So what if the cardboard is a little hacked? I don't want to be one of those annoying customers who refuses perfectly fine merchandise because the box has a dint on it."

As we stood there wondering whether we had been abandoned, the clerk returned with a scissors and slowly began to cut the packing straps and tape. He was not the most skillful young man ever to wield a pair of scissors, but eventually we were able to remove the box top. The large jumping mat seemed perfectly in order, and to my satisfaction there were eight layers of heavy-duty stitches that secured the straps to the mat. The old trampoline had only four to hold the metal springs. I was sold! He covered the box in plastic shipping wrap while my daughter and I picked out some new shoes for her.

We continued with our day, stopping at the grocery store and running our other errands. When we got home, we hauled the groceries in and I set to work on the trampoline. I heaved it out of the car and dragged it to its new home behind the garage. My daughter and I disassembled the old one and cleared the area underneath it, which is a popular spot for our dogs to do their business during the wintertime. Gross.

Finally we were ready to begin construction of the new trampoline. I eagerly tore open the plastic and peeled it away. I pulled off the box top and flung the sturdy mat aside to get at the instruction manual. There, underneath the mat, embedded in the foam, lay the remains of a squirrel's nest, complete with acorns, droppings, chewed bits of cardboard, and a baby squirrel corpse.

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