The Unswung Bat

Tuesday, January 13, 2004
 
Sledding 101

Alright, the first thing everyone should know about "Sledding" is that that's just the vulgar common name for the activity. As of last Sunday its new scientific name is "pain beyond reckoning." And there's an interesting story behind that name.

Sledding is like normal pain, but much, much faster. I was out with Andra and her brother Victor at a big hill that forms part of the western slope of the Don Valley. Victor is in Engineering Science at U of T, which means two main things. First of all, for the purposes of any activity involving numbers, he is smarter than you. Mind you, this doesn't rule out the possibility of him jaywalking in front of a speeding bus and being squished to a Prego-like goo. That activity does not involve any numbers.

The second thing is that, paradoxically, even though as I've said, I wouldn't necessarily trust him to operate a traffic light, he's good at eyeballing things. They teach whole courses on making educated guesses, because engineers often need to do that when they're building bridges and airplane wings and whatnot, and it's a very bad thing to guess wrong in those circumstances.

Well, Victor looked at the distance Andra travelled and the time it took, and after doing a couple metric conversions in his head he concluded she was going at an average speed of sixty kilometers per hour. And that's the average speed, keeping in mind that she starts from zero, so her final speed is actually a fair bit higher than that. Well I hope you can see where this is going. The hint is, I'm the one complaining about pain.

So Andra and Victor, both of whom were skeptical at the sight of my 1950s era Flexible Flyer wooden sled, really came around to it once they realized that its bare stainless steel runners, worn smooth by half a century of proper use, made it go faster than you can legally drive a car on residential streets. And bear in mind that this slope was crowded with dumb little kids trotting around all over the place in their snowsuits which, albeit puffy, were hardly sufficient protection against a mass of wood, steel, and flesh barrelling down the hill with unstoppable momentum.

We also had some crazy carpets, and me and Andra were having fun with those when Vic announced he wanted to trade the sled for something slower. I should have understood from his bone-white face and uncontrollable trembling that something was not quite right, but I guess I figured it was just the cold.

Once on the sled, I was down the hill in a flash. Well, more of a blur. I barely had time to think "hey, this is faster than I thought . . . " before I hit the mother of all bumps. Actually, I don't know if "bump" gives you as clear an idea as "rock-hard ice outcropping the size of a small bear" might.

The actual collision occured at such high speed that I could not capture any detail. All I knew was that suddenly there was no sled beneath me, I was in midair, and my ass really really hurt. Hurled by the impact, I was in midair long enough to organize my thoughts and conclude that I'd hit the giant bump square-on with my tailbone. Or in other words, Owwwwwwwwch, Fuck! The sled kept going without me - I still don't know how I got thrown off of it but it managed to keep sliding. It travelled about 20m further than I did. The impact with the bump was hard enough to bend one of the steel runners, which is now sort of s-shaped. But it still goes just as fast. It just doesn't steer as well.

So basically, sledding is fun. Basically is my word. I invented basically.

I also found this when I was looking for sled pictures. Basically, I think it's pretty hilarious.



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