My family recently spent the day in Hawaii.
No, I don’t mean those Pacific islands of paradise. I mean a large, indoor aqua park inside a mall in our landlocked country in Central Asia.
The kids could care less about the distinction. I mean, after all, there’s a wave machine.
Plus, you can eat french fries in the food court before embarking into your “island” experience. And no need to worry about sunscreen, weather or water temperatures. It’s almost better than the real deal.
This was our third time visiting this aqua park and I have to admit I was seeking something a little more thrilling than wading in the kiddie pool trying to convince my kids they wanted to go on a water slide with Mom.
I decided to take on the big guns — the waterslides that snaked in and out of the building from three stories up.
I asked my husband if he wouldn’t mind watching the kids while I gave one a try. He looked at me like I was slightly crazy (he’d gone on one the first time we went and came back bleeding) but consented.
I headed toward the stairs with another couple. They had big rubber tubes, which I didn’t have. I went with them to the entrance and asked if the rubber tubes were necessary. Yes, but the very top water slide up another flight of stairs didn’t require them.
Up I went. I should have wondered why there were three lifeguards sleeping at the top. No one had tried this one all morning.
When they heard me walking by one lifeguard roused himself and looked straight at me before asking me a question: “Do you have any heart conditions?”
“No,” I said. “Everything’s fine.”
He looked serious and asked again, “Any health problems at all?”
I shook my head and he let me continue walking toward the water slide.
“Weird,” I thought naively.
Then he instructed me that I should keep my arms crossed across my body and my legs tightly together. He repeated the instructions twice to make sure there was no miscommunication.
Still undeterred, I got it and started down the slide.
I was prepared for a thrill but nothing could have prepared me for this.
In half a second I was hurdling down into pitch blackness. As I felt my body dropping and racing through the tube it felt like any second I was going to flip over (how my husband ended up bleeding) and die.
I started crying out to Jesus.
I’m sure the lifeguard up top were laughing but to me it was no laughing matter.
Finally I could see a gleam of light and the tube spit me out into a fairly deep pool.
Disoriented and a little overcome with weakness, I sort of stumbled out of the water.
There was no, “That was fun. Do it again” feeling.
I was just glad to be alive and thankful that the rest of the day would consist of hanging out with kiddos at the kiddie pool.
I had come close enough to Paradise for one day…