This column originally appeared as part of Tribune Content Agency's 'Humor Hotel' package October 31, 2023
Strolling through my Chicago neighborhood one splendid autumn evening, I suddenly found myself in lockstep behind a couple who would elicit a smile from anyone who crossed their path.
He was mid 30s; she was mid-toddler — 2 at the most.
A fistful of Cheez-It crackers in her left hand, the rest of her body mildly swaying in time with her companion’s gait, she kept her balance by occasionally grabbing on to his right ear. Or a fistful of hair.
When you were her age, was there anything better than seeing the world from atop your dad’s shoulders?
Now moms, don’t get offended, for I have occasionally seen you hoist your child on to that precious area where neck meets shoulder blades. But, by and large, that spot, and the various maneuvers required to claim it, is reserved for dads. We cherish it because we know it will result in instant happiness. Think about it: Have you ever seen a child crying as he or she peered over Daddy’s head?
Of course not. The view is too enticing.
Imagine growing 6 feet in an instant. As a 2-foot toddler, you have spent the majority of your life looking up at the world. Now the world is suddenly looking up at you.
I remember giving my two daughters these rides and being rewarded with squeals of delight, and grins and winks from passersby. Even on days when my upper body ached and I knew I would pay the price the next day, or even the next hour, I eagerly relented. Advil was always nearby.
I am a 6-foot, 185-pound man, and I realize my days of riding on somebody else’s shoulders are about 58 years removed. But if you’re one of those dudes I’ve seen on TikTok pulling a car by your neck, can you please reach out? I would love to spend whatever length of time works for you aboard your shoulders as we walk down one of Chicago’s busiest thoroughfares. For I am ready to feel that innocent joy and happiness again. Aren’t we all? Also, I am ready to see those passerby smiles. Sadly, my neighborhood is currently full of residents who rarely look up from their phones as they walk, despite near misses with utility poles. That needs to change.
OK, the change won’t come immediately. The sight of two approaching men, approximately 12 feet high, could send bystanders running into the nearest public building or worse, reaching for their phones to dial law enforcement. But if neither happened, I would win them over. I would high-five, or, I guess, “low-five,” anyone in the immediate vicinity. I would install Christmas tree lights for free, encouraging my neighbors to buy bigger, lovelier trees in the process.
Twelve-foot me would offer to clean awnings of neighborhood businesses. I’d find an inner city playground, full of kids with big basketball dreams, but little means to achieve them, and invite myself to play on both teams at once. However, I’d explain that I’m never allowed to shoot, only to defend. That way the players would have to figure out new and creative ways to score points, bettering their games in the process. When they succeed, I would remind them that height isn’t everything. Intelligence matters too. So stay in school and avoid drugs and gangs.
Eventually, the companion below me would say, “No more,” or something to that effect. Parenting is full of those bittersweet moments. Like all dads, I remember the final ride with both girls. Upper extremities balking, I reached up, gently grabbed them at their waists, lowered them down and said, “I think you’re getting too big for Daddy.”
To my girls, I hope you enjoyed the view as much as I did. To the rest of the world, why not spend a moment today looking at your surroundings from a different vantage point? Sip a drink on a rooftop bar, do yoga under a shaded tree or take a spin through your own neighborhood aboard one of those rental scooters, leaving your SUV in the garage.
If that doesn’t make you feel better, head to an airport, a mall or a busy city street. Trust me, there’s a dad, with a child above him, just waiting to make you feel better.
Greg Schwem is a business humorist, motivational corporate comedian, corporate emcee, nationally syndicated humor columnist for Tribune Content Agency and creator/host of the streaming TV series, “A Comedian Crashes Your Pad.