My Hobby: Renting Skis 
       Copyright 2001 W. Bruce Cameron 

       Please do not remove the copyright when you forward this to your 

       Everyone needs a hobby.  Mine is renting snow-ski equipment.  (I 
       don't ever ski, because by the time I've sat through several hours of

       clotted traffic on the Interstate Slow-way System, stood in line to 
       buy lift tickets, wrestled through seven layers of inner, outer and 
       underwear so I can use the bathroom, and then struggled with a few 
       thousand strangers through a winding maze of ropes to reach the chair

       lift, I never have time for more than one run down the 
       mountain--hardly what one could call a hobby.) 

       The process of renting equipment starts with the ski boots.  Ski 
       boots come in three comfort settings:  "Dog bite", "alligator
       and "bear trap".  The technician wants to know if you'd prefer them 
       "regular" or "high-performance". 

       "What's the difference?" you ask. 

       He shrugs.  "Nuthin', except the regulars had a mouse family living 
       in them all summer." 

       You decide to go for the high-performance boots.  This impresses the 
       next guy in line, who rents you your skies.  "Dude!" he greets you. 

       "Dude," you reply civilly. 

       "High-performance boots, huh?  You gonna be slope shredding or bump 

       You picture yourself in the bar having a beer with lunch.  "More 
       like burger burping," you inform him. 

       "Dude!  So what length skis do you want?  170?  195?" 

       These numbers, fortunately, are not inches.  "I'm American, I don't 
       do metric," you explain. 

       "Dude!" the technician agrees.  "Okay, do you want them so long you 
       can't turn them, or so short you fall over the tips?" 

       Since you'll be carrying them the length of a hundred football 
       fields from the parking lot to the shuttle bus, you decide on "too 
       short" over "too long"--at least they'll be lighter this way. 

       Skis are now "parabolic" in shape, meaning that in the front and 
       rear they are wide and stable, while in the middle, the part you 
       actually stand over and rely on for support, they are as thin as the 
       high wire in a circus. 

       The technician hands over a form for you to fill out.  "Dude," he 
       explains.  There are three pictures depicting different "skiing 
       styles."  In the first, the skier has legs spread awkwardly, ski tips

       pointed inward, body ready to fall.  In the second, the skier's skis 
       are together and he is leaning 'way over the side, ready to fall.  In

       the third, the skier is in the trees, airborne, apparently already 
       falling.  If you're to pick how you're going to be getting down the 
       mountains, you wonder why they don't show a picture of an ambulance. 

       The technician will use the picture you select, plus a complicated 
       formula based on your height, weight, and cholesterol level,  to set 
       the bindings so that when you're underneath the chair lift and a 
       pretty woman is overhead, your skis will pop off. 

       On the back of the form is a "release of liability" statement: 
       "You, the  undersigned dude, hereby acknowledge that you are far too 
       old to be careening down the mountain on a pair of slats which have 
       been specially waxed to exacerbate the effects of gravity.  You 
       acknowledge that your thighs will soon be trembling like Jell-O in an

       earthquake and that by the end of the day your face will freeze and 
       fall to the ground.  You agree that bones are meant to be broken, and

       that you don't need to feel your fingers or toes for the rest of the 

       "You know that while snow is usually soft, we've spent the night 
       running special equipment up and down the slopes so that they are 
       packed hard as cement.  There's no need to thank us for this. 

       "You have the right to an orthopedist.  If you do not know the name 
       of an orthopedist, one will be appointed for you." 

       A final piece of equipment: two poles, one for each hand, so that as 
       you wobble and wave your arms, they will accentuate how stupid you 

       You sign the form and struggle to the car.  Your family is waiting 
       impatiently--they want to hurry up and get to the slopes.  But you 
       just smile wisely--for the true hobbyist dude, it is the renting
       is the important part. 

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