The Face of Terror: Zip-lining in Brazil

Crap I Think About, David Thiel, Paul Newman, Onoway, zip lining, Brazil, Danger is NOT My Middle Name, Commentary, Humor, Crap, Crap I Think, street people, elk, editorial, deep crappy thoughts
See that guy? That's me. Do I look casual? I'm not. That's the Face of Terror. I was in Brazil...
...and the day felt bad from my very first waking moment.

Hands poking at me, fingers stabbing urgently into my skin and a way too fast rise out of deep sleep and into a cold and hostile world.

“Wha…” I stated with what seemed, at the time, commendable clarity.

“The door. Someone’s at the door,” hissed Sheree, my wife,  who has the unsettling ability to wake up instantly, ready to pole vault out of bed and paint the house.

“Wha..?” I said again, since it was obvious that she hadn’t understood the first time.

“The food’s here,” she said.

I looked at her dully – which, trust me, was the absolute best I could do.

She rolled her eyes and stabbed a finger into my arm, which kind of hurt. “The food.”

I had a vague memory of ordering food for delivery at 6:30. I figured I would be awake at 5:30 and had visualized myself calm, collected and smiling as I greeted the little cruise ship waiter guy who delivers the food in the morning with a suave smile – not the hairy scary fella in underwear and a t-shirt, shambling to the door, stubbing his toes on everything, softly swearing, moving by pure force of will.

“I’d like to do the zip line today,” said Sheree – and not for the first time.

I made a non-committal noise as I had each time she’d mentioned it before. I don’t even like standing on a footstool in the safety of my own home. The thought of flinging myself off of a tower into sheer space ranks right up with a colonoscopy and a root canal on my “List of Things I Must Avoid.”

I studied my coffee cup as though one of the secrets of the universe was hidden there, shot a look at Sheree and saw her looking intently back at me. I hate that. Avoidance is not an option. So I made another non-committal noise, flashed my most winning smile and was rewarded only with that stony gaze.

“It’s something I really want to do,” she said evenly.

When forced to comment – I’d said that it was fine with me if she wanted to zip-line. I’d also said that I could stay on the ground where the possibility of soiling my own underwear is relatively low.

She was still looking at me.

“Are you coming or not?” she asked.

I frowned and tried to figure out a way to decline without looking like a little girl.

“Sure,” I said. “I’ll go.”

There’s a part of me that is eternally aghast at the stupid things I commit to. The internal conversation was instant and vehement: “Are you freaking NUTS? What did you just say? THINK about this! You’ll look like a suck for a minute…but death is forever. You moron. Idiot moron. Idiot moron poopypants. What the hell is wrong with you?”

The internal gibbering continued as I made a show of staring into my coffee cup. But sweat ran tiny ranting rivers under my arms and my smile at my wife lacked conviction.

“Really?” she asked.

I made the non-committal sound again and she rewarded me with a smile.

I don’t actually recall much about the “in between” part. I know that we hired a cab for the day (the hourly rate for most cabs is $25-$30 per hour, by the way) and I was aware only that each moment drew me closer to the zip-line.

I am a pretty big guy. Maybe there’s a weight restriction. I laid all my hopes at the feet of that one possibility and had nearly convinced myself that it would be so when we arrived. The cab driver was an efficient sort, getting us directly in touch with the zip line people, and costing himself half his tip in the process.

“I’m probably too big,” I said to the zip line guide. “Too big, right?”

He looked me over appraisingly. “No, mon. You’re fine.”

I glared at him and considered brandishing my wallet for emphasis. “Are you SURE?”

“If you can get the harness on – you can zip line,” he said with the air of someone granting another someone their fondest wish.

Hope was fading.

“Can I try a harness?” I asked. Already I was defeated. The one faint hope was that the harness would not fit.

“Yeah, mon,” he said. He sounded like a Jamaican instead of a Saint Lucean.

He winked at me in a hollow effort to reassure me. I swallowed.

He returned with a complicated mess of loops, steel thingies and nylon. He handed it to me and nodded encouragingly. I turned it over in my hand, looking dumbly at it. I caught his eye and raised my eyebrows in a “so what now?” gesture.

“I am kidding. I will help you.”

It took squeezing and pulling. We tightened and loosened. We cajoled. Okay: he squeezed, pulled, tightened and loosened and cajoled. I worked to counter purposes at each turn, taking deep breaths whenever it would make the harness tough to put on. If I could have increased the size of my thighs, I would have. The little bastard prevailed and eventually I stood in the harness, feeling like Charlie Brown after Lucy jerks the football away.

“See, mon?”

I looked over my outfit with a sinking heart.

“Isn’t this GREAT?” said my wife chipperly. (Yes. I know “chipperly” is not an actual word. But she did speak ‘chipperly.’ Honest.)
I nodded and wondered: if you fake a heart attack, does it start with the right arm or the left? Maybe I should just sprain my ankle. Maybe I could develop a sudden attack of narcolepsy. But I just stood there like a horse in a too tight saddle.

My bride put her hand on my arm: “You are going to love this, David.”

I smiled and swallowed back the bile creeping up my throat....

...I went ziplining, of course. It wasn't pretty. And it wasn't dignified. And it absolutely was NOT something I want to do again. The rest of the story is in the book...