You would think that since I’m a native Floridian and an avid boater, that I would also be able to water-ski. You would be wrong. Not that I haven’t tried. Quite a long time ago, my friend John tried to teach me and after dragging me the length of the Imperial River several times behind his boat (mostly underwater) he came to a conclusion. “Ben, you can’t ski!” And that was it for skiing. That is, until my sister invited me on a snow skiing trip to Vermont. Now, I had barely even seen snow, but since the ski resort pictures made it seem soft and friendly, and I didn’t see a boat dragging people helplessly behind it, I accepted.
After flying to my sister’s house in New Jersey, we all split up into different cars and left for Sugerbush Vermont. For some strange reason I was selected to drive one of the cars. Strange, because we were driving straight into an ice storm and I wasn’t even sure what an ice storm was. The poor people that fate chose as my passengers, discovered this little tidbit of information three hours into the trip when the windshield wipers became the size of frozen baseball bats and we had slid past dozens of cars left deserted in the ditch on the side of the road. “Hey Ben… You’re doing great! Man! Look at all the wrecked cars!” exclaimed my sister’s friend Sue, from the back seat. I gave a thumbs-up and said “Thanks. Not bad for never having driven in ice or snow before, right?” About the time they had all stopped screaming in terror, we started up a long steep hill and the four-wheel drive car in our group started pulling away from us. I tried to keep up, but every time our car’s wheels started to spin on the ice, I had to let off of the gas a little more. This kept happening until we were almost to the top and traveling about five miles an hour. Then, they spun once more… and we were stopped. I put my foot on the brake and we just sat there in the middle of the road as the temperature outside continued to drop. I had no idea what to do so I turned around and looked at my “snow experienced” passengers for advice. “Well, now what?” I said. And just as the words left my mouth the car began sliding backwards down the hill. This time when everyone started screaming, it seemed like the right thing to do, so I joined in. Luckily, we only slid about thirty feet before the car hit the shoulder of the road and the car and the screaming suddenly stopped.
The screaming had already turned to cheering when out of nowhere, a salt truck drove effortlessly past us, the road magically thawed and we were able to drive away. Soon after, we were at the cabin, the fire was crackling and we were all fast asleep under cozy down comforters.
The next morning I looked out the window at the thermometer to find that it was 40 below zero! I thought everyone had lost their minds, but they couldn’t wait to “get out there.” So we suited up and headed to the slopes, where I was, of course, the only one scheduled to take lessons on a mountain that had overnight, frozen solid.
By noon, I was zigzagging down the slope with my classmates, single file. I was at the very end and doing rather well until I realized that I was slowly overtaking the person in front of me. Try as I might I couldn’t get the skis to cut into the ice enough to slow me down, so I turned past everyone. The instructor wasn’t amused. “Very funny Ben… Get back in line!” Just ahead of me was a steep slope with a crowd of people gathered at the bottom. I had no desire to share the fate of the people that I had, just moments ago, laughed at as they plowed into those same people, so I turned to the left, perpendicular to the slope and mercifully, slowly came to a stop. Relieved, I sighed and waved to the others. “I’m OK!” I proudly yelled, pumping my ski pole in the air. Then… I started going backwards. “WHAT? NO!” I couldn’t believe it… I was sliding backwards down a hill again! “OH COME ON! NOT AGAIN!” I didn’t know what to do, so I just plopped down on my rear and stopped. Not pretty or dignified, but nothing broken either.
The following Christmas I opened a gift to find… rollerblades. I thanked the person that gave them to me, walked to the kitchen… and threw them in the garbage can. A person’s got to know their limitations.