To avoid thousands of questions throughout the school day, I write down the schedule for the morning or afternoon on the left hand column of the chalkboard. Recently I came into the room to find that someone had added a third subject to the morning’s agenda: bungee jumping. I can just imagine how long that permission slip would be.
The student’s are aware of my fear of heights and my general distaste of anything that raises my adrenaline, which is why they chose bungee jumping as the subject to cap off the morning. I took a survey of the students of who would go bungee jumping if they had the chance, and most enthusiastically raised their hands. I wonder if that enthusiasm would wane once they were perched on the ledge preceding the plunge.
Like I said, I don’t like heights. I’ve never been on a roller-coaster, and in all likelihood, never will. When just a small child, I was once forced on a terrifying log ride (thanks Dad). My heart has never been the same. I prefer to read on the beach as opposed to be dragged around the lake on an inflatable ring by some kind of maniacal boater who’s only goal is to turn you into a piece of driftwood.
I don’t like living life on the edge, though that was not always the case. I did go through a very brief spell of recklessness as an adrenaline junkie.
I was quite young – maybe grade two or three. It was the summer holidays and we kids lived on our bikes. My brothers, neighbour kids, and I all had very unique bikes. Some had banana seats, some had flags on the back, some had a couple of gears, some had handlebar brakes, and some even had a light. My bike was nothing special, but it was perfect for my size. My memory is still a little blurry from that summer (as you will soon realize why), but it was a lavender and white bike with white rubber handlebars. The pedals could not sit idle when coasting like those fancy mountain bikes – the faster your bike went the faster the pedals would spin. When going at top speeds, my little legs and slam n’ jam high-tops would be a blur. To stop, you simply stomped your feet in the opposite direction, which stopped the pedals and wheels, and sent your bike into a cool skid.
Our house was at the bottom of hill. Few cars ever came down the country road, and so we spent our days owning it – up and down we would cruise. One of our favourite things to do on the hill was to go flying down as fast as you could, jump our ditch at the bottom, ride between the telephone pole and a large Austrian pine and then do a big skid on the gravel driveway. I would usually slow down a little before hitting the shallow ditch so as to stay in control, but as the summer flew by and confidence grew, I began to keep those little legs whirling as I ramped the ditch and past the telephone pole.
One hazy August afternoon, we were hanging out at the top of the hill. We saw Dad pull in the driveway with his brown Chevette. He got out of the car and waved to us. “Let’s go say hi!” someone yelled. We all aimed our bikes towards the bottom of the hill and pushed off. Dad was watching at the bottom as we started cruising down the hill like a formation of F-16s. I wanted to impress Dad with my incredible riding, so I pumped my bendy straw like legs all the harder. The first few bikes hit the ditch and went flying through the narrow opening between the pine and the pole. My bike was a little behind the pack by the time it got to the bottom. The last bikes then hit the ditch and went through the gap.
My turn. I piled on the coal as I went into the ditch. I had never hit the ditch that fast before, and my fifty pound body was thrown off balance. My bike lurched out of the ditch at a dizzying speed. I managed to stay on the bike, but to my horror, realized that I was off course. I was right in line with the telephone pole. I sailed through the air and only my hands stayed in contact with the handlebars. Everyone gasped as if they were watching Evil Kenevil jump a row of buses.
If it had been target practice it would have been impressive. It was a direct hit – a perfect bullseye. My bike slammed into the pole and stopped. My body did not stop. As I flew over the handlebars, I reflected on the brevity of life. Then everything went black for a few minutes.
Thankfully Dad was right there to help me up, tell me who I was and what happened, and to assure me that I hadn’t knocked out the hydro to the entire Niagara Region.
I learned something important that hot, humid summer day: hurtling over your handlebars into a telephone pole is not enjoyable.
The next day I turned to a book instead of joining the gang. Biking had lost some of its lustre. And so began a boring life devoid of thrill seeking and adrenaline.
Bungee jumping? Nah... I prefer to read about it.