A little more than a year ago Randall Munroe, author of XKCD, posted a comic, called Grownups, about a girl filling her apartment with playpen balls. The girl in the comic offers no explanation as to why she's done this, other than the fact that she's a grow-up now and it's her turn to decide what being a grown-up means. The whimsical web comic has often portrayed a state of mind that hits very close to home for me and this strip wasn't an exception.
I'm impulsive so I started looking on line for playpen balls the following weekend and quickly learned the same thing Randall did. Filling one's apartment with playpen balls, for any reasonably sized apartment, or even a tiny dorm room, would cost well over a few thousand dollars. Determined to have a ball pit, I decided I would cordon off the bottom of my lofted bed and make a ball-pit underneath. The lofted bed is a nice big queen-sized bed so the pit would be about 5'x7' with about 5' head clearance.
Using an on-line playpen ball volume calculator (inspired by the XKCD comic itself) I found that making a 5'x7' ball pit 2' deep was a pretty tractable goal. With a little help from my friend Sue I was able to find two ebay auctions for 700 and 800 balls from the same seller. The orders totaled about $160 counting shipping, which by the way made up more than 40% of the cost.
I placed a bid and week or so later I received the largest delivery I'd ever received as well as an endearingly spastic but uninformative voice from my roommate attempting to describe exactly what had happened to our front porch while I was gone. "Hey! Mike! Oh my god there's, like... the porch is totally gone. They're huge. These all have your name... I can't... do want me to... Holy crap." Remembering my order from a week ago I figured that was probably what she was talking about so I went home to bring them in.
On the Saturday after the delivery arrived, Sue and I went to Home Depot, the toy store for grown-ups who think the word grown-up has been ill defined. After some careful consideration we decided to pick up a reel of plastic garden fencing, zip ties, and you guessed it, some PVC pipe.
The lofted bed was already up against two walls so I just needed to gate off the other two. One wall, the short one, I decided to completely cover with the garden fence. The long wall I made the entry way, so it has a short wall made of a PVC frame and garden fence which is easy to step over.
That Saturday night Sarah came over and Sue, Sarah, and I sat in the ball pit for nearly five hours talking and laughing uncontrollably while throwing balls at each others faces. It really is quite amazing how long throwing balls at your friends' faces can last without getting boring. When it did we just lounged around and chatted until someone decided it was again time to throw balls at each other's faces. As the night winded down Sarah took great joy in completely burying herself and Sue made sure that both of us had heard every possibly innuendo involving the word balls.
Later in the week my improv troupe came over to practice and we ended the night with a really loud and rowdy ball pit fight where in most people just threw balls at Tony while Tony scrambled to bury his face and anything else fragile under a thick enough covering of playpen balls. My more obsessive compulsive friends came over the following weekend and we shorted the ball pit in spectrum order. To be fair this project also started with throwing balls at each others faces when I decided that Mike could only throw blue balls and Trevor could only throw red. This created a really nice visual effect so we ran with it and Lisa took some pictures.
I guess what I've learned from all this is simply that if you are going to go through the trouble of making a ball pit in your apartment just realize that all your friends are going to want to do is throw plastic balls at your face. Recently I moved and decided to make a video of the reconstruction of the ball pit.