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drag your fingers along the bottom of the pool September 17, 2008

Posted by That Guy in Lessons Learned.
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This is the first post in a new category, “Lessons Learned”, based upon things That Guy learned/experienced as a child.

When I was a lad, I went to summer day camp at a local state park. The park included many interesting and diverting destinations, including a several-miles-long bike path, mini-golf, paddleboats, canoeing (one of my very favorite activities, because we could canoe to the General Store by the RV area and buy candy), sports, swimming, and waterslides. Not really amazing waterslides, but waterslides nonetheless. Two of them. It was a hell of a climb to the starting gates, and everyone who made the trip was plagued by huge, sinister bumblebees, but it was fun in the same way that a one-minute watercourse is to any child who’s not afraid of swimming.

My favorite part of the waterslide area — aside from the spiffy multicolored cloth-and-dangerous-metal-clip admission bracelets, which my friends and I collected obsessively — was the tube ride. For those who have never been on one, a tube ride is a waterslide you ride down while sitting in a large tube. Many go fairly fast.

This one, not so much.

The tube ride at that state park — and I think I may go visit it in November when I see my family for Thanksgiving, just for nostalgia’s sake — was a series of ten whirlpools of varying sizes and speeds, with the occasional eddy to catch you and hold you in place. The object of the ride was probably to go as fast as you can, fighting the whirling and getting to the bottom just so you could climb to the top and do it all again, but my friends and I found a better way: rather than waste our time waiting in line, we would push through the first six levels of the tube ride — the sixth was downright scary, extremely fast, and I think I nearly drowned when I capsized one time — and then, from the seventh to tenth, link up, hands on each other’s tubes, and just float and chat and bask in the sun.

And drag our fingers along the concrete bottom, dredging for treasure.

Most people, as noted, went down the tube ride quickly, and when water is flushing past your body, often at speed, what are the odds that you’ll notice when stuff flies out of your pockets? Oh, we gave everything to the lost-and-found that looked valuable — jewelry, glasses, goggles, etc. — but we kept all the admission bracelets.

And any money we found.

It wasn’t always a winning prospect. Sometimes we found nothing, sometimes only a few cents, but at least once a week, one of us would come up with a couple of dollars and we’d grab sodas or snacks. And once I actually found a $20. Which I shared. Some of, anyway.

We would spend an hour or two at the waterslide area each time we went as a group of campers. In an ideal situation, we only made one trip through the tube ride — two at the outside. A few dollars for literally no work? Can’t beat that.

Lesson Learned: While you can have a lot of productive ideas coming out of organized activities (sports), creative endeavors (arts & crafts), and small-group collaborations (canoe trips), you should never ignore the possibility that you can glean something by dragging your fingers along the bottom of the idea pool. Sometimes that $20 bill will find its way into your outstretched fingers, and at the very least, that’ll buy you a nice lunch.

Well, it looks like this category is nothing more than cheap nostalgia. But it was well-written cheap nostalgia, and really, isn’t that the point?

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