When it comes to water parks, there are only two things I really need out of them — wave pools and lazy rivers.
I can handle lazy rivers anytime I want in my kayak, but — unlike the ones in water parks — they don’t drop me off where I got in. And as much as I love Mother Nature’s big wave pools, she keeps sharks in them and I can’t fully relax in my inner tube there when my backside rests in the water like an appetizer.
We went to a water park last weekend because it was my wife's company's family day. And one thing I like better than wave pools and lazy rivers is free wave pools and lazy rivers. Actually, I guess that’s two things. Another thing is chili-cheeseburgers, but I guess that’s another story.
The water park is part of Wild Adventures in Valdosta, Ga., where I lived for a couple of years in the early ’90s. I was content with staying in the portion of the park with the roller coasters. Not because I don’t enjoy the water, but because I didn’t feel like holding my gut in for four hours.
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Normally I wouldn’t put all that effort into holding in my gut. I don’t care whether or not I impress such strangers as that little 3-year-old who just sprang a leak in that puddle or that man who I thought was wearing a fur coat but was actually shirtless.
But because my wife had so many colleagues at the park, I didn’t want them looking questioning her judgment. That’s a task better left to her family and friends who know me better.
But someone had to ride the water slides with my son. So, I took off my shirt, sucked in the gut and slathered on the 500 SPF sunscreen. I then carried around inner tubes and stood in those awkward lines on stairs to slides — you know, where your face always seems to be inches away from the dripping wet backside of someone two steps higher than you. And 90 percent of the time, that’s not good. And 100 percent of the time, that’s not good for the people on the steps right behind me.
This was one of the few times I’ve actually gone to a water park without getting yelled at by teenage lifeguards. Almost every other trip to a water park, they yell things at me like: "Don’t touch the rope!' or "Hands off the ladder!" or "Face forward!" or "Put your swimsuit back on!" or "Hold in your gut, Shamu!” or “Put the gun down slowly!" Geez, give a kid a whistle and they turn into a 140-pound, wet RoboCop.
I did find the perfect ride at Wild Adventures’ Splash Island, though, especially for an exhausted, sun-drained dad. It’s called the “chaise lounge.” I don’t know why they call it that because the only thing I was chaising was some Zs. Caught ’em, too.
Unfortunately, I caught them while my wife’s coworkers were all around me. I got so relaxed that not only did I fail to subconsciously hold in my gut, but I also snored bad enough that they moved their chaise lounges to another zip code. I think her judgment is definitely in question now.