I am running with a bad crowd.
Somewhere there is a bookish gathering of nerdy, sedentary types missing me terribly.
Meanwhile, my friends (and I use the term loosely) are trying to kill me.
Oh sure, they seemed nice enough when we befriended them, but isn’t that always how it is?
One moment you are bonding over your shared loathing of overbearing Little League parents, and the next, they are trying to hurtle you off an inner tube at high speeds.
Just add water. I take the same position on water sports as I would on sky diving: I can find no compelling reason whatsoever to leave a perfectly good boat (or airplane) mid-ride.
I, however, am plagued by friends who enjoy doing just that. They are, and I shudder to say this even now: active.
(Note to self: Next time I am making new friends, I should try harder to find out-of-shape, sloth-like types who are not prone to water sports or, for that matter, sports at all. A nice, eccentric hermit might do nicely.)
I, myself, am a big fan of activities that don’t require me becoming, in any way, active.
It’s not that I’m chicken – I love roller coasters, for example.
It’s just that I wish to bear absolutely NO responsibility for my safety and/or well being. I want to leave that entirely in the hands of someone else – say, a nice, under-trained, sixteen-year-old ride operator.
In my hands. Early on, I was suspicious that “tubing,” which consists of being dragged at high speeds on an inflatable raft behind a boat, was not going to be my kind of hands-off activity.
No, once on the tube – a misleadingly friendly-looking device, like a big, squishy, round mattress – I was going to have to know things.
I was going to have to hold on and lean this way or that and my survival would be, in large part, in my own hands.
Clearly, I was doomed.
Granted, my friends like me enough (I think) that they aren’t actively trying to kill me outright – at least not so you can prove it.
I was outfitted in a fetching life jacket that would “technically” prevent my fun activity – tubing – from crossing into the not-so-fun activity of drowning.
I myself could see very little difference between the two, except that in tubing you are going a whole lot faster, whereas drowning probably proceeds at a more relaxing pace.
Realizations. Now, with every activity there is some wiseacre who will say something fundamentally stupid such as, “It’s as easy as riding a bicycle.”
Right, except that when you fall off a bicycle, you are generally in very little danger of DROWNING.
All whining aside, I’m not sure how it happened – and I think I may have been drugged – but I suddenly became aware that I was out of the boat, on the tube, and my “friend” was explaining, all too briefly, what I was going to need to know to adequately survive the next few moments.
I say “moments” because we both knew that was about how long I was going to last.
I have some memory of a lot of water spraying in my face, and a few times the tube appeared to go airborne – or maybe that was just my body?
Then, just when I was (miracle of miracles) becoming aware that I was indeed still alive, my friend glanced over and said, without a trace of irony, “we call this ‘kiddie’ speed.”
Remind me to cross her off my Christmas card list, will you?
Signals. The boat’s speed increased, and with it the G-force, or whatever it was that was erasing my facial features.
My “friend” ever helpful, remembered at that precise moment that there were a few hand signals I needed to know.
(I was otherwise occupied, wondering if my will was up to date, and if I had left the house clean enough to have my calling hours there or if they would have to go off-site.)
Namely, thumbs up means go faster, thumbs down is slower, and a slash across the neck means stop.
I assured her, gravely, fingers clenched in a death-grip around the straps on the tube, that I was never, ever, going to need that first signal.
Out of my hands. Moments later, I would prove that even veteran tubers such as she had completely over thought the process.
To stop, all you have to do is fly off the tube at high speeds and slam into the water like a sack of cement.
See? Nothing to it.
Having survived tubing, let me assure you that it’s not the speed that gets you – it’s that sudden stop at the end.
Otherwise, as they say, it’s just as easy as falling off a bike – or a boat.
(Kymberly Foster Seabolt is much better at drowning than tubing. She welcomes comments c/o firstname.lastname@example.org, P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460 or http://userweb.epohi.com/~kseabolt.)
I am running with a bad crowd.