Thrill Ride in the Canadian Desert
by Jeff Lewis

When asked whether children recognize him from his role as Flik in A Bug’s Life, Canadian comedian Dave Foley said something along the lines of, “No.  Children are surprisingly stupid.”  This quote ran through my head as I yelled at an oblivious ten year-old girl, who quite possibly was about to get her teeth knocked out by my wife’s foot.

This scene occurred in the southern Okanagan Valley, billed as Canada’s only desert.  This vestigial toe of the Sonora looked like a fraud because of its abundance of water, but a number of sources confirm that it is an actual desert.  The valley is full of vineyards and a large lake and during our visit it was humid and rainy.  Nonetheless, amidst the greenery and tourist signs adorned with drawings of cacti, we did see the stray dry-ish patch, here and there.

We chose a hotel on the lake that boasted a 250-foot waterslide.  It was an impressive looking corkscrew slide with a warning that read, “Caution!  This ride can cause serious injury.  Riders must obey all posted rules.  THIS IS A THRILL RIDE.”  Only one of the thirteen children in the pool was following more than half of the posted rules, which made my inner lifeguard antsy.  I was very disappointed that their parents didn’t enforce the rules, in spite of occasional collisions, so I will take this opportunity to list and analyze the eight posted rules, in the hope that I can alter future waterslide behavior.

Water Slide Rules and Analysis

  1. This is a thrill ride.  Do not ride the slide if you are pregnant or have a heart condition.  This is sound advice, but the rule is wordy and therefore should be placed farther down in the list so that slow, impatient readers have a better chance of reading more pertinent rules before their minds wander.  Also, I think the rule-makers have damaged their credibility by repeating the “This is a thrill ride” line.  This may cause some clever children to think that the rules are farcical.
  2. Feet first only down the water slide.  The far wall of this particular water slide is too close to the chute, making it possible for an efficient, streamlined rider to strike the wall with force.  It’s best, therefore, to avoid head-to-wall collision by riding feet first down the slide.  Even without the danger of the far wall, I advise against head first sliding.  As I told my wife when she tried to perpetrate this dangerous maneuver, “Come on, feet first is fun!”
  3. Wait until the previous rider is clear of the slide before riding the slide.  I would make one small adjustment to this rule.  By changing “clear of the slide” to “clear of a two-meter radius from the slide.”  In the US, this could say “two-yard radius.”  This new wording might need to be tested by a marketing research group, in case some children become confused by the term “radius.”
  4. No trains.  The theory behind this rule is sound, but is covered in Rule #3 and therefore repetitive.  Also, it presupposes that the reader knows the slide-riding connotation of the term “train.”  On its own, this rule may make train-loving children sad—the ones that own conductor hats that cover their ears and $500 Thomas the Tank Engine sets—so any specific reference should be eliminated.
  5. Wait at the bottom of the stairs until the previous rider exits the slide.  This is a more draconian version of Rule #3.  It is a prissy rule that even I didn’t follow.
  6. Do not wear jewelry or watches.  Wearing jewelry or watches on the slide can cause serious injury.  I like the tone of this rule because the forms of serious injury are left to the imagination, particularly for shockingly pierced individuals.  This gives slide riders pause to think about their actions.
  7. After finishing the ride, move immediately to the side.  This is perhaps the most important rule.  More on this rule in a minute.
  8. Riders must be at least 48 inches tall.  There are several problems with this rule. First of all, savvy, mature children who follow all other rules can safely ride the water slide, as long as an adult ensures that subsequent riders follow Rule #3.  It is unfair to rule out slide riders solely based on height (it's downright heightist, in fact).  Also, in the future, Canadians unfamiliar with the US’s archaic measurement units may become confused by the reference to inches.  Lastly and most importantly, some riders under 48 inches may not be able to read, although this is not necessarily a function of their height.  If the height issue is important to the rule-makers, they should create a cute mascot that does not infringe on any cute mascot owned by Walt Disney Company.  This mascot could serve as a visual reference to the minimum height requirement.  A prickly-pear cactus with a sly grin and an exaggerated wink would be a good choice to convey the mixture of fun and peril that results from breaking this rule.

I was concerned about what would happen when I rode the THRILL RIDE.  My body is massive; my cobra shoulders, corded thighs and tree-trunk calves could do serious damage in a watery crash.  My concern also arose because—as my wife is quick to point out—when it comes to thrill rides, I am a “lame ass scaredy-cat dork.”

When my wife and I climbed the stairs to the top, I felt the other adults eye us suspiciously.  We’d seen one other adult briefly ride the slide—a large tattooed man, who was clearly a former hockey player—but there seemed to be a tacit agreement that the slide was for children and if there was colliding to be done, it should occur between bodies below 60 pounds—27 kilos, if you will.  I imagined myself barreling into the former hockey player’s daughter, prompting him to pummel me in a very Canadian way.  The massive body, cobra shoulders, et. al. are not accustomed to this.

Accordingly, I had my wife make sure that there were no children near the bottom of the ride.  I instructed her to exceed the two-meter radius—suggested in my comments to Rule #3—in order to make certain that I wouldn’t endanger any children.  Assured that all was safe, I entered the slide.

The slide was dark and twisting.  It took a half-dozen seconds to pass through the 250’ corkscrew before I catapulted out the bottom.  During those six seconds, I envisioned children making last-second mad dashes into the mouth of the slide and worried that maybe Lynn hadn’t noticed that the pudgy teenager had decided to climb into the chute and up the slide.  For me, this was a THRILL RIDE.  I’m a little chagrined to say, though, that I broke my momentum with my elbows, causing me to make a pathetic, slow-motion plop when I exited the slide.

Lynn’s turn was next:  she wanted to go FAST!  After she dutifully waited for me to clear the two-meter radius, she “whooped” through the corkscrews and shot out of the slide, knifing through the water to the far wall.  After our first rides, the children seemed to become more squirrelly, perhaps because we’d infringed on their turf, so I declined a second run.  Lynn was game for more, so I decided to police the pool for her next trip down.

In line before her was a pale, milquetoast girl, about six or seven years old.  She was a chronic rule-bender, who was oblivious to both the letter and spirit of the posted rules.  She may have been the daughter of the ex-hockey player, but if so, she likely was not his favorite daughter.  Anyway, after exiting the slide, this young lady feigned movement to the side of the pool.  Seeing the area clear, Lynn decided to go.  After she disappeared down the gut of the slide, the girl meandered back to the chute and stared into the shadows.

“Excuse me.  Move please,” I yelled, waiving my well-apportioned arms at her.  This was wholly ineffective, so I countered with, “Get out of the way.  Watch out.”  Her eyes were dull, devoid of any acknowledgement of my cries or the poor decision-making skills that had led her to stick her head directly under the chute.  There was no flicker of recognition in her eyes when she abruptly decided to move, just as Lynn shot out like a torpedo.  I know because I looked carefully.  In fact, she didn’t seem to notice at all that Lynn had almost knocked her silly.  She had the case history of a Rule #7 re-offender.

By the way, if you stay at a hotel with a water slide, get up early or ride the slide during lunch or dinner hours.  Make the most of your one advantage over the children:  you don’t have to get out when your mother says so.

Copyright Jeff Lewis, 2004