A glorious paradise on a weekday work day

As soon as I stepped into the room, my eyes were filled with the sights of golfing on astro turf and oversized sports equipment, the splendor of giant playgrounds and rock walls, and tears of joy. I had to restrain myself from kicking off my shoes, running up the nearest ladder and sliding down the closest slide.

This was the beauty (and the torture) of the California Park convention in Santa Clara last week.

As I’ve said before, my new job is interesting and fun at times, but often torturous because I sit all day looking at pictures of kids having a blast on magnificent playgrounds and water slides and don’t get to enjoy any of it myself. Well, that wasn’t quite the case at the CPRS expo.

Though the day started with a two and half hour drive at 6 am down to Santa Clara, it quickly became much more interesting when I arrived at the convention and was greeted by my company’s booth. It was a small gazebo-like area, covered in SofTILE (rubber playground surfacing) and the highest quality turf. It had park benches and trash cans, a few large plastic playground peripherals, and even a giant dragon neck and head that spewed fog out of its nostrils. If we had some archers, catapults and a few flying buttresses, it would have almost resembled a castle.

Of course, most of the morning was spent schmoozing park and rec folks, getting the word out about our products, and doing lots of salesman-type activities. But as soon as lunchtime rolled around, I grabbed some free food and then let loose on the convention center. I skipped right over Baggo , a rehash of those old toss-the-bean-bag-through-the-hole carnival games, and went straight for the good stuff: the climbing wall.

Even with my fancy pants and my fancy pants shoes I scrambled up to the top to achieve maximum invigoration. After, my boss wanted to get back to our booth so we didn’t miss any customers, but I wasn’t having it. I needed more fun.

We found an awesome spinning carousel doohickey where people would grab the handles, run around to get some speed, and then enjoy the centrifugal forces lifting your feet of the ground, endowing temporary Superman qualities. So of course, when I saw that, I ran and jumped on. Then I promptly flew off and took a tumble on the heavenly softness of the fake grass and got up to do it all over again.

I still restrained myself and didn’t get too childish/childlike on all of the equipment. Of course, some of it looked more like torture devices than play structures anyway. If I’ve come away with one thing, it’s this: there’s a definite advantage to selling playground equipment. Just like anything else, you have to know your product in order to sell it, and to know playgrounds, you’ve gotta play.
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