Generally speaking, I do a great job of choosing my friends. I’ve managed to surround myself with people who are very smart, loving, kind, and funny as hell.
Take my gang of old high school pals, for instance. Even though we parted ways back in 1974, we’ve managed to stay in touch and to reunite a couple of times a year.
It’s so much fun! I love being with every one of them. They’re wonderful.
Except for one minor flaw. A flaw that they all seem to share.
They’re way too physically active.
They ski, they run, they do freakin’ yoga. They’re a bunch of athletic fresh air freaks, constantly on to their next outdoor adventure.
And sometimes they make me go along.
Yesterday was a perfect example. There were ten of us gathered in Maine. Nine of us were very excited about going tubing. Meanwhile, Nonni here was hoping to find a reasonable excuse to sit by the fire and stir something.
But out of love and admiration for my pals, (combined with my desire not to seem like a pathetic old poop,) I decided to go along.
Silly, silly me!
As all the skier types pulled on their snowpants, Russian bomber hats, face masks and mukluks, I started to get a little nervous. “It will be fine!” all the athletes assured me. “You’ll love it!” I swallowed my nerves and smiled.
We got to the tubing hill and piled out into the cold. Off to the big icy slope we went. I managed to stay upright on the steeply sloped moving sidewalk, and found myself at the top of what felt like one of the Alps.
There were separate little “chutes” for us to ride down, each one slightly steeper than one before it. My heart rate was about 200, but I was game to try it.
“Yay! Let’s go!” yelled all the happy athletes. I whispered a quick “Hail Mary” and shoved off.
Holy careening grandmother. The tube and I were flying down the hill. I was definitely going 90 miles an hour. Minimum.
I tried putting on the breaks by digging in my heels, but the result was a face full of ice pellets and no reduction in speed. Bad plan.
I made it to the bottom in one piece, and joined all the other outdoorsy types on the way back up. “I can do this,” I told myself. “It’s actually almost kind of funnish in a terrifyingly horrific way.”
Down I flew again, this time with my feet held up and out of the snow.
I’m sure I hit 110 mph this time. All the little bumps shook me so hard I felt my teeth coming loose.
Once again, I made it to the bottom.
At this point my butt was wet and my nose was frozen, but I was starting to see myself as an aging Lindsey Vonn.
Woo-hoo! Back to the top I went.
Now on this tubing hill you’re instructed to watch carefully before you throw yourself off the cliff. This is because you will soon become a giant blob of humanity hurtling toward the end of the slope at the speed of light. You need to be absolutely, positively certain there’s nobody standing in your way.
I looked. The coast was clear. I tossed myself off the cliff and flew.
And far, far below me, I suddenly saw a tiny figure. Standing RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF MY CHUTE.
I did what any natural athlete would do. I started to shriek at the top of my lungs.
I was a giant blob of shrieking hurtling Nonni, absolutely terrified that I was about to obliterate whoever was standing there.
At 143 mph, the bottom comes pretty damn quick. I thought about bailing out of my tube, but I wasn’t even sure where my own butt was located at this point. I was paralyzed with fear, although the shrieking seemed to be going well.
The tube was spinning around and around, making it very hard to see where I was careening. I tried to figure out if the person in the way had moved to safety. To my horror, I realized that I was about to smash full on into a tiny boy who stood frozen in the middle of the chute.
There was nothing I could do to stop myself from flying forward or to move the little guy of my way. I spun around one more time, knowing that my back was toward the child.
I am not a tiny Nonni. I was sure that I was about to kill a toddler.
I was already crying when I felt the contact. Boom!!! I felt myself slam into him, and watched in shock as his little body flew over my head, all four limbs spread out like wings.
I was still speeding on, and before I could reach down for my next shriek, I felt another, much harder crash into the right side of my body.
This time it was Nonni who flew out of the tube and landed in the snow.
My head was spinning, and I was finding it hard to breathe. I tried to sit up because I was terrified about the little one. I saw him trying to roll over, but he wasn’t moving much.
It turns out that after I had slammed into the child, I’d run full on into the knees of the teenaged employee who was in the chute trying to save the kid. His knees and my ribs had made crunching contact.
In the end, it all turned out more of less OK. The little boy was barely shaken up, and was back on the slopes in no time. The poor teenaged boy limped home, sore and upset by what had happened.
Nonni is bruised and bashed, but there’s no serious damage.
And I’ve learned one thing.
My next athletic endeavor will involve kneading bread dough.