Hit The Bump and Take a Dive
I was the kid that got the cool toy about 4 years after it was cool, just enough time for it to finally end up at a garage sale. The Light Bright, the Atari, and the walkie talkies. I don’t necessarily feel like my childhood was deprived of toys because we made do with what we had, but I did hold a place in my heart for those special items that I missed out on and never got.
One of them was the slip and slide. We lived in California where the summers were 100 degrees and we would see the commercials everyday of every summer. We watched as the slip and slide technology developed more and more including, pools, jumps, waterfalls, and mini boogie boards. There were always excuses as to why we couldn’t have one, most of them concerning how our lawn lacked grass.
I passionately held on to my slip and slide desire for my entire childhood and it wasn’t until I was 12 years old that I finally confronted my slip and slide dream. I was at a Naval base with my oldest sister visiting one of her friends who just had a baby. It was summer time and very hot. The community was having a BBQ and being 12 years old, I quickly fell into the role of babysitting-entertainer for the entire community of kids under 8.
I was so awkward at 12. I was athletic but trying not to be a tomboy and having a horrible time dealing with puberty. I looked like total dork in my one-piece bathing suit wearing my hair in a French braid.
I noticed a Navy dad kneeling on the grass opening a box with a Crocodile on it. I was about 50 yards away but I knew immediately that it was the infamous, deluxe slip and slide edition of Crocodile Mile! The jingle, “Hit the bump and take a dive” uncontrollably came out of my mouth. I was so excited. This was finally going to be my chance to have my dream-experience on the slip and slide.
Tossing the directions aside, I helped the dad set the slide up since I had memorized the design from watching the tantalizing commercial so many times. It was absolutely beautiful. It looked just as bright and graphic as it did on the commercial. The location was perfect. It was tightly tacked down on a slight downhill incline on a freshly mowed manicured lawn in the middle of a greenbelt. I was dying to slide down it and planning my perfect execution as I silently critiqued the slipping and sliding flaws of the 8 year olds. I was trying to play it cool, not appear too eager, and keep from magnifying my awkwardness even more so I stayed back and watched. The 8 year olds went over and over again.
As I waited my turn, I realized I was a lot bigger than them and that Crocodile Mile was not a mile but more like 2x the length of my body. I began to feel insecure and question myself. Was I too big? Was I was no longer a child? Was it not girly if I went? Would I break it? What if something went wrong with my bathing suit along the way? Was I too old to do this? I wanted to go so badly but was too afraid to go in front of anyone so I decided to wait it out. Hours and hours later the 8 year olds interest with the slip and slide began to wane. As the sun began to set, the kids were pulled away to their homes by their parents to dry and change them into their US Navy themed pajamas. When everyone was distracted and no one was watching I decided it was now or never.
I couldn’t bear to miss what might be my only chance at Crocodile Mile. I picked up the mini foam boogie board and backed up for a nice running start to begin the perfect Crocodile Mile run I had dreamt about so many summers before. I sprinted and dove for the slide hitting it with intense speed and commitment. Bolting down the yellow plastic runway I quickly noticed the width was thinner than I thought, when my elbows struck and uprooted every single plastic peg along the edges as I passed. As I approached the inflated bump I pulled up on the foam boogie board trying to gain as much ‘air’ as I could. It worked. I was so high up that I took out the fringed plastic archway you were supposed to go under with my face. Instead of taking a dive into the attached inflated mini pool, I sailed right over it onto the grass. Briefly disoriented by the wack to my face and the glorious awe I was experiencing, I lost the foam boogie board and felt my toes brush the edge of the pool I was supposed to stop in. I landed onto the grass and continued speeding down the hill, while wearing the detached plastic arch around my neck. My momentum took me another 20 feet until I finally came to a screeching halt on the sidewalk.
Afraid to be seen, I quickly peeled myself off the cement and hobbled away. I saw that I had burns along my arms and chest. My elbows were cut up and my chin was beginning to bleed. I limped inside the house out of site directly to the bathroom.
All alone, I realized I had finally done it. No one had seen me go. It was just Crocodile Mile and I. As I looked at my goofy, pre-teen, grass-covered reflection in the mirror, I said to myself “Awesome.”