If I liked math a little bit more, I wouldn’t have found myself up so stinkin’ high, my feet dangling over the water below me. If I liked math a little more, I might have taken some time while I was still standing safely on the beach to estimate how high up the parasailers go when they leave the relative safety of the boat.
But I’m not a math person. I am a word person. So I didn’t bother to measure one of the people hanging from the parasail off the shore during our vacation last week with, say, my pinkie or the edge of my sunglasses. And I didn’t bother to then calculate how far she was from the water.
Instead, I estimated in words not numbers, and I came up with cool! Also, fun, exciting and, of course, wow! When really, it would have been helpful to think holy $#@!before I found myself hanging from a parasail over increasingly choppy waters with my 12-year-old son next to me trying not to appear frightened.
Nick and I were the only vacationers on the boat that afternoon. The other two people were the parasailing company guys who appeared to know what they were doing, even when the waters in the channel that lead to the ocean in Wildwood, New Jersey, suddenly got bigger and more violent.
“The last boat we took out didn’t have waves like these!” exclaimed the tour director, a surfer dude kind of guy with sandy blonde hair and a pack of cigarettes in his shorts pocket. As we slammed down after each big wave, I held down my 75-pound child with one arm and hung onto the motor boat with the other.
“You get a roller coaster ride and a parasail!” he cheered as his pal, the captain in a backwards baseball cap and deep tan, wrestled with the steering wheel.
When we got out on the sea, Surfer Dude hooked us each up to the parasail and sent us upward. I spent the first few minutes trying to assuage my son, who appeared a little shaken.
“Isn’t this cool?” I asked. Also, fun, exciting and wow! Right?
And then I took a good look around. I peered down at the boat, which seemed awfully small — small as in far away. I noticed that Captain Dude was keeping the bow facing the rollicking waves so as not to capsize, while the two of them appeared to be chatting and laughing, from what I could tell way the hell up there. They looked like a cross between MTV Beach House and The Deadliest Catch.
And suddenly, my stomach did a little flip. I pondered what would happen to us if the boat toppled over with us tethered to its stern. I looked around for some sort of a release, figuring we could let our parasail loose and let the wind blow us into a safe water landing, or, given the direction and strength of the wind, into the dunes or, perhaps, the side of a resort hotel.
I envisioned a newspaper headline: “Mother and Son Parasailers Become Entangled in Boardwalk Roller Coaster.”
Then I remembered that the parasail brochure claimed a “100% no accident” rate. I stopped looking down, and peered over at my son, who smiled, “It’s like we’re in a dream.”
He was right. We couldn’t hear anything but the wind blowing by our ears and each other’s voices (and the motor boat fighting the waves, but I tuned it out). It did feel like a dream, or a scene from Up. I looked over my right shoulder.
“Hey, you can see the Cape May Light House,” I said.
“And over here are the rides on the boardwalk,” Nick said motioning to his left with his head. (Neither of us dared to let go of the parasail straps, even though Surfer Dude had said we could.)
I peered down at the boat again, grateful I hadn’t opted for the photo package. Nobody needs to see me from that angle, let alone preserve the image for future generations.
Finally, our nervous “isn’t-this-great” talk gave way to true enjoyment. Like the Dudes in the boat, we smiled and laughed until we started getting closer to the boat. Surfer Dude was reeling us in.
“Tell him not to dunk us,” Nick said.
“Hey!” I shouted. “We don’t want to get dunked after all,” I rescinded our original plan.
“You don’t want to get dunked?” Captain Dude shouted back.
“We’re freezing,” I implored.
“Okay,” they said — and proceeded to dunk us.
When we got back in the boat, I secured my 12-year-old with one arm and held onto the boat with the other as we jumped the waves and headed back to the dock.
“How high up were we?” I asked.
“About 350 feet,” Surfer Dude said as though he’d just told me something innocuous, like “There’s sand on the beach” or “Lobster rolls taste good.”
“That’s taller than the Statue of Liberty!” my son offered, thinking in math.
Then Surfer Dude added, “It was so windy, you were pulling the boat!” And then he and Captain Dude decided it was too rough to go out fishing for tuna after work.
When we reached the dock, I gave them a nice tip for keeping us from ending up in the Tilt O’ Whirl, and got in my car to drive my son back to the vacation house.
“That was fun!” he said.
“Yeah,” I answered. “Wow.”