A Slippery Slope


Over the weekend, many parts of the United States experienced the first snowstorm of the season, which prompted me to reminisce about my one and only attempt at snow skiing.  It was an adventure that I (and sadly, a few innocent bystanders) will likely never forget.

It was the winter of 1992 or 1993, and I was in my early twenties.  The office that my mom worked for was sponsoring a day-long bus trip to the Wintergreen Ski Resort, and though my mom did not plan to go, I thought it was a good opportunity for me to step out of my comfort zone and give skiing a try.  I’m not sure what possessed me; I absolutely hate the cold, and I am not exactly what you would consider athletic.  What is it they say?  There is safety in numbers? That must have been part of my rationale.  It was a group outing.  There would be children among us.  Certainly, I could keep up with the kids without looking foolish.  There was absolutely no need to feel self-conscious.

I attached myself to my mom’s coworker Ray and her nine-year old son Eric.  On the bus ride to the resort, we made our plans.  We would all take ski lessons and see how things went.  After that, we would stick to the bunny slope or head inside to enjoy hot cocoa and snacks.  Whatever happened, the three of us would stay together.

Our lessons went well.  We learned how to use our poles to push ourselves off and how to form a pizza slice with our skis in order to stop.  Over and over again, we went down the modest slope of the training hill.  It was a huge boost to my ego that I didn’t fall down even once.  Ray and Eric were getting the hang of it too, and we eventually moved out of the training area and onto the bunny slope.  Again, we impressed ourselves with our newly acquired skills and made multiple runs down the hill without incident. When it started to lightly rain, we finally ventured inside for that hot cocoa.  But Ray and I didn’t stay inside long.

Since it was about a four hour bus trip each way, we knew our time was limited, and Ray wanted to make the most of it.  She urged me to go back on the slopes with her for one last run.  This time, though, she wanted to attempt the intermediate slope.  She really thought we could handle it.  A few hours on the bunny slope without any falls had proved to her that we were expert skiers.  I should have asked her what was in her cocoa; it surely must have been spiked.  Her sense of logic was flawed.  Then again, I was following her lead.  Where had my logic gone?

Neither one of us had bothered to consider the fact that the rain, though light and brief, had made the snow icy.  If there had been music playing for this scene, it would have been suggesting imminent doom.  We left the building and headed on level ground towards the intermediate slope.  I took the lead.  All was well . . . for about a minute.  Then I heard shrill screaming coming from behind me and glanced over my shoulder to look for Ray.  The screaming was coming from Ray.  Have I mentioned that Ray reminds me of Whoopi Goldberg? The scene I was witnessing brought back memories of Whoopi in the movie Jumpin’ Jack Flash. “Help! I’m a little black woman in a big silver box.”

Anyway, there was Ray screaming her lungs out, arms flailing,  I don’t know what happened to her poles, but she apparently didn’t need them to propel herself forward. There was absolutely no elegance in her actions. I could see people in her path scattering like flies.  I couldn’t help myself.  I veered off to the side and fell down in the snow to watch.  She was picking up speed and other people were now screaming right along with her.  And then it happened!  A young boy, about 5, fell down in her path.  Ray didn’t slow or swerve.  Nope, she went right over top of that poor kid and proceeded to take him downhill with her.  He was trapped, his head firmly clamped between her legs.  There is no telling how far they would have traveled like that if it hadn’t been for the fact that they smacked into a thick wooden post attached to netting meant to prevent skiers from going past that point.  They crumbled.  Ray finally went silent.  The kid was crying uncontrollably.  What I presume was his mother came running.  And I lay in the snow laughing.  I felt so bad for that boy and I hoped that he wasn’t seriously hurt, but the sight of the two of them racing downhill as one had me hysterical.

I honestly don’t know how Ray managed to make it back to where I was or how we were able to collect Eric and make it to the bus, but I will never forget the view from my spot at the top of the hill.  It was one of those things that seemed to take place in slow motion allowing me to replay it over and over again.  It was sad, shocking, and hysterically funny all at once, but it was nothing if not memorable.

As I said, I have never been skiing again.  There simply is no need to do so.  After all, what could possibly top that first excursion?

