Nothing ever quite so disappointed me as a child as two things: sea monkeys and my Uncle Roy's Slip 'N Slide. I don't know if you ever had sea monkeys, but the old comic book advertisements always showed them to be these little men on sea horses playing around castles and carrying on, I suppose, long discourses on Medieval Aristotleanism. They made them look like something out of a fantasy story, which is exactly what the advertisements were showing. In real life, you paid five dollars to watch little shrimp grow in the cheapest of all possible cheap plastic aquariums. I do not remember what happened to them, after I got them. I think they must have died from my disappointment.
The only worse disappointment was the one I had at the hands of the Slip 'N Slide. It was a plastic sheet by Wham-O (them of Frisbee fame) designed for summery back yard use. It had this tube with holes in it and you hooked it up to your lawn hose and it would spray water. This generally induced the plastic to give up some of its friction and you could run and jump and slide down it.
My adult memory of this device is a cheap, thin sheet that should have cost less than a buck and it was colored this ugly yellow hue best reserved for third world maximum security prisons. I also remember how, unless you were blessed with a preternaturally smooth lawn, you ended up feeling every little nick and bump there is. Since this was my Uncle Roy, we ended up with a preternaturally unsmooth lawn, and well, there you go. Something else I recall is the word "slip" being a little unfair in description of the actual event. It was more of a "slink" or an "inch forward until you the hit the spot unevenly covered in water and rip off a chunk of your skin".
My cousin, Sarah, and I could not quite understand. You see, the commercials were filled with instant parties. Kids brought these out, fought of a heat wave, served Kool-Aid and hundreds would line up for a brief slide through what appeared to be all the water of Water World. In the commercials, it flew off the yellow tarp and splattered the world in its joy. There was no one in that commercial that wasn't just so happy to see the kid currently sliding having that much fun that they themselves could not help but shout and scream and laugh like possessed. This is what these slides were to bring, along with a pop-filled 80's soundtrack to sheer enjoyment.
We ended up trying to decrease the sticky. I remember soap, which largely effected nothing more than causing my chest to get sticky and my nipples to turn a weird red color. I have read, since then, that a lot of kids use some sort of cooking oil. That did not occur to me. Shame, because my grandmother used to have a lot of cooking oil. She wouldn't have missed it. We did try supplementing the water supply, but that did little besides make the contrast more painful.
Our most successful plan on getting enjoyment out of it was to give up and watch TV. That worked wonders.
It was later that the plan to increase the slippery developed that led to my worst possible memory of the thing. By myself, I figured that what were missing might just be speed. Maybe we were not going fast enough to really activate the slide mechanism. Boy howdy, here we go. I will get a running start (to a young, male mind, the longrt the running start the faster you could get, so I backed up about half a football field away. This caused me to get up to full speed, then slow down, realize I was starting to get a little winded, and then return to full speed as I approached the yellow piece of plastic. All said, I could have done with about ten feet) and then pounce like no tomorrow.
My plan possible would have worked, but for one simple problem. I forgot to turn the water on. There is one physical attributre of the Slip 'N Slide that everyone should know. Namely, it requires water. With water, it is a passably slippery device that almost is fun but nothing like the commercials. Without water, it becomes the most frictioned surface known to man.
Assuming my young legs got up to nine or ten miles per hour (I really have no idea, but let's assume), then I figure I went from about nine/ten miles per hour to zero in about, oh, I don't know, zero seconds. That's right. Full stop. Had I watched myself do it, I would have laughed, because my chest hit the Slip 'N Slide and my legs kept going, up over my head, so that my feet slapped the ground. I completed an "O", a feat I never have been able to do before or since. Then, my feet slammed down to the ground and laid there. chuckling. Laughter, they say, is the best medicine and I needed it.
I was in pain.
To this day, I can recall the headache inspired by that oh so sudden of a stop. It makes my adult head hurt in sympathy. Or it might be a recognition of the fact that I probably drove chunks of my skull right into the frontal lobe.
I limped back inside, watched TV for a bit, and then nearly cried because my head hurt so bad. I never told anyone, as a child, my discovery of the Stick 'N Stay. I think it was something akin to fear. Had I been more primitive, I would have assumed it tried to eat me. Had I been more supersitious, I would assume it was an evil spirit. Mostly, I think I was embarrassed. Thank God I can mock myself now.
Because that little chubby kid bent in the shape of naught with his butt in the air, his head adhesed to a Slip 'N Slide, and his feet on the ground in front him...now that's funny.
And not to spoil the rest of the story, but I never touched that stupid thing again. Commercials be damned.
Written by W Doug Bolden
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