My Hot Little Deathtrap

By Jim Hagarty

I saw one of those little Internet photo essays, this one about American cars in the last half century that were known deathraps. I scrolled through them, one at a time, and recognized them, of course. There was the Ford Pinto which would catch fire if rear ended. And the Chevy Corvair that was unstable on the road and also had a bursting-into-flames tendency. Glad I didn’t own those cars. I kept scrolling. And there, lo and behold, was the 1984 Pontiac Fiero, the very one I did own for a number of years after purchasing it new. That model year, the first one for the Fiero, experienced problems with its engine which was located mid-car, right behind the passenger cabin. It was fixed after 1984 for subsequent models of the car but in almost 300 cases, the engine caught fire. Fortunately no one was badly injured by the Fiero’s quirk, unlike the Pinto and Corvair which took people’s lives. I sort of knew the Fiero’s reputation when I owned it and used to joke it was my own little coffin on wheels. I have been wanting to get a Fiero again one of these days (that’s an old guy thing), but maybe I will avoid a 1984 model.

The Waterslide Blues

By Jim Hagarty
2006

Insanity has been defined as doing the same things over and over and expecting different results each time.

This can be the only explanation as to why I once again found myself on Sunday climbing up the many steps to the platform from where crazy people were willingly placing their bodies in long, twisted plastic tubes filled with rushing water which promised to hurtle them at (literally) breakneck speeds to a little pool of water hundreds of feet away.

Two years ago, I allowed myself to be talked into plunging feet-first down a similar tube of torture, except that one was not fully enclosed and it did not curve, but was designed instead to get it over with quickly, for those who want their horror served straight up with no twists and turns. Sort of like bungee jumping without the bungee. During that nightmare, I found myself screaming for the first time in many years as I dropped out of the sky to the thimbleful of water that was below. Incapable, in the midst of the near-death experience, of remembering to keep my legs raised in the air when l hit the thimble, the water, instead, hit me with all the force of a sledgehammer to the groin. As a former sports reporter was in the habit of saying (sarcastically) on several occasions every day: “Good times.”

So, how could l possibly find myself ascending those dreaded steps again with a heart almost as heavy as those poor French citizens who climbed the stairs to the guillotine so long ago? It happened on Sunday the way it happened two years ago: pressure from my progeny who, as with most kids these days, are not in the habit of being disappointed. What a man won’t do to solidify his reputation as a great dad…

When my son and I had made it almost to the front of the line at the top of the steps, some poor schmoe had realized the serious error he had made a few feet into his watery plunge and this unfortunate soul, who would have fit right in at the Reign of Terror, let out a prolonged blood-curdling howl that would have put a smile on Alfred Hitchcock’s puffy face. This was not a confidence builder.

To be honest, I still can’t believe I did this.

Again.

I wanted to back out at the last minute, but once you’re in the tube, your fate is sealed. Any idea I had that a curved tube would deliver a slower ride than my straight-down plunge of two years back, was quickly squashed. Now I know why the tube was fully enclosed. Had it not been, I would still be in orbit somewhere over the city. l can’t describe the feeling except to report that the screaming l did two years ago resembled a soft whisper compared to my yells of fear and despair on Sunday.

Along the way, my left arm decided to try to get away from the rest of my body and thus it was that I hit the puddle below in a pitiful, contorted form. The pool, it seems, was deeper than I thought and so disoriented was I that I could not find my way to the surface.

“This is it,” was all I could think. Suicide by water slide.

Eventually, I did re-emerge and, waiting for me there were three family members who apparently had inhaled copious quantities of laughing gas while I was water slide fodder as they seemed incapable of restraining their joy at the sight of my suffering.

“But Dad,” said one of them. “You’ve got to admit it was fun.”

“No I don’t.” I don’t have to admit that at all. And if I live to be 110 (unlikely if more waterslides are in my future), I never will.

Cultural References

By Jim Hagarty

One of the challenges for a writer is to not leave his readers behind. It is easy to do. One way to lose them is to use references they don’t understand. I try hard not to do that but I don’t always succeed. I sometimes uses cultural references that might be lost on some readers, in part because of my age. Recently, for example, I wrote about how voters took the members of a political party “to the woodshed” in Canada’s most recent national election. What does taking someone to the woodshed mean? And what is a woodshed, anyway? Woodsheds were common when people heated their homes with fireplaces and woodstoves. Wood for burning would be kept dry in a shed dedicated for that. And why would someone be taken to the woodshed? In the old days of corporal punishment, a father would take his kid to the woodshed to administer a smacking. The threat was always there? “Do you want a trip to the woodshed, boy? Well, just keep it up.”

Also, in a story about a one-room schoolhouse of old, I used the expression, “the three R’s”. What could that possibly be? The three R’s referred to Readin’, Ritin’, and ‘Rithmetic.