A few well-placed prayers take care of the water-skiing - but not the stress

The Baltimore Sun

Water-skiing always looked like such fun when the Doublemint twins did it.

Up they popped out of the water in their matching swimsuits, holding the tow-rope with one hand and waving energetically at the crowd with the other.

The whole scene looked exhilarating and fresh - precisely the adjectives Wrigley's marketing team hoped would come to customers' minds when chewing Doublemint gum: "Why, chewing this gum is experientially identical to water-skiing!"

My recent family vacation offered water-skiing along with other extreme recreational activities, including swinging on a circus trapeze. I didn't think I was particularly suited for the trapeze because I never really grew out of that motion-sickness phase. Even when flying through the air on someone else's power, I can get into trouble. Secret from Janet's World: When the flight attendants on commercial airlines direct me to check the seat pocket for the safety card, this is my decoy activity for checking for an air sickness bag, just in case.

So everyone in Howard County now knows two things for sure: 1) Never sit next to Janet on a plane, and 2) Janet should run for public office because she would make very entertaining speeches.

I walked to the water sports dock with my family. Compared with swinging on a trapeze, water-skiing seemed downright tame. I added my name to the list.

Once in the queue, however, I had second thoughts. I remembered how wobbly my knees feel after my daily jogs with my dog, and I hoped they wouldn't fail me. My lifesaving vest was becoming more constricting by the minute, but I ignored it, thinking on the positive side that it might have some slimming benefits. As my turn approached, I tried to visualize my Doublemint-self in the water, but the channel in my head kept flipping to a scene of me dragged behind the boat in a semicrouch, spiraling to a most unbecoming face-plant finish.

It didn't help that a tanned and impossibly handsome Spanish Robert Redford was driving the boat. He signaled it was my turn with a flip of his goldenrod wind-whipped hair and a flash of his boyish smile.

I smiled back, the kind of pathetic half-smile that a Doublemint twin would wear if she found herself water-skiing without her sister.

But then I remembered my Camp Wa-Klo water-skiing training of 1976. Yes, I became such an expert water-skier at Camp Wa-Klo that I earned the privilege of spending the rest of my summer treading the icy waters of Lake Thorndyke, holding 8-year-old girls in position by the backs of their life belts until the boat drew the line taut and they could pop up on their skis.

Oddly enough, this memory gave me some confidence.

As the boat engine revved and I assumed the proper position in the brackish water, I prayed specifically to the Department of God that had to do with issues of lost youth. "Just let me get up right away, please just let me get up!"

Roberto Redford looked over his shoulder and gave me a thumbs-up, and we took off. He beamed a dazzling smile just for me in the boat's rear-view mirror as I popped up onto my skis.

Again, I prayed. "Thanks! Now let this be over, please, just let this be over!" Roberto Redford stood up, giving me some visual cues to center my weight and bend my knees. I smiled back at him, thinking something significantly less family-friendly than "Take a hike, buddy."

Roberto took me for what seemed like an extra long ride. As the boat finally turned toward the dock, I did what any Doublemint girl would do; I released one white-knuckled fist from the tow-rope and waved amiably to the crowd. As I sank into the water, I thought, "What a stress-free time I am having here on vacation! Maybe tomorrow I can bungee-jump off of my veranda into the courtyard pool."

Contact Janet at janet@janetgilbertonline.com

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