Thursday, June 21, 2012
Cruise Control - Part 24: Finding Zipperland
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After the flurry of activity in the “comfort stations” of Camp Dangle-Ass, wherein everyone had suddenly decided that it might be a good idea to have a quick tinkle before we were hurled across a clothesline, we re-grouped outside the main building for further instruction from the headmistress. This instruction basically consisted of the words: Go over there and get ready.
“There” turned out to be a cute little gazebo thing, within which some young gentlemen were smiling welcomingly and waiting for us to hurry up and come be processed for flight. We trudged over there, smiling as well, because even the dimmest members of our entourage realized that one should probably be nice to people who were responsible for keeping us alive during the morning’s festivities.
One of the fellows then launched into a riveting oratory about how one should pay careful attention to a variety of safety tips, which he expounded upon with practiced ease, smiling the entire time. Do this. Don’t do this. Under no circumstances should you ever consider doing this. And whatnot. We tried to pay attention, we really did. But seriously, we had been drinking on a boat for three days solid, and concentration was simply not our best quality right at that moment.
Anyway, Happy Man finished up with all that mess, and we proceeded to the Donning of Our Gear ritual. Interestingly enough, the young men spent a considerable amount of time personally strapping-in all the women, gently adjusting harnesses and assuring that things did not bind or chafe. When it came time for my own transition into bondage couture, one of the men disinterestedly shoved gear in my direction and quickly went back to the near-fondling of the females. Fine.
Eventually everyone was properly trussed, and we were then given marching orders to clamor aboard this vehicle contraption that looked like it had been welded together from parts that had washed ashore during a hurricane in 1967. The Happy Men clamored as well, and soon we were lurching and grinding along a “road” composed of alternating boulders and tar pits. Luckily, we were already wearing our little helmets, so the number of concussions caused by heads hitting metal ceilings was minimal.
The mutant vehicle labored upwards until we finally reached a clearing that appeared to be of some importance, and one of the Happy Men hollered for us to disembark and reform near a quaint tree. Once assembled, another Happy Man re-advised us of how to best remain alive during our journey. He seemed especially focused on one particular survival technique.
If you find yourself going too fast on the zip line, you can break your speed by reaching up and caressing the line with your gloved hand. Do not grab it with the intensity of a hooker trying to finish off a client. Gentle pressure. And do NOT grab the line directly above your head. That’s where the pulley thing is. You get your hand near that and unsatisfactory things can happen. Reach your hand behind you and grab the line there. Got it?
Of course we nodded our heads. He had told us 714 safety tips. If we could remember 5 or 6 of them, surely we were golden. Off we trotted to the first launch site.
And Leap Number One did not appear all that intimidating. It was just a short run over a little gulch. We could see the ending platform just a bit away. We could almost reach out and touch it. If we weren’t wearing so much gear that simply scratching at a mosquito bite could cause you to rupture a disc. And the line wasn’t that high off the ground. If you fell, you would probably survive. Probably.
Now, the way one initiates a zip-trip, at least in the lovely compound where we were currently located, is that one steps forth, has his personal line clipped to the Big Daddy line by a Happy Man, and then one races to the end of a short deck and flings oneself out into space, lifting their legs straight out in front of them for stability and some type of aerodynamic factor that makes things more productive.
It was the flinging bit that had me a little concerned. I didn’t know if I had quite enough exuberance within me to willingly leap asunder like a virgin into a volcano, fully confident that it was something I simply must do in order for my tribe to have a good crop season. But in reality, it wasn’t bad. I took the plunge, didn’t immediately die as anticipated, enjoyed whizzing through the air, and was actually a little disappointed that it was such a short ride. Hurray! I think I can handle this.
Everyone else in our traveling band of slightly hung-over adventurers managed the traverse as well. We were all jazzed at this point. Of course, the zip-line people knew exactly what they were doing. You have to start out with a baby run. If the first zip had been one of the mammoth, jaw-dropping runs that were coming up later in the trek, there would have been a mutiny, the taking of hostages, and possibly a military coup. Break it to me gently.
Victorious, we traipsed our way to the next run, endorphins or adrenaline or some type of body chemical causing us to be slightly out of our minds with confidence. And at this next station, we encountered some reality checks that maybe this whole funfest wasn’t going to be as easy as we were now anticipating. Exciting still, yes, but also making it clear that there could be humiliation points to endure as well.
