In a typical week, I get a lot of suggestions about ideas for my column; usually these suggestions are somewhat along the lines of: “you should really write about how the government is trying to poison us with contrails” or “why don’t you ever say anything nice about George Bush?” My usual response is either: a) a knowing smile and the words, “Yes, I see your point,” (thanks, Way), or, if the person seems relatively coherent; b) “And this would relate to the subject of my children, how?” Recently, however, I got a suggestion that I could actually use: a friend of mine whose children’s sled had been stolen from them at the sledding run just the day before suggested that perhaps I should write a column about “The terrible type of person that would actually STEAL a child’s sled.”
Finally, I thought, something I could use, especially since I, too, had been sledding with my children just the day before. (No, I wasn’t the terrible person in question). In fact, it was that very sledding experience that prompted my response to her tale of sled-less woe: a very Napoleon Dynamite-ish : “Lucky.” Needless to say, this wasn’t terribly well received.
Despite its reception, however, I still stand by my reaction: after all, how much luckier could you get than having your sled stolen while still at the sledding run? No more sled means that–through no fault of your own, through no exercising of the “meanest Mommy in the whole wide world” prerogative–sledding is now over for the day Even children can comprehend that when the sled is gone, so is any chance for more sledding that day. (This is what is known, in my book, as a win/win/win situation, meaning that everything turned out the best for me, myself, and I.)
This same thing cannot be said for some of the other ways for sledding to end prematurely, like frozen fingers, high-speed collisions and icy face plants. In fact, a quick examination of even the simplified version of the North American Trauma Scale (where x=severity of trauma and y=the length of the ensuing crying jag) will clearly show how it is truly in everyone’s best interest if the sledding expedition ends by theft rather than injury.
Of course, if you’re the only one at the sledding run, or if everyone else at the run just hopped off some kind of church bus, then theft isn’t really an option, and injury is your only hope for going home in a reasonable amount of time. In that case I always recommend picking the slope with the greatest number of beer cans at the top: the cheaper the beer, the better. (The rationale here is that, in much the same way that PJ O’Rourke suggests that the volume and quality of roadside crosses is the best way to judge how dangerous an upcoming curve is on a Third World byway, it is also possible to use the volume and quality of beer cans at the top of a sledding run to best determine how foolish one needs to be to attempt the upcoming hill. Therefore, a slope with a few empty Guinnesses at the top would probably qualify as a bunny hill, while one with its own small mountain of Busch cans is clearly a Black Diamond run.)
Now, I’m sure that there are some people out there (probably from Phoenix) who would wonder why anyone would choose to end an idyllic day’s sledding early. These are probably the same people who picture their family standing cosily at the top of the sledding hill, sipping hot chocolate from an engraved thermos and wearing matching LL Bean snow outfits. For the rest of us, though–the ones that know that the scene at the sledding hill is more reminiscent of Shackleton’s “Endurance” polar expedition (minus the stiff British upper lips) than a Norelco Xmas commercial–know that the surest way to ensure an enjoyable snowy day with our children is to put a thick (and preferably insulated) piece of glass between us. At least, it is until they get old enough to drag their own sleds back up the hill–or buy their own Busch beer, whichever comes first.