Everyone needs a hobby. Mine is renting snow-ski equipment. (I don't ever ski, because by the time I've sat through several hours of clotted traffic on the Interstate Slow-way System, stood in line to buy lift tickets, wrestled through seven layers of inner, outer and underwear so I can use the bathroom, and then struggled with a few thousand strangers through a winding maze of ropes to reach the chair lift, I never have time for more than one run down the mountain--hardly what one could call a hobby.)
The process of renting equipment starts with the ski boots. Ski boots come in three comfort settings: "Dog bite", "alligator attack", and "bear trap". The technician wants to know if you'd prefer them "regular" or "high-performance".
"What's the difference?" you ask.
He shrugs. "Nuthin', except the regulars had a mouse family living in them all summer."
You decide to go for the high-performance boots. This impresses the next guy in line, who rents you your skies. "Dude!" he greets you.
"Dude," you reply civilly.
"High-performance boots, huh? You gonna be slope shredding or bump bashing?"
You picture yourself in the bar having a beer with lunch. "More like burger burping," you inform him.
"Dude! So what length skis do you want? 170? 195?"
These numbers, fortunately, are not inches. "I'm American, I don't do metric," you explain.
"Dude!" the technician agrees. "Okay, do you want them so long you can't turn them, or so short you fall over the tips?"
Since you'll be carrying them the length of a hundred football fields from the parking lot to the shuttle bus, you decide on "too short" over "too long"--at least they'll be lighter this way.
Skis are now "parabolic" in shape, meaning that in the front and rear they are wide and stable, while in the middle, the part you actually stand over and rely on for support, they are as thin as the high wire in a circus.
The technician hands over a form for you to fill out. "Dude," he explains. There are three pictures depicting different "skiing styles." In the first, the skier has legs spread awkwardly, ski tips pointed inward, body ready to fall. In the second, the skier's skis are together and he is leaning 'way over the side, ready to fall. In the third, the skier is in the trees, airborne, apparently already falling. If you're to pick how you're going to be getting down the mountains, you wonder why they don't show a picture of an ambulance.
The technician will use the picture you select, plus a complicated formula based on your height, weight, and cholesterol level, to set the bindings so that when you're underneath the chair lift and a pretty woman is overhead, your skis will pop off.
On the back of the form is a "release of liability" statement: "You, the undersigned dude, hereby acknowledge that you are far too old to be careening down the mountain on a pair of slats which have been specially waxed to exacerbate the effects of gravity. You acknowledge that your thighs will soon be trembling like Jell-O in an earthquake and that by the end of the day your face will freeze and fall to the ground. You agree that bones are meant to be broken, and that you don't need to feel your fingers or toes for the rest of the day.
"You know that while snow is usually soft, we've spent the night running special equipment up and down the slopes so that they are packed hard as cement. There's no need to thank us for this.
"You have the right to an orthopedist. If you do not know the name of an orthopedist, one will be appointed for you."
A final piece of equipment: two poles, one for each hand, so that as you wobble and wave your arms, they will accentuate how stupid you look.
You sign the form and struggle to the car. Your family is waiting impatiently--they want to hurry up and get to the slopes. But you just smile wisely--for the true hobbyist dude, it is the renting which is the important part.
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Copyright W. Bruce Cameron 2001
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Submitted By: W. Bruce Cameron
Dec 7, 2001 10:25