04 August 2005
The adventures of Aquaman
Yesterday (8/2) was my wife's birthday. She took the day off from work. Last week, she walked into the room I was sitting and reading in and announced that we would be spending at least part of her birthday at a water park that is just around the corner from our house.
I'm not much into water. I appreciate that it is the essential building block of life. I try to conserve it, and I drink it when I'm thirsty. That's about it for my relationship with H-2-O.
And I have memories of swimming pools when I was a kid: I wandered into the deep end on vacation one year and realized quickly that I wasn't six feet. Fortunately my sister was close by and yanked me back into shallower water; I didn't learn to swim until I was twelve. I tried to learn to swim many times before that, but, well, let's just say that I managed to fail swimming lessons over and over and over again. When I finally did learn how to swim, I was the biggest kid in the class...because I was at least three years older than anyone else.
And sunburn. I don't want to talk about it.
But I aim to please. It was Kristen's birthday, and she loves to swim, so away we went. The park opened at 11 and we were there shortly afterwards, on a clear, very hot (96) and humid day. After finding a place to sit and applying gallons of sun block, we headed off to the "Lazy River", where you sit in an inter tube and are carried by a current around and around, until you're fed up with it. We spent about 45 minutes floating around the water. It was rather enjoyable.
We spent about a half hour after that sitting in the sun, which was hot, but I had gallons of sun block, remember, so I felt all right. In fact, I felt great. So much so that I asked Kristen if she fancied going over to the water slides. She said that she did, so off we went.
The park has two water slides, side by side, that are about five stories high. They looked the same, a series of twists and turns culminating in about a seven foot drop into a pool. I've done water slides hundreds of times. They're no big deal.
But this was a special day...
I went first and chose the slide on the right. After a quick turn, I found myself in a tunnel, unable to see anything, but anticipating that the slide would continue to corkscrew in the clockwise direction I was traveling. It didn't quite end up that way, and as my body went in the opposite direction, there was a splash, and a very large quantity of water went into my nose, and down into my lungs.
For a brief moment, I was in total darkness, unable to breathe, and feeling water in my lungs. I have to admit that it was kind of a rush. Then I saw light, came out of the tunnel, continued to slide, and entered another tunnel. Since I was nearing the end of the slide, I expected to keep traveling in the same direction; there wasn't enough time left to switch.
I was wrong, and the same thing happened. I swallowed more water. At the end of this tunnel, the slide ended, and I saw the drop into the pool. I barely had time to suck in a breath before hitting the water.
I must have looked like an idiot hitting the pool, but I also (strangely) enjoyed the trip down, so I suggested we go again. This time I let Kristen go first, and we went down the other slide. I was prepared and determined this time to not lose my bearings. As I entered the first tunnel, I was ready. I wasn't going to suck in water this time.
The first turn in the tunnel went well. The second wasn't too bad, and the third was awful. By the time I entered the third turn I had lost my bearings and had no idea what was going on. I think I was turning left, but my body felt like going right, and I smacked my head on the wall of the tunnel. If that wasn't enough to grab my attention, I then managed to suck in some more water.
I left the first tunnel and after a brief flash of sunlight went into the next. And here is where I managed to completely lose it. I thought if I just laid back and slid, the water would take me along the contour of the slide until the end. I assume this is what happened to the other thousand people who rode the slide that day.
So I am sliding in the second tunnel, and it is here that I have my first ever "Top Gun" moment: I did a barrel roll. I hit the wall on the right, thought I was balancing myself, and flipped all the way over. Looking back, I am rather impressed with myself for pulling off such a stunt, but at the time it was quite frightening. I had swallowed more water and had no idea where the end of the slide was. By this time I was sitting up, waiting for the end, hoping that I would get a little bit of air before hitting the pool.
Kristen, who had completed the slide without incident directly before me, said afterwards that I looked like I was "coming to Jesus" as my eyes were closed and my arms were out, palms up. Yeehaw!!!
After I got out of the pool I found myself unable to control my laughter, and I watched as about fifteen people came out of the slide. Everyone had the same look: head up, arms crossed over their body, and slid gently into the pool.
Clearly, I have issues. I don't belong within a mile of a water slide. We might have to move...
We spent a grand total of three hours at the park. Kristen said it was perfect, and while she would never say it to me, I am sure she was amused at my aquatic inabilities.
As for my abilities at applying sun block, today I am dealing with a strange sunburn. My chest is completely red from the end of my neck to about half a foot down, then it streaks to the right, like someone took a red marker and drew a "C" on my stomach.
Yes, I earned that merit badge.