“Don’t worry, it’ll be refreshing,” my friend assured me. I had strong doubts as I stood on the shore and watched the river’s water heave and surge past. My trepidation fueled less by the tenacity of the water, more by the fact that what I did in the water could be described less as swimming and more as a labored attempt to avoid drowning. In pit of my stomach, I could feel that this rafting trip was about to turn ugly.
Rivers that are used for rafting are separated into five classifications. Class one rivers are basically flat, smooth waters that can be easily navigated. Class five rivers are rapidly descending, treacherous waters that require considerable experience to navigate.
Class one rivers are for tiny little girls and wimps. Class five rivers are for studly men who like to the laugh in the face of the Grim Reaper. We chose a class three river, we were average men who like the laugh in the face of the Grim Reaper but only when the Grim Reaper is at a distance and busy with somebody else at the time.
The trip was going well, we had successfully navigated our way through several sets of rapids without major incident. It was then that the guide told us to bring our rafts to shore where he informed us that this was the part of the trip where we could walk back upstream and go back through the last set of rapids.
“What,” I asked casually, attempting to mask the alarm in my voice, “do you mean without the raft?”
“That’s right, you’re just going to jump in the water and go,” the guide said with an annoying amount of confidence.
“Are you certain that’s safe?”
“Absolutely, these are very deep rapids.”
“It’s safe because deep water is harder to drown in?”
“Yes…I mean, no. When it comes to rapids, deeper is safer.” I could detect a timbre of irritation creeping into his voice.
“Okay, I understand…I’m curious, what are your thoughts concerning skydiving without the parachute?”
I could tell by the dagger filled stare that was shooting my way, that is was time to stop asking questions. This was the man whom I would depend upon to pull semiconscious body from the water should the need arise.
One by one, like lemmings, we climbed onto the top of a small boulder and leapt into the river.
I made it through the first two mini-rapids without a problem. It was the third set of rapids where a sudden surge of water lifted my body for a moment then pulled me under the surface. Murky river water shot up my nose at approximately 2000 mph, ricocheted off the bottom of my brain, then poured into my lungs.
Not wanting to be filled with murky river water, my lungs immediately expelled the water back through my mouth and nose with considerable force. My eyes, feeling left out, began to water profusely. I was now spinning out of control and my arms were flailing around like a crazed marionette.
This was the moment I chose to invent a new game. I call the game “Whack your face against the rock.” I invented this game approximately two seconds after the guide yelled, “Hey, don’t whack your face against the rock.”
“Are you okay?” the guide chortled, unable to mask his amusement. I signaled to him with a thumbs up…well, it was a single digit.
As I slowly spun out of the rapids and crawled to shore, gasping for air and coughing simultaneously (something that I had previously thought to be physically impossible) my friend asked, “Are you going to go again?”
“No,” I replied. “I think that I’m refreshed enough.”