Sunday, August 19, 2012

Facing fears on an epic slide

There comes a time in every man's life when the opportunity arises to complete an act of reckless stupidity he somehow missed in his youth.

I missed a lot of those, because I was a sober teen; something Shakespeare advised against, by the way.

The opportunity came for me this week when I plunged down a water slide with a seven-story vertical drop.

I had visited this local legendary water park, which I will call here Rampaging Wetness, several times over the decades, and walked past that flume thinking "You'd have to be crazy to do that."

Not because of the free-fall, but because of the epic wedgie awaiting you at the bottom; a wedgie so intense, rumor had it your swimsuit sometimes passed through your entire digestive tract, and you ended up wearing it as a hat.

But I have lived a happy life and I figured if I died at least they could use my body for wedgie research, which is woefully under-funded.

There is great value in facing your fears. At least that is the sentence I kept repeating to myself as the line crept slowly up the tower toward the top.

Rampaging Wetness, in its wisdom, soothes aspiring flume-plungers by blasting hip-hop music as you wait in line. For someone of my generation (a generation which prided itself on appreciating music involving guitars), this was akin to waiting in line to walk the plank while all the while being heckled by foul-mouthed parrots.

The line was made up almost entirely of young men, there to prove something to each other or themselves. During the time it took to reach the top, two people bailed out of the line from fear. "No shame," I wanted to reassure them as they passed, but my mouth was too dry from fear.

The time came. I lay down at the top of the slide, crossed my ankles and arms, and the lifeguard shoved me off. I closed my eyes and thought of England. I had never realized England was so terrifying.

At the bottom, flushed with manliness and the applause of my family, I basked in glory as I put back on my sandals. Then I saw her—the little girl who came down the flume after me. She was tiny.

"How old are you?" I asked.

"Eight," she said.

The rest of my day went pretty well, though.

. . .