Not that long after arriving in Canada, nearly 30 years ago, I got the chance to hit the slopes at Blue Mountain Ski Resort with my youngest daughter, Megan, who was about seven at the time. As someone who had played competitive sports, I thought that learning to ski would be a piece of cake and that I might even be able to help my daughter with her efforts.
Early Saturday morning, us novices gathered expectantly around the ski lift for our introductory lesson. It wasn't long before the trainer set us up with skis and then got some of us practising little runs down bunny hills. Megan took to downhill skiing like a duck to water. I, in sharp contrast, was stuck on the ground exerting enormous effort just trying to stand up. Moments later, Megan, using all her natural instincts and with a total lack of fear, took off from the highest point on the mountain. She came ripping down the slope like an out-of-control Catherine wheel at a fireworks display. She finished with a hard crash at the end of the runway. Fortunately, and remarkably, Megan was unhurt and unfazed.
By contrast, my “progress,” if you could even call it that, was truly feeble. When I finally got going at a snail’s pace, I could not stop veering into the parking lot, where I fell on my back in a heap. Because of the ice that had formed in the tire tracks, I had great difficulty getting into an upright position. I kept getting up and falling back down. Repeatedly. Passersby looked equal parts amused and embarrassed seeing this weird creature looking up at them like an inebriated whale. I’m not sure how I got back to our car unaided, but I do know I felt crestfallen and exhausted.
Sitting in the hot tub that night, licking my bruised ego and easing my aches and pains, I decided not to endeavour skiing the next day. Much the way I’d accepted how hopeless I was at water skiing, I concluded that I would have to live with my ineptness at downhill skiing. Megan, in sharp contrast, remained fearless and fit in right away in the foreign snowy landscape. The next day, she hit the slopes again, looking like she had been skiing all her life. If there is any lesson to be learned here, it’s that “pride comes before a fall!”
This story also reminds me of that famous Henry Ford saying:
WHETHER YOU THINK YOU CAN, OR YOU THINK YOU CAN'T—YOU'RE RIGHT.
More recently, I had another “shit happens” moment that humbled me and amused onlookers. I was playing the ninth hole at the Cedar Brae Golf Club, where I am a member. While setting up to putt, I suddenly heard shouts of “Rooney, your cart!” But it was too late. I made a failed attempt to stop that day’s tragicomedy—my golf cart and clubs careening into the water off the slope on the side of the green. Taking off my golf shoes and climbing into the water, I quickly became embedded up to the top of my knees in thick black mud, wondering in dismay whether I was in quicksand. While it was no doubt an amusing incident for my fellow golfing companions, I would have the last laugh this time: I managed to drain my putt from ten feet to win the hole, magnificently dressed as I was in my soggy, mud-drenched pants and socks.
Neither one of these two experiences in any way hurt me physically. After being hit with the initial gut-churning embarrassment of my own ineptitude, I was glad that I could recover reasonably quickly, put a salve on my badly bruised ego, and recount the story to an eager audience while enduring the expected side-splitting laughter my misadventures elicited.
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