Daily Post Prompt: Elegance

The Adventures of Thelma and Louise

Mom and I have always been a bit droll.  You might call it a nervous habit or perhaps a morbid fascination, but we see humor in some of the stupidest things.  We have always had the ability to amuse ourselves and each other, so just the thought of driving across country together is enough to make me giggle.

On September 15th we loaded up my car, a Honda Insight, with a few weeks worth of luggage, snacks, gifts for friends and family, my laptop, my 60 pound dog, and all of his food, toys, and bedding and set off for the East Coast. Needless to say, things were a bit snug but no matter.  Who wouldn’t enjoy being squished like sardines in a metal can for days on end? It’s prime family bonding time, right?

Of course, if I wrote about all of our month-long adventures, this would turn into a book rather than a blog, so I’ll just hit the highlights.

Traveling through mountains in a hybrid is not for the faint of heart.  The car simply cannot maintain adequate speed, especially not loaded down as it was.  We stayed in the right-hand lane and sandwiched ourselves between 18-wheelers also struggling to keep up.  Thinking about it now, I get the image of a cartoon or caricature with my tiny little vehicle trapped between such behemoths.  What makes things more interesting is that I suffer from vertigo and do not appreciate heights, so my view is often limited to the taillights directly in front of me.  Mom thinks it is funny to comment on the beauty of the scenery and ask me what I think of the view.  It’s a wonder I didn’t drive off the road!

Speaking of driving off the road, we really and truly did come a hairsbreadth away from pulling Thelma and Louise’s final act.  With my glasses, I see fine during the day, but my night vision sucks.  We intended to stop before dark each day, but the lack of dog-friendly hotels sometimes caused us to forego our own safety.  To make matters worse, there was quite a bit of construction taking place along our route.  We stopped one night just off the interstate to get gas, afraid what we had left wouldn’t get us to the next actual town and hotel.  Because of the construction and near complete darkness, it was difficult to find the entrance ramp.  I turned a few feet from the detour sign and thankfully chickened out and slammed on breaks; directly in front of us was a cliff.  I had overshot the ramp.  Other people might freak out, maybe even scream, but mom and I, once we pulled our hearts out of our lap, could only find it in ourselves to laugh.  For the rest of the trip, we would just tease and say, “Let’s not go over a cliff tonight.” (I’m sure my sister is having her own heart attack reading this because we never thought to mention it when we called to say we had stopped for the night.  Oops!  We didn’t want to worry you.)

This leads me to discuss another night we drove past dark.  We could have stopped earlier, but it was lightly raining and since the dog won’t eat or potty in the rain, we decided to keep going until it stopped.  Maybe that wasn’t the wisest decision on our parts.  When it finally did stop and we reached the next town, it was already around 9pm and we had been driving all day.  We were tired and apparently very desperate.  We saw a Days Inn and knew they accepted pets, so I went in and got us a room.  We won’t be staying there again!  In fact, we not so lovingly renamed it the “Bate’s Motel”.  The room was as hot as an oven when we entered it and the air conditioner had been unplugged.  We simply plugged it back in and figured it would cool down the room by the time we fell asleep.  We were wrong.  As if roasting wasn’t bad enough, it wasn’t our only concern.  The dog found “something”, not sure what, to eat ,which prompted us to inspect the room more closely.  We found pennies, a dead bug, and an empty cracker wrapper on the floor making us well aware that the housekeeping staff left much to be desired.  Our inspection also noted a chunk of the door was missing at the bottom; perhaps Cujo had taken a bite out of it. The room was dark and we could only wonder why.  Believe me, we inspected the sheets looking for bed bugs and even checked under the mattresses for Norman Bates, Jason, or any other serial killer who might be hiding there.  We would have loved to find someplace, pretty much anyplace, else to stay but neither of us wanted to get back in the car and drive who knows how long in the dark with my crappy night vision.  I can’t say we really slept that night.  As soon as the sun came up, we were out of there.  We didn’t even bother with the free breakfast for fear of what we would find.  All we wanted was to get out of Tennessee.  Needless to say that when we stopped for the day, we showered before we even sat down.  We felt filthy!  Maybe things really were crawling all over us, maybe not, but we weren’t taking any chances.  

Thank God for our sense of humor! I’m already looking forward to the next trip!

Daily Post Prompt: Droll