Some of the folks did not make it all the way across on the second zip. This one was much longer than the first bunny slope, so you had to pay a little bit more attention to what you were doing. Not that it truly mattered what you did, it was all a question of gravity and velocity and timing. Yes, there were probably some little adjustments the hurtling people could have done to make their journey more award-worthy, but we sure as hell didn’t know what those adjustments might be. It was our first time at the rodeo, Joan.
Anyway. Let’s analyze how the Happy Men responded to two of the “oops, not quite” people. First we have Terry, who ran out of momentum just a bit shy of the landing deck. Those of us who had made it across all gasped, not knowing if this meant he had to go home now or what. (We didn’t know the rules.) One of the Happy Men bellowed for him to reach ahead of him and grab the main line, then pull himself hand over hand to the docking station.
We gasped again. Physical labor was part of the package? Wasn’t there a button somebody could push that would adjust the clothesline and whisk Terry to the proper unloading zone? Apparently not. Terry the trooper sighed, discreetly cursed the physical laws of inertia, and hauled his ass to safety with relative ease. The Happy Man released him from his shackles, and we turned our eyes to review the plight of the next airborne tourist.
Which turned out to be Tiffany. She came sailing in, graceful as always, bits of glitter trailing behind her and a unicorn running through the valley below. Then she slammed to a halt in the same spot as Terry. Uh oh. And this is where the previously-noted guest-preference of our Jamaican guides kicked in once more.
The Receiving Happy Man immediately grabbed the main line and skittered his way out to Tiffany, where he impressively proceeded to wrap his muscular legs around Tiffany’s body.
We all gasped again. And several of the women ripped palm fronds from nearby trees and began to fan themselves, recalling imagery from erotic Victorian novels they had read and instantly increasing the humidity of the local climate by several degrees. Nobody had expected that. Had we missed an “adults only” disclaimer in the brochure for this excursion?
Happy Man and Tiffany conversed briefly (were they exchanging phone numbers?) and then Happy Man used his hands to pull on the main line while he used his legs to transport Tiffany. They eventually got to the landing platform where Tiffany was unshackled and she was allowed to join our little crew standing to the side, palm fronds still rapidly waving in the tropical heat.
I didn’t know if I should console her or congratulate her. Very confusing. And we never saw the unicorn again, so it was very clear that boundaries may have been crossed.
Onward we marched, traipsing through the jungle and spanning gaps with nothing but wind beneath our wings. I will say that the general comfort level increased with each station. There were still some heart palpitations, because the zip lines were becoming longer and the heights further from the ground, but it was getting easier for folks to throw abandon to the wind and their asses off the platforms.
Then we had another eye-opening experience.
This was somewhere in the middle of our quest. Maybe station 5 or 6? It was at some point where we had started zipping to little platforms high up on very-tall trees. (Picture those little Ewok villages in Star Wars, something like that. But without the cute furry animals.) We were on a circular landing, and next up we had a rather lengthy run to another possible Ewok homestead.
The first few folks had already done their thing and were presumably safe. (The ending platforms were now getting far enough away that you really didn’t know the fate of the first pioneers until you made it to that other platform.) Because the length was longer, the speed was also greater. The pioneers had shot out of sight fairly quickly, in a slightly unsettling but still intriguing manner.
Next up was Tiffany, she of the unicorn following. She professionally raced to the end of the platform and launched herself with admirable skill. We applauded appropriately, but then our clapping began to taper off. Tiffany was hurtling along at a speed that may have been appreciated at Cape Canaveral but perhaps wasn’t something that should be happening in the jungle.
Tiffany, remembering her Happy Training by the Happy Men in the Happy Gazebo, reached upward to slow her pace by grasping the main line. What she did not remember was the exact placement of her hand, as advised by the Happy Men. She was reaching straight upwards and not behind her.
“Oh my God,” squealed one of the women in our entourage, still clutching a well-worn palm frond from the heat of the leg-sex incident. (I have no idea what her name was. And since this was the only time this woman actually spoke during the whole adventure, her name is probably not important.) But her assessment was dead on. “She’s going to get her hand caught in that thing!”
And yep, Tiffany’s gloved hand encountered a menacing mechanism it was not meant to meet, and one of the glove fingers was sucked into the maw of said contraption. Things changed dramatically at that point. We could hear the unsavory results of this meeting all the way back at the launching pad.
Wheeeeeeeeeee! Click click click…. click click… click. cli. ck.
Tiffany stopped moving completely. Now she was suspended in the middle of a very long span. Nothing above her but one arm trapped in an evil device that apparently relished hand garments, nothing below her but hundreds of feet of non-supportive air, and absolutely no unicorns at ground level to cushion her possible fall.
We had us a bit of a pickle at this point.
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