March 3, 2015

Great Moments In Wimpery

I was thinking the other day about two incidents that happened to me.
Both of them allowed me to earn a free pass to visit the Wimp Hall Of Fame.
Now they don’t rise to the level of being enshrined in the WHOF,
but they let me in the door to see displays of true giants in the history of wimpdom.
So I guess my wimpy experiences are even wimpy.
Anyway let me tell you my two similar, yet different, true tales.

Are you sure you want to embarrass yourself pilgrim?

When I was around twenty years old, I went caving or spelunking, with some friends at Laurel Caverns.
A large underground cavern in the Laurel Mountains about fifty miles south of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
They had in those days like most caverns, guided tours showing patrons various parts and highlights of the caves.
But what they also had back then, was the ability for the adventurous to explore a lower section of the caverns on your own.
Just sign a release and off you go. Things were more fun back in the days before instant lawsuits.
They still have exploring there today, but with a trained guide.
The old way was more manly.

You’re doing fine so far, pardner.

Since I had been on the tour before I had seen the public part of the cavern.
But I was intrigued by the hole in the ground at the end of where the public tours went.
So my brothers and I, along with a couple of friends, signed the release and armed with new flashlights headed for the hole.
Past the lighted part of the cavern. past the tour groups, down we went towards the entrance for exploration.
We reached the bottom of the public area and approached the hole.
It was four feet wide and went straight down into blackness.
Shining flashlights down we could see jagged footholds and rocky projections in the sandstone walls leading down.
Summoning our courage, one by one we started climbing down the hole.

You’re making me proud Pennsylvania.

The hole did widen after about ten feet so three men could actually climb side by side.
Even shining the flashlights down, did not make it possible to see the bottom of this shaft.
At this point a little bit of hesitation began to take hold of everyone.
How far straight down were we going to climb in this hole?
Would the walls get narrow again?
Is it ever going to level out?
Are we just going to crawl down there?
We still have to climb out!
We stopped about twenty feet down and discussed the situation.
Maybe this wasn’t such a great idea.
Perhaps we should turn back. We really don’t know what we’re doing.
What if we get injured or worse?
We had all reached the conclusion that we should turn back when we heard a noise from down below.
We started to hear faint voices.
Then we saw lights slowly growing brighter as they were coming up the hole.
We pushed ourselves back against the wall of the shaft to make room for the ascending cave explorers.
First we were passed by their leader.
Then they followed.
About a dozen little girls about ten years old.
It was a Brownie troop!
As they passed us and moved up out of sight we looked at each other and decided to proceed.
As it turned out the hole opened up into huge sandstone caverns that we walked through for a couple of miles.
It was exhausting climbing out. But overall safe for a young man and fun.
But it took little girls to shame us out of whimpdom.

I’m ashamed to be part of your species.

The second event of personal shame and wimpiness happened a couple of years later.
I was invited to Denver Colorado for my friends wedding.
During my weeklong stay I was invited to go skiing at Breckenridge Ski Resort
in the beautiful Rocky Mountains.
Now I had skied before. I was an intermediate skier. But the mountains of Pennsylvania, which are quite high, and have impressive ski resorts and trails, are still half the size of what you find in the Rockies.

Go on pilgrim, we’re waiting to hear how you embarrassed yourself again.

I remember thinking that the ski lift ride was one of the longest I had ever been on.
Then at the end of it, you got off to get on another lift to take you up to the top of the mountain!
I skied off the lift at the mountaintop and chose an intermediate trail.
It was great. Long trails through the woods. Not many people.
The mountain is so big that I guess it can hold a lot of skiers without being crowded.
It was a long run.
Back home it takes ten minutes to get down the slope on a good run.
Here, I was already twenty minutes in, and not even half way down the mountain.
Then the trail opened up into a large area overlooking a snow covered valley.
I stopped and looked. The area was half a mile wide.
But it was very steep.
Steeper than I had ever braved before.
Now I prided myself on skiing without breaking any bones.
I desired to keep my record and my body intact.
So I stood alone on the top of this ledge looking down the slope, deciding what my next move would be.
I could take my skis off and walk down.
That should only take me the rest of the day.
I could ski down in long horizontal lines, going down the mountain four feet with each turn.
That could only take hours to do.
I wonder if the rescue team would give me a ride down?
As I stood there for fifteen minutes, pondering my options alone,
out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement from the woods.
I turned to see them skiing out of the woods at full speed.
There leading them was their ski instructor.
“Ok gang!”, he yelled. “Just like Wonder Woman!”
And with that, a line of twenty little girls, looking to be seven or eight years old,
holding red balloons on strings, and without ski poles,
flew over the ridge and down the mountain.
I stood and watched them laugh and zig zag down and out of sight.
As my personal shame subsided I too followed them down the slope.
It really wasn’t hard.
But the memory of my wimpiness and nearly chickening out has stayed with me all these years.
So as I browse the hallowed halls of The Wimp Hall Of Fame, I realize that except for the intervention
of little girls, I too might have a display there.
At least a little plaque by the janitors closet.

Would you like me to help you pick out a skirt?

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