I was 10 years old, frozen with fear atop a snow-covered hill, boots strapped into my snowboard, staring down at the man made ski jump I been instructed to go off. I looked over at my snowboarding instructor, certain he was trying to kill me for the betterment of the class, and not that anyone could have blamed him. If a group is only as good as its weakest link, my classmates needed their money back.
My parents, frightened their son would succumb to childhood obesity, had signed me up for these snowboarding lessons (joke was on them, ski chalet hamburgers are delicious), and so far my only strength was that I knew how to “fall correctly”; practice makes perfect, after all. If this were “Survivor” I would have been eaten as nourishment for the stronger contestants.
There was nowhere for me to run, partially because I didn’t have the self-confidence to tell everyone I couldn’t do it, but mostly because I wasn’t a good enough snowboarder to find a way around the jump, as it was right in front of me, and turning wasn’t exactly my strong suit.
“Are you ready?” my instructor asked.
“Totally!” I said.
At least I think I said this. My terror had forced my bladder to its breaking point, thus the constant reminder not to pee monopolized my concentration, along, of course, with the whole, “Oh my God I’m about to die” thing. This was also why I didn’t initially notice my instructor give me a little push to start me down the hill, presumably as a part of his plan to kill me.
In any event, I was off.
My assignment was to go halfway towards the jump, stop my momentum and “bunny hop” off it, landing “12 and 6” on the other side, meaning a straight board, flat on the ground. As I said, though, the entirety of my thoughts were pretty well split between not peeing all over myself and my fast approaching doom, so I forgot to stop halfway. My speed increased rapidly then, and I heard the shouts from those around me, which I later realized were telling me to stop (at the time I figured they were just encouraging me to keep winning the fight against my bladder).
Then I hit the jump.
There was a moment, as I soared high in the sky, when I felt weightless, immortal, like a Greek god, and I began to think that maybe there was something to this snowboarding thing after all.
It was at this point that I looked down and noticed my shadow glistening in the snow, and saw that I was, in fact, coming down in a sitting position. Consequently, it would be my tailbone and both butt cheeks that would hit the ground first, leading to what would surely be the most pain I had ever felt in my life. I felt like the unlucky gazelle that, despite its best efforts, could not outrun the hungry lioness, and was about to get mercilessly mauled.
As I hit the ground, a sea of white engulfed me and I felt a soft pull on my hand. At first I thought this was the white glow of God pulling me towards my final judgment. In actuality I was just buried in snow, and that soft hand pull I felt was a squirrel coming over to nibble on my mitten as I lay motionless on the ground.
I looked around and saw that I was still at the ski hill, so I wasn’t dead. Heaven for 10-year-old me would have included less “ski hill” and more macaroni and cheese.
“Are you okay?” my instructor asked as he glided over.
“Darn skipity!” I had no idea what that meant. I was delirious with pain. My instructor said he was disappointed that I hadn’t landed “12 and 6” style like he had taught us. As I squirmed with indescribably immense pain in the freezing snow, I told him to trust me, I was far more disappointed than he was.
I iced my tailbone in the chalet the rest of the afternoon, and although I felt as though I had conquered the jump (I counted not dying as a win, because I was a glass-half-full 10-year-old) I never snowboarded again, for the sake of both my injured tailbone, and my injured self-esteem. The day wasn’t a total waste, though, because I got a great hamburger in the chalet.
Childhood obesity never tasted so good.