Thursday, August 15, 2013

My Newest Potential Occupation

While it was on the air, I watched exactly one season of Oprah's talk show.  It was mightily entertaining at times, but mostly it just drove me crazy.

One of the grand pronouncements I remember Oprah making went something along the lines of, "You can do anything you want if you just set your mind to it and work really really hard."  Just to be clear, she wasn't talking about doing anything you want in terms of betraying social mores like killing your co-worker just because he keeps eating your clearly-labeled food out of the office fridge or marrying your sister; she was talking more along the lines of dreams and goals and careers.  She believed you could be anything in the world if only you wanted it badly enough and were willing to work for it.

I respectfully disagree.  Vehemently, but respectfully.

I have run into all kinds of careers I couldn't do.  I couldn't be a veterinarian.  I'm guessing constant snot and oozing from my facial cavities due to animal allergies wouldn't exactly rake in the pet owners.

I couldn't be a firefighter.  I'm all for women firefighters, providing they have the strength to carry me and my family out of a burning building.  My upper body strength is terrible.  I'd have to be a firefighter specializing in small children.  A pediatric firefighter.

I couldn't be in any kind of profession involving nuclear materials or surgery on patients you wanted to survive.  I'm dead clumsy and get fine hand tremors when I'm tired or stressed or have had more than an ounce of caffeine.

Last week, I discovered something else I couldn't do for a living:  Zipline Instructor.

Yep, we went zip lining.  It was incredibly fun.  Also terrifying in a very debilitating way, at first.

I could probably help people into their harnesses.  I think.  (<-----Zip line customers love that kind of confidence.)  But there is no way I could ever so casually stand on the very edge of a wooden platform, heels hanging off, thoughtlessly bouncing on the balls of my feet as I gave instructions on how not to die and tried to make small talk with the crying girl (not me, thank you very much), with nary a thought to the fact that I was centimeters away from open air with its cruel gravity and several hundred-foot plummet to the forest floor.  Sure, you're harnessed to the line, but if you're a full-time zip line instructor, statistics indicate you're the one whose line will finally fray to the snapping point and will end up with a tragic if fascinating obituary.

The zip lining itself wasn't even the scariest part.  The worst was the part after you've been driven halfway up the mountain, then have to traverse a series of narrow, bouncy, puke-inducing rope bridges the rest of the way up to the first platform.  I hate bridges in just about any form, but these were the. worst.  I'd wait 'til my brother-in-law was about halfway across one to tentatively step on, and while Derek basically did the same for me, he still outweighs me by a good hundred pounds, and those things lurched and bounced and did all they could in their evil little bridge-power to buck me off once he stepped on.  Then I'd do super-helpful things like freezing and gripping the sides and whimpering, "Foolish, this is so, so terribly foolish."

Not exactly the kind of traits you look for in a zip lining instructor.

I did loosen up pretty much as soon as I went coasting along the very first line.  Derek's dad was right: the anticipation is definitely the worst part.  If you can get past that, it's pretty exhilarating.

Actually, you know what?  I guess I probably could do all those things.  I probably wouldn't be successful, I'd almost surely be miserable, and I would very likely cost people their lives, but with enough determination and drive, I could do it.

I stand corrected.  Right again, Oprah.


  1. Rope bridges. I will never, ever be going on rope bridges.

    Oprah, I would like to be a scaredy cat. Look! I succeeded!

    I'm glad you survived.

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed zip-lining. I think I'd need to start smaller, like in our backyard :-)

    I also get very annoyed with the "you can do anything you set your mind to" attitude. The truth is we don't all start from a level playing field, whether that's economics or physical abilities, so it's a silly platitude.

  3. "Pediatric firefighter" made me laugh. (Also, ditto on the hand tremors -- no, not laughing; I've got them, too.)

    I first read "terrifying" as testifying. And I suppose that you could, you know, stand up and testify...

  4. You could be a veterinarian firefighter specializing in small dogs and cats. That seems like a fair compromise. Dachshund in trouble? You're the first on the scene.


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