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

Haunted House Shenanigans

It was supposed to be an evening of Halloween fun for all, but I’m not so sure that everyone would agree it worked out that way.  After all, some enjoy a good fright more than others, and depending on one’s tolerance, fear can bring out the best or the worst.

It was a cool October evening in the early 1980s.  I was around twelve or thirteen, and my best friend Jennifer, who was around ten, was spending the night at my house.  There was a church run haunted house a few minutes drive away, and we begged and pleaded for my mom to take us.  She finally caved but said that she wouldn’t go in with us; instead, she would wait in the car.  

So there we were standing in line in front of the little Cape Cod style house beside the church which was filled with all sorts of spooky surprises.  Behind the house was a small cemetery decked out as part of the experience. We would follow a path from the front door of the house to the back and out into the cemetery.  As we waited for our turn, creepy music played throughout the parking lot and over it we heard the occasional scream from inside.  At first, we giggled.  The longer we waited though the more nervous we became.  We tried to outdo each other with our mock bravery and attempted to scare each other.  Eventually that stopped when we realized we were making things worse.  We started to voice our fears.  We contemplated getting out of line and just leaving. Right about then the line started to move.  The couple in front of us had apparently been listening to us go on and on about how scared we were.  They were in their twenties and quite possibly on their first date.  Maybe Jen and I were breaking the ice for them.  We gave them something to laugh and talk about.  Anyway, the guy gallantly turns to us as we are getting ready to make our escape and says, “Don’t worry girls!  If you get scared, just hold onto the back of my jacket.  I’ll protect you.”  Made much more confident by his offer, Jen and I stayed and moved along with the line.

I don’t remember much after that.  Vague images of skeletons and cobwebs skitter across my mind.  The sound of a chainsaw hums in my ears.  I’m sure, looking back now, that my head was rotating around the room like Regan in The Exorcist. I was so scared. In a state of heightened awareness, we made it safely through the first room. As we made it through the doorway, something jumped at us from behind.  Jen and I screamed at the top of our lungs and took off running.  We’ve probably never moved so fast in our lives. We went from room to room at the speed of light in what now seems to be a smoky haze of semi-consciousness.  We skipped the cemetery and went straight for the car.  I remember one of the actors in the cemetery yelling for us to come back, that it wasn’t over yet, but it was over for us.  We were done with that mess.

When my mom saw us approaching the car, she started laughing uncontrollably.  Only then did we notice that we had followed the instructions of the guy in front of us.  We had indeed grabbed hold of the back of his jacket when we got spooked . . . and he was still in it.  The poor guy didn’t stand a chance.  I’m sure that when he made his offer to protect us, he could not have foreseen such a thing happening.  He must have been astonished by the ferocity of our grasp as we hauled him along with us.  We were certainly shocked to realize we had taken him captive and let go of his jacket as though it was scalding our hands.  Without so much as a “Thank you” or a “Sorry” we jumped in the car and locked the doors.  

I think he was dumbfounded as he turned and walked back toward the cemetery.  We never saw his date again and to this day, I wonder if he ever saw her again either.  I’m thinking their first date may have been their last.  Then again, maybe we made for the most memorable first date ever and they ended up married and living happily ever after, telling their kids and grandkids all about us.  In that case, “You’re welcome!”