Abhi Agarwal, a software engineer and Boston resident, was driving to his office on Thursday afternoon when he passed by Boston City Hall and was struck by a long line of adults in suits and business attire at the playground just outside the building. It was the middle of the workday, and there wasn’t a child in sight—just a crowd of adults gathered, chit-chatting, lining up to ride a long, metallic slide that’s become the latest Twitter Main Character du jour in recent days.
This, of course, comes after the slide—now known as “the cop slide”—went viral earlier this week after a local news station shared the harrowing video of a male police officer in uniform, gun and other weaponry on his belt, shooting out of the slide face down at gravity-defying speed. Per the local news station, the unnamed officer sustained (and recovered from) a minor head injury that required treatment by paramedics.
“I’ve driven by that place plenty of times, there’s no one there usually,” Agarwal told Jezebel. “Even on weekends, there’s like, maybe one or two kids. And when I drove by, we had a ton of people wearing business suits and having a blast on a Thursday at 2:45 [p.m.].”
Other slide observers have corroborated this: One Twitter user on Thursday morning claimed they witnessed “a 45-minute wait to use the cop slide,” with “more adults at this park than children.”
The captivating video has raised all kinds of questions: Why was the officer lying on his stomach as he went down the slide? How was he going so fast? Did a small child playing at the park push him? Was there fentanyl in the slide?? (No, there was not.) How does he manage to make all those clanging sounds? Also, what was a cop doing going down a children’s slide in the middle of the day—when there was ostensibly crime that he should have been heroically fighting on the taxpayer dime—in the first place?
In the name of Journalism™, some outlets have set out to answer these and other burning questions. Wired spoke to a physicist (who happens to be the author of a book aptly titled, The Physics of Going Fast—but Not Too Fast—on a Giant Slide) about how the cop managed to achieve the velocity of a character in a Christopher Nolan action movie, to which the physicist, puzzled himself, replied, “Normal people, when they go down a slide, they’re fine.” And Boston Mayor Michelle Wu has addressed the incident, too, promising “to make sure there’s more signage that this is for children or something.”
But the burning question I’ve set out to answer is: What is so compelling about this slide? Luke Johnson, another Boston resident, passes by the playground in question often enough and has visited it several times since the video went viral. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen more than five people at that park before, and now, I’ve literally never seen that many fully grown adults in one place in the middle of the day,” Johnson told Jezebel. His group chats with other people based in Boston are alight with videos people have taken of themselves and their friends going down the slide. His co-workers—a mix of pro and anti-cop individuals—have all been chattering about the video, too, and find it universally entertaining.
One Twitter user, who recorded herself going down the slide in a video nearing 100k likes as of Friday afternoon, offered her “official slide analysis”: “it’s a little faster than the average slide but after going down the slide I cannot think of any way he made that happen,” she wrote, referring to the officer’s shocking speed. “i dont think i could do that if i had tried.” In response to inquiries about her clothing, as some theorize that clothing material is a factor in sliding speed, she wrote: “MATERIAL STATS FOR THOSE CURIOUS: these pants are 70 rayon 30 nylon.”
There’s an undeniable comedy to it all—the physical comedy, of course, of a man armed with a gun and the power of literal life or death over civilians being utterly, inexplicably pummeled by a children’s slide. But there’s also a sort of existential comedy to the situation. Cops famously self-victimize, performing the theatrics of how dangerous their jobs supposedly are for social media with post after post about being hospitalized from being in the same room as fentanyl, or sharing photos of harrowing drug busts that consist of a few armfuls of chocolate bars, or posing menacingly alongside an ounce of confiscated marijuana. The slide incident is “hilarious,” Johnson says, because “it’s just another example of cops dunking on themselves.”
“Like, it’s crazy that someone could have a gun and all that power and not learn how to function a slide,” Johnson said.
Ricci Sergienko, an organizer at People’s City Council, a group that organizes against policing, told Jezebel the massive cultural reaction to the slide video stems in part from the obvious physical comedy. But it’s also funny because it took a children’s slide to deliver some form of karmic “justice” in a society where police “routinely get away with everything.” “There’s also the factor of, we know cops are bored and loitering around all the time,” Sergienko said, “like, what was he even doing there, on that slide? While we’re all paying for him to be there?”
Ultimately, Agarwal, a long-time Boston resident, thinks his city is uniquely suited to become the epicenter of such a viral gag: “I wouldn’t say Boston is very mean, but I do think we’re kind of assholes, where this is the sort of thing that resonates with us pretty well—like, I could 100% picture a dude from a pub doing that at midnight, and everyone would be laughing at him,” Agrawal said. “Ultimately I’m just glad that my humble city of Boston has been put on the map, finally, in the cultural atmosphere.”