My children, apparently feeling I was not receiving enough derision in my daily diet, somehow talked me into going snow skiing a few weeks ago.
Skiing, it turns out, is mostly a matter of standing in lines. It begins at the rental counter, where men my age, their faces ravaged by the stresses of a life spent having fun every single day, dispense equipment that is so banged up one can only assume it has been cursed. No one in their right mind would board a bus which was dented, crushed, and battered along its entire length, but we are expected to accept a pair of skis whose previous user must have skied through shrapnel. By the time you've made your way to the front of the line, your seven layers of thermal underwear are producing enough heat to boil copper, and you'd rent a pair of two-by-fours if they'd just let you get out of there and out into the cold.
Next you buy tickets. You congratulate yourself on picking such a short line, but apparently the woman in front of you is attempting to buy a condo. As her haggling eats up the hours, you realize that by the time you get your turn you will qualify for the senior discount.
Obviously overestimating the persuasive qualities of my life insurance salesman, my children assure me that I don't need a lesson in order to plummet down the side of the mountain. "It's as easy as riding a bicycle," they claim. Right, except when you fall off a bicycle you usually slow DOWN. Ignoring their advice, I go over to stand around with a bunch of other novices, where I am culled from the crowd like the weakest deer in the herd. "Never skied before? Never? Like, are you a total loser or what?" Beautiful ski instructor goddesses direct me to the beginners' class, which is being taught by a ski Nazi named Lars.
Now you are in line for the tow rope. Fifty feet away, seasoned skiers are allowed to settle comfortably in chair lifts and sit their way up the mountain, while you, having never tried anything like this before in your entire life, are expected to snag a loop on a moving rope with your gloved hand and somehow remain upright while being dragged up the slope. This is like boarding an airplane while it flies over your house. After three or four tries, your arm and its socket are irreconcilable.
Even if you do manage to finally hang onto the line, the person ahead of you will splash into the snow and you will be dragged over the top of her, mumbling "Sorry... sorry" while your ski tips give her brain damage.
At the top of the bunny hill, you turn and face what appears to be a completely flat surface. There is no danger you will gain too much speed, or any speed, from atop this miserable little peak. Now you know what the poles are for, and you dig with all your might so you can get down to the bottom of the bunny hill and do it again. It's like Kansas without the wheat.
The beginner skier is taught the "snowplow." It's an absurdly un-athletic position, your toes pointed in, knees splayed, arms waving madly in circles (I added this part on my own.) As you creep forward in your snowplow, your children dart around you at insane speeds, singing out "hi dad!" while you try to stab them with your ski poles.
Lars spends most of his time seeing how much he can inflate his chest and be blonde. Occasionally he shouts out encouragement: "Cameron you dumb stupid, you are da vorst skier in da history of da English spiking peoples!" Lars, if you get over within ski pole distance you are going to be one perforated ski Nazi.
Because your ski bindings have been set to "Geek," whenever an attractive woman happens by, you pop out of your skis and are dumped face first into the snow. Lars shakes his head in sympathy, displaying all the symptoms of a serious teeth whitener abuser, and the women glide over to him and arrange to have sex later that evening while laughing at how poorly you ski.
Fortunately, this whole afternoon only cost as much as a semester at Harvard, so its not as if it wasn't worth it. Some time around lunch (the mark-ups these people put on their hamburgers make movie theater popcorn look like a real bargain) your knees give out and you hit the apres ski bar, waiting for your children to show up so you can punish them creatively. The TV has a ballgame on and everyone in the bar is a male your age, nursing a beer and a bad attitude. Apres awhile, you cheer up.
A guy like Lars wouldn't stand a chance in a place like this.
Copyright W. Bruce Cameron 1998
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