I have a secret desire. Someday, if I am very good, perhaps God will let it come true. Over the years I have been collecting a list of some very special moments. They are moments I have lived through, but I have always suspected I missed the best part of them. Problem is, I have seen them from my side only. I would bet almost anything that the best part of those special moments would be watching them from the outside.
It all began with a practical demonstration of physics: If you are on a powerful enough motorcycle, suddenly goosing the throttle (i.e. showing off for your wife and the bike’s owner) has a Newtonian effect. The motorcycle suddenly accelerates, trying to ride out from underneath you. You are (relatively speaking, of course) thrown back, only saving yourself by your hold on the handlebar …where the throttle is. Your hand tends to slip a little, opening up the throttle still further. The motorcycle accelerates still more, repeating the process.
If the God of fools is generous, this loop breaks before you go over backwards. In my case, I was given a special, and unwanted, dispensation. I found myself leaning further and further back, adding to the load on the throttle. I just managed to stop the process at a precise balance point. I found myself, to my total horror, doing my first (and only) wheelie! And just to drive the dispensation home, this delicate balance was maintained as I rode the full length of our apartment complex.
Naturally, when I finally came down, my wife berated me soundly for showing off and scaring her half to death. I was not about to admit the truth. Heart still pounding, I modestly shrugged it off as an example of my superior riding skill.
Okay, so I got away with it. But I have always had one regret: I would commit murder to have a video tape of the event. I would love to see it, bug-eyes and all. I figure that as the principal in such a moment of superior folly, it is not quite fair I missed the best part!
That started my collection: Video Moments I Wish I Had. Over the years, I have steadily added to it. As the list is exclusively composed of moments of graceful (sic!) idiocy, the collecting opportunities have been many.
If you would like to start one of your own, I don’t recommend motorcycle riding. Try skiing, instead. Setting sex aside (these are G rated videos), I know of no voluntary activity that we engage in that offers quite so solid a guarantee that you will frequently look absolutely ridiculous.
To begin with, you get to put those wonderful boots on your feet that keep your knees bent whether you want to or not. Next, you get to attach those long funny things (skis) to your boots. They will stick out roughly a yard in front and back. As few of us have our feet exactly parallel, you get to learn, alternately, how to fall down with your skis crossed in front or behind. This part is easy, and we all do it with ease and a certain naturalness.
Getting up again, on the other hand, is anything but natural. Even with careful explanation and an instructor’s help, you are just about certain to provide a lot of entertainment to the bystanders. (At this point you also discover how much you can sweat, even in snow country.)
Still, as you get to practice this maneuver a lot, after a time you get a certain skill. Then you discover that there is no relationship between getting up on flat ground and trying it on the slopes. This is unfortunate, because that is where you do most of your falling down. Trying the same method on the slopes will likely send your entangled body sliding gently down the run (usually with one ski pointing downhill, the other on top of the first). This is also quite entertaining to the bystanders.
Finally, you get to the stage where you actually try skiing the slopes. (I will leave out getting on the lift, or this would column become book-length.) It may just be the altitude affecting the brain, but the first thing a fresh caught skier discovers is that the gentle incline seen from below becomes a near precipice when seen from above. However, by this time we are armed with the Snowplow (which the instructors always call the Wedge). This is done by placing the tips of the skis together while spreading the feet apart. It creates a wonderfully inefficient shape for going fast, a feature greatly appreciated by the newcomer.
The novice now discovers another law of physics: If the skis are ever pointed directly downhill, gravity tends to quickly speed you well beyond your desires. You quickly learn that cutting across the slope gives you a long, slow glide, terminated by a reverse turn.
The turn is traumatic. There is always a moment when the skis point directly down hill, the speed starts to build and the heart stops. Most of the time, you successfully complete the turn, slowing back down. Occasionally, you save yourself by falling down and get to practice getting up on a slope.
Picture, if you will, a gentle bunny hill loaded with neophytes, elbows out for balance, poles dangling, gravely crisscrossing their way down the slope. Their control is marginal, as you can see by the many near encounters and occasional actual collisions. Just to complicate things, you must also imagine the occasional speeding hot dogger, parallel skis pointing directly down the slope, leaving scattered bunnies on the snow.
Add to your picture a middle-aged six footer, wobbling his way back and forth. Trying, among the children, to keep a certain dignity. I remember that the hot doggers particularly annoyed me. They weren’t supposed to be on the bunny runs anyway. And although I was gradually building up my speed and confidence, their thoughtless skill (and bravery) made my progress seem even slower than it was. The fact that they looked about twelve years old didn’t help.
I remember that I was trying to ignore them, staring resolutely ahead instead of nervously glancing up the slope every ten seconds. Then it happened. The hot dogger to end all hot doggers skied past about a foot away from my face.
I remember being momentarily infuriated by the sheer gall of it. That idiot actually skied right across the front of my skis! I say momentarily because as I was following him down with my eyes, barely starting to get angry, another physical fact was brought home to me: When someone skis across your skis, yours STOP.
It was one of those times when it all seems to slow down. I seemed to have lots of time to react. I looked down at the tracks across my skis. I saw my skis were no longer moving across the snow. Then I realized that although my skis had stopped moving, the rest of me had more inertia. Everything speeded up as my ski tips seemed to suddenly rush towards me.
In the movies I had seen the improbable poses of people who had somehow fallen straight forward on their skis. I had always thought it pretty silly. How on earth, I asked myself, could you fall straight forward like that? Knowing that they never showed how their clumsy actors got into those ridiculous positions, I hadn’t believed it really happened.
Lying across my ski tips, with snow in my nose, I was forced to revise this opinion. Art, they say, imitates Life. Yes, but sometimes the reverse is true. However ridiculous those folks might have looked on film, we have the capacity to outdo them in real life.
I had some time to contemplate this revelation. When I tried to get up (hoping to pretend it never happened), I quickly realized that there was an important hole in my training. I was completely immobilized, without the vaguest idea how to get up.
Suffice it to say that the bystanders got a bonus that day. I guess I was lucky. Nothing was injured but my pride. Still, it seems unfair. Don’t you think I should be able to order up a video of the event? With slow motion for the good part and maybe a replay with a close up of the face?