Form where the family had lived at the time, to Sesame Place in Pennsylvania constituted a two hour drive and plenty of traffic. But it was worth it. My kids enjoyed it. I enjoyed that my kids enjoyed it. But I also enjoyed it myself.
In particular, I enjoyed the water rides, particularly on this day because it was a typical 3-H day in the New York Greater Metropolitan Area — Hot, Hazy, and Humid. The water rides offered a nice way to cool off. I do not like getting wet when it’s cold. But when it’s hot and the sun dries me off quickly, I enjoy both the cooling and the warming back up. Beyond that, water slides provide the thrill of speed. And, for me, the thrill of speed is a more pure pleasure without the nagging sharp little chiggers of worry about someone having not sufficiently re-tightening a nut on the Ferris wheel or Roller-Coaster — a someone who has just found out they have terminal cancer, or their spouse just left them, or their favorite TV show has been cancelled. That’s a someone who is understandably quite distracted by all the little “worst case” scenarios that they have been playing out in their heads all day in the sizzling sun, perhaps even complaining to their imaginary pals about it.
No. When I think of a Water Slide, I think of Water. And water, unlike asphalt, is soft. If you fall, so what? And how can it break? It’s got no moving parts! What could be safer?
Actually, it does have one moving part. That moving part is the user, the participant, the enjoyer, the thrill-seeker. In a word, me. To be fair, I am not much of an adrenaline junky. I’m happy to have speed thrills, but I want to do that without the risk of real injury. Hence, the Water Slide: my favorite kind of ride.
Beyond that, I really like Water Slides because there is such elegance and simplicity. I am climbing the steps to the giant Water Slide and what am I wearing? A bathing suit. I have no tennis bag, no picnic bag, no bat, no ball, no safety helmet, no special shoes, no shin guards, no ignition key, no riding gloves, no spurs. I am damned near naked. I do not get into a seat, or a boat, or race car, or mount a horse (though I understand those can be wonderful for various different reasons). But this a particular thrill, though safe, is a naked thrill. I not literally naked of course. But I was as close as I could get in polite society.
The first time I used this particular Water Slide, I was sitting up. I noticed that most people did that, but some people lay flat. I considered that, but it seemed to me I wouldn’t get to see much except the sky. The way I visualized it, I would have a greater impression of speed if I sat up so that I could see the park-world that lay beyond the half-circle of yellow plastic pipe that formed our “race track.” So, off I went: ZOOM! (In the pre-COVID19 sense of the word).
It was fun! Just as much fun as I had imagined. And more. It really felt good. If you enjoy the jets of a jacuzzi, you might appreciate that, in addition to the thrill of speed, the Water Slide offers a surprising kind of gentle but vigorous water massage while you are speeding through its universe. The turns and twists and falls seem a lot like a bobsled run. But the bobsledders are getting banged and bruised and on rare occasions killed, while I was getting a water massage instead.
So being a person who likes to study things, I decided I would lay on my back for the second run. This time, I would go for speed and see whether the increased speed would make up for the less panoramic visual experience.
Whoosh! Into the pool at the end, I went. Unbelievably, it had been even more fun the second time. So, once more, I climbed up the long staircase to the top of the Water Slide. The steps were ingeniously chosen to be of cross-grated metal which kept the stairs tolerably hot and made them less prone to someone slipping and falling, possibly taking out a host of climbers behind them. Of course, the climb lasted far longer than the slide, but I didn’t mind. I used my time planning how I would go even faster this time.
When you reach the top of the Water Slide, there are two workers — one on each side of the yellow half-pipe. They hold you in place until they are sure the person below you has cleared. And then they give you a shove to start you off. This is great because that time allowed me to execute my mental check list. I straightened my legs hard, pointed my toes, and pressed the soles of my feet together as hard as I could. I stretched my arms above me, pushing the inside of my upper arms against my ears and pushing my palms together as hard as I could.
ZOOM! Off I went! And, sure enough! My plan had worked! I was going even faster than my second time down — noticeably faster. This was heaven, all right. A considerable thrill but completely safe.
So I thought.
Apparently, the engineers who designed this water park didn’t design for grown men who had a curious enough streak to see what would happen if they really thought hard about how to minimize friction.
I sizzled down the half-pipe in my slip-sliding way with no issues until the last and fastest turn. Here, my body quickly went from in the half-pipe to somewhat outside the half-pipe to half outside the half-pipe. I had been worried about the lack of view. But I had plenty of view of what my landing place would be like. Concrete and rocks about five feet below.
I had exactly zero time to react before my body began to find its way back into the confines of the half pipe. It was a close thing. And, if I had “spun out,” that afternoon would have turned out far differently than it did. It would have certainly meant a trip to the hospital. Maybe I would have been spared broken bones and just gotten a world class case of road rash. That seems unlikely. Who knows? I might have been permanently disabled or, if my head happened to hit something in the wrong way, dead.
Sometimes, we come up to that edge and we don’t even know it. And sometimes, we come to that edge because we think our way up to it. Every time we push the limit and get away with it, a little voice inside says, next time, we’ll push it a little more. Next time, we’ll push it a little more. And a little more. Sometimes, we get lucky. We get close enough to the edge to see what lies beyond and we modify our behavior. And sometimes, we get unlucky. We go over the edge. And there’s no turning back.
I still enjoy a Water Slide.
But I don’t clever my way to the edge.
I would go to the edge, and I would go beyond the edge, for a worthy enough cause. But a thrill or the pleasure of the moment — to me, that is not nearly enough cause.
How close do the edge do you like to come?
Link to a series on “tools of thought”
Link to an essay about “cognitive dissonance.”
Link to an essay about my experience getting “conned.”
Link to an index of “best practices” in teamwork and collaboration.
Great post! Gave me something to think about.
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