Saturday, July 17, 2010

Slip Sliding Away

One of the assorted fringe benefits of hanging out with a 12-year-old this summer, my fiance’s daughter, is that I have been slipping down water slides all across Kansas without feeling as if I am some gross geezer pushing his luck. “Hey, I’m with the kid,” I can say if given The Look.

I will turn 55 — the double-nickel — next month, which officially entitles me to a company pension from my previous longtime employer, retiree health insurance and a discount at Schlitterbahn in Kansas City. The latter perk braises my backside, truth be known. Since when is 55 considered a senior citizen? Good grief. I have at least a decade left in the workforce, probably more. Give the discount to the poor folks. Sorry, that’s a sore spot with me.

We checked out the new Schlitterbahn in Kansas City a few weeks ago. The original park, in New Braunfels, Texas, has been an annual pilgrimage for both my beautiful mystery companion and me, since long before we met. The new park has some growing up to do, but it was worth the trip. That’s where both my BMC and Abbie pointed out that after Aug. 23 I could get the senior citizen discount. I responded by getting in line for the scariest water slide whose long line I could tolerate.

As I looked around it was clear that I would have been the clear winner of the Oldest Dude in Line Contest. My BMC is about three years younger than me but looks easily a decade my junior, so nobody ever suspects she has crossed the mid-century mark. Clerks are always trying to give me the senior citizen discount, even though I don’t yet qualify. I have been accused of being Abbie’s grandfather or even my BMC’s father, for Pete’s sake. This is a definite source of irritation to me; they find it hilarious, of course.

I read all the warnings on the sign approaching the ride, mainly there to attempt to protect Schlitterbahn from lawsuits. Don’t ride if you have had a heart attack, have high blood pressure, etc. Whatever. I’ll take my chances. After about 20 minutes my BMC and I were finally at the top. Interestingly, the Abster declined to ride, preferring to watch the aged folks risk life and limb. Near-teens are an interesting breed. They’ll happily accept your money but would prefer, like emergency vehicles, that you stay at least 100 feet back.

I am a sucker for water slides, but that’s as far as my thrill-ride derring-do goes. I am finished with roller-coasters after an unpleasant experience in my late 40s at the Six Flags in Dallas that sent me to a chiropractor for a couple of months. I am opposed to anything that makes me dizzy or sends my head below my feet. But flying down a water slide still is something I can handle, and I enjoyed my trip down the Schlitterbahn slide.

I just wish I had remembered to put sunscreen on my feet. I can’t believe I did this again. I slathered sun block on my face, arms, neck, etc. I tan easily but am old enough to know that sunburns are neither cool nor healthy. But since I was wearing water sandals, I forgot about my feet, which now sport a really interesting pattern, as if I had joined some weird foot-tattoo gang.

A quarter-century or so ago, I sat on the beach in San Diego while my young daughters splashed in the surf. Same foolishness transpired. All body parts were protected save my feet. My trip to Disneyland the next day wasn’t so wonderful, since I was limping badly.

Since Schlitterbahn, I have sampled the slides at the Junction City pool and the newly opened Manhattan pool, tagging along with the peeps. I tried all the slides at both locations. The green slide at the Junction City pool provides the twistiest ride by far. I ended up with a slight ankle limp for an hour or so after that ride. It reminded me of Disneyland.

The good news is that nobody tried to give me the senior citizen discount at the local pool. I don’t think such a discount exists, which is fine by me.

Originally published in the Junction City (Kansas) Daily Union, July 17, 2010.


  1. We head to the Texas Schlitterbahn in a few weeks, another annual pilgrimmage for my friends and me. Looking forward to it!

  2. It's still the Queen of Water Parks, because it actually has shade trees and natural water. Enjoy.