March 5, 2013

Why I Don't Like Water Slides

When I was 12, the youth in my ward went on a "super activity" to Seven Peaks Waterpark. My friend talked me into going on what, as a neurotic 12-year-old, looked like a scary water slide. You sat in a pitch black tube and slide down the slide. For those of you unfamiliar with water slides, the concept is pretty basic: you start at the top, ride down, yell "whee!" into the dark void and land in the pool of water at the bottom. I was told that this was supposed to be fun. At Seven Peaks, you can rent a 1-rider tube, a 2-rider tube, or a 3-rider tube. One person in a tube goes down the slide slower than three people in a tube. (For those of you unfamiliar with gravity.) Expanding on this basic premise, it would seem obvious that one 12-year-old 80 pound little girl in a tube would go down much slower than three 30-year-old 250 pound dudes in a multi-rider tube. Knowing about gravity was clearly not a requirement for water slide technicians at Seven Peaks. (At least this was the case in 1994. My incident may have resulted in a recalibration of the water slide technician training.)

Now the water slide technicians job was to stand at the top of slide and tell you when to go down. Ideally, he or she is trying to space all the riders out somewhat evenly, so as not to clog the slide, but to keep the line moving. So he says "go!" to my friend, she goes, and I situate myself, nervously awaiting instruction to go. I hear her screaming echoed back up through the empty darkness of the tunnel. The clearly disinterested tech waves his hand at me. I look at him, unsure what to do. Annoyed, he yells "go!" So I go. I'm sliding down, trying to convince myself this is fun, tightly gripping the tube handles and not making any sounds at all. Soon, I hear the loud whooping that can only come from three 30-year-old developmentally arrested "dudes." I was no physics prodigy, but I could tell that the sound was coming up behind me much faster than I was moving. I held on tighter and closed my eyes. What else could I do? At about the middle of the slide, the dude-mobile ran right over me like I was a just a speed bump. There was a surprised "woah!" and I think one guy said "did we run into someone?" But the concern was quickly dismissed as the whooping and hollering continued, quickly fading as they sped through the rest of the slide. My tube had toppled upside down, and since I refused to let go of the handles, I was skidding down face first, on my stomach, with the tube perched uselessly on my rear end. Not surprisingly to those who know me well, I was mostly preoccupied with the mortifying thought that I would come out of the slide looking stupid. So I desperately tried to get the tube back under me, but only ended up losing my grip on it. The tube rushed down with me, and I scraped down the last quarter of the slide alone.

I try to think of the poor lifeguard that monitors the wading pool where the slide ends. Three dudes shoot out and tell him, "I think we ran over something?" And then a riderless tube shoots out. Soon after, a tiny 12-year-old girl tumbles out head first, visibly bleeding from her thigh. He heroically ran towards me, helped me stand up, and checked out the massive scrape on my leg. Though I was slightly in pain, and a little traumatized, more than anything, I felt shame and humiliation. I failed at the water slide. If I were being graded on water slides, I would have surely earned an F. I convinced the lifeguard I was fine, and ran away as fast as I could. I swore my friend to secrecy. And I spent the rest of day in the shallow end of the wave pool where I belonged, inspecting my enormous thundercloud shaped bruise, glaring at the waterslides, and feeling like a failure.

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