If your dad ever tells you to go ahead and try something new because that’s how memories are made, and it involves several geese, a lake, and a Jet Ski – think twice.
One summer, my parents and I attended a family get-together at a local reservoir. Kids were playing, dogs were chasing balls, barbecues were puffing smoke, really tan people were boating and jet skiing – your average sunny summer day. Maybe I should have realized it was not your average day when second cousin Tommy suddenly tipped backwards in his lawn chair and flipped his way down to the edge of the lake, smashing a small dog and crushing paper cups filled with various liquids.
Eventually, my dad became aware that some family members had rented Jet Skis. Still I was oblivious that this awareness had anything to do with me. I was happily eating mom’s fruit salad and talking to extended family members I may or may not have known.
Soon a dangerous conversation ensued at the edge of the lake. Here was dad encouraging mom and I to take a ride on the Jet Skis. Two teenage extended family members could drive us. I’m pretty sure we were both reluctant. I’m pretty sure this mattered not at all, and off we went anyway.
I made it back safely. Mom was flung far into the water when they wrecked, injuring her leg on the way, but that’s all right – she was making a memory. I thought my memory making “adventure” was over when I arrived safely back. Instead, there was my smiling dad telling me to take that Jet Ski out on my own. It’ll be great. It’ll be fun.
After a tedious and time-consuming 30 seconds of instruction, there I was, poised to gracefully drive off to the center of the lake. This is when I became aware of a few compelling facts: 1) there were numerous energetic boat drivers out there, 2) there were numerous energetic water skiers out there, and 3) there were numerous unenergetic geese only a few feet away. This gave me pause, but with everybody now watching me, I couldn’t let on that these facts seemed concerning. Perhaps none of these things really mattered in the Jet Ski world, and I was just overreacting.
Tentatively, I started driving (does one actually drive a Jet Ski?). I began moving toward those geese, suspiciously unconcerned at my approach. I quickly formed a master plan to simply drive around them, but which way? Left or right? Eek!
I don’t really know which way I turned. What I do know is I gunned it to get around them, scaring myself silly because I thought I was going to crash from going too fast. So I slowed down while in a turn, which caused me to wobble uncontrollably back and forth – scaring me silly because I thought I was going to crash.
I was now officially the Jet Ski moron, bobbing and weaving at a high rate of speed, sort of moving toward the middle of the lake. I think I scared some veteran boaters, and more than one water skier looked on in terror. Rightly so as I was soon twirling through the air one direction while the Jet Ski wobbled the opposite direction.
It’s disconcerting once you’ve been thrown from a Jet Ski. At first, there is no conception of where you are in the water. Then you have to locate the wayward Jet Ski. Invariably, it is far away. This causes you to realize how long ago you took swimming lessons, like 25 years. After that, panic comes to call.
Panic is a funny thing. It narrows your vision, it slows down time, and it makes you aware that water could pop out your contacts at any moment and render you legally blind. It makes you wonder if you could somehow grab hold of one of those geese, now nonchalantly floating near your head, and hope it can tow you to safety or at least keep you from drowning. I didn’t say panic was rational.
Once I made my way to the Jet Ski, another reality hit me full force – I could not get back on, no matter how hard I tried. At this point, I had ample time to contemplate people on the beach. Nobody on the beach was contemplating me. Maybe this was the part where I was making memories.
Eventually the Jet Ski posse came to rescue me – okay, it was one Jet Ski with two teenagers. Should I take their level of disbelief personally that I could not get myself back on the Jet Ski? “Just pull yourself on, like this”. Shut up.
Finally, it was determined that one of them would drive my jet ski back while I held on. This seemed like a great idea, and I was relieved for at least ten seconds. After that, my arms were jerked straight, water flew into my eyes, and my lungs filled with acrid poisonous exhaust fumes.
Eternity continued on. Then I became aware that there was a tremendous force gripping my swim shorts and inching them down my lower half. First I held on to them with one hand, but it became painfully obvious that my other arm could not do all the work of keeping me attached to the Jet Ski. I crossed my legs. I crossed my ankles. I held my feet rigidly perpendicular to the water. I let go.
Perhaps you are thinking at this point that I was half-naked. Maybe the Jet Ski gods were looking out for me just a bit, as I had worn a one-piece swimsuit with my shorts.
Five days later, we arrived at the lakeshore. My husband, who had come to the family gathering after I began my lake experience, was the only one waiting for me. Where was dad? I don’t know.
Thanks, dad. You owe me a pair of swim shorts.