FREEDOM COMES WITH 
MANY CONSEQUENCES

   There's a really corny movie comedy that came out about 12 years ago called "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo." It was terrible, but it had a great opening scene where Deuce was swimming with his new bride in a secluded bay.
   "Are you sure this is safe, Deuce?" his bride asked.
   "Of course it's safe," Deuce replied confidently. "They wouldn't let us swim here if it wasn't safe. This is Mexico!"
   That's when she gets attacked and eaten by a shark.
   I've been thinking of that scene for the last couple of weeks, ever since I went to a Tijuana water park with 40 kids from the Mexican orphanage that we were helping to support. I don't know who was more excited, the kids or me.
   I've always loved water parks, even though I seldom go anymore. There's something exhilarating about careening out of control down a slide, twisting and turning, water splashing into your face, and then plunging into the pool at the bottom. It makes me feel free.
   There's only one way, though, to really feel free at a water park: Go to Mexico.
   Tort law might have something to do with it. Judges, not juries, decide personal injury cases in Mexico, and settlements are not worth the effort. Damages for pain and suffering are rare. Punitive damages are non-existent. Consequently, with almost no threat of lawsuits, it's let the buyer beware.
   There are advantages to this. For instance, consider the lines. In the United States, the attendant at the top of the slide doesn't allow a rider to go down until the previous rider exits at the bottom, towels off, reapplies their sunscreen and then consults with their attorney who is waiting at the bottom. Or so it seems. The line is humongous.
   In Mexico, there are no lines. It's go, go, go. Want to ride tandem? Go. Want to put your three year old on your shoulders? Go. Want to ride backwards with headphones while eating a burrito? Go.
   There are no rules. The buyer decides if it's safe enough. You don't get turned away if you're too young, too short, or too old. Also, there are rides that would never see the light of day north of the border.
   I was feeling very free. After taking the kids on some gentle rides, I looked up at the "Medusa," which would have had a throng of attorneys waiting at the bottom if it were in the United States. I watched a couple of teenagers get some air and slam violently back onto the slide, and wisely decided it wasn't for me.
   Freedom was still calling, though. One of the orphanage kids pointed to a new ride called "SlipNFly," and dared the old Gringo to give it a shot. It was insane. The rider goes head first down a steep slide and then, like a ski jump, is shot into the air about 25 feet, landing in a big pool. Hopefully feet first.
   "Gringo is big chicken," I said, flapping my wings because I didn't speak Spanish. "Please don't make Gringo go."
   Secretly, though, I wanted to exercise my freedom and give it a try, so I gave the cheering kids a thumbs up. And I felt pretty safe, until I walked up the stairs to the platform about 80 feet in the sky and noticed an ambulance parked on the side.
   "Any reason that is there?" I asked the fellow American freedom rider (who was about 17) walking up beside me.
   "It's parked there all day," he casually replied. "Just in case."
   All of a sudden, freedom wasn't feeling all that good. I got to the top, which is always higher than it looks, and glanced down at the orphanage kids who were howling and whistling.
   I couldn't do the walk of shame back down the stairs, even though I desperately wanted to. So down I went. When I shot into the air, screaming and petrified, I kicked my legs out so hard trying to get my balance I pulled a hamstring. Seriously.
   Gripping my hamstring, I landed in the pool like a wounded bird, head slamming into the water. When I eventually surfaced, my water slide career having come to an inglorious end, I was gratified to hear the laughter of all the kids from the orphanage that I had entertained with my stupidity.
   I had tasted freedom and would be limping around for three weeks with the consequences. Viva Mexico.
 

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