- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 12, 2009

Last Saturday, my son bought a skateboard.

Oops, I must correct myself: He bought a “long board.” Apparently, there is a big difference between a “skateboard” and a “long board.” Really.

To the untrained eye, like mine, they both look like a thin piece of lumber with roller-skate wheels attached to them — or, as I like to say, “an accident waiting to happen.”

But my son, who at the age of 17 has learned everything there is to know about everything, sought to forestall my concern for and criticism of his purchase by volunteering at great length to explain to me (the ancient bumpkin that I am) the difference between a skateboard and a long board.

Basically, a skateboard is designed for doing tricks and stunts, but a long board is designed for going from one place to another. Therefore, a long board is much safer than a skateboard. It’s safer because it’s long. That’s why it’s called a “long” board.

He summed up his explanation with the following sentence (which I quote verbatim): “It is impossible to fall off a long board, unless you try to stop.”

It is impossible … to fall off … a long board … unless you try … to stop.

Hmm.

Let’s take a close look at that sentence.

The first part (“It is impossible to fall off a long board”) ignores two fundamental, universal, unrelenting facts: 1) the law of gravity and 2) the idiocy of 17-year-old boys.

Gravity tends to make things fall, especially 17-year-old boys. In fact, Isaac Newton discovered gravity when he observed a 17-year-old boy climb an apple tree and fall, dislodging the fruit that bopped Newton on the noggin. (The boy previously had said: “It is impossible to fall from an apple tree, even if you climb it blindfolded.”)

This gravity/17-year-old boy connection is so strong, certain and unrelenting that you could firmly set a snowshoe two inches into a snowbank, and a 17-year-old boy will find a way to fall off it and land in a coral reef.

Yet even if the first part of my son’s sentence were true, the second part (“unless you try to stop”) should give one pause.

All modes of transportation aim to take you from Point A to Point B, and once you get to Point B, you stop. There isn’t a transportation system that’s designed to take you from here to there, and once you get there, you keep going. (“This car runs great as long as you never apply the brakes.”)

Stopping is at least the second-most important part of transportation. And if the stopping part involves falling, you might want to reconsider that particular mode of transit.

Wilbur Wright: How was the flight?

Orville Wright: It was great until I tried to stop, when I fell out of the airplane.

Wilbur: Yeah, you got banged up pretty good.

Orville: Do you think there’ll ever be a market for this flying contraption?

Wilbur: Only among 17-year-old boys.

I pondered these things and more, but I kept my thoughts to myself and let my son enjoy his purchase last Saturday. …

So last Sunday my son was being treated in the emergency room, and I reminded him of what he said about the superior safety of skateboards that are long: “It’s impossible to fall off a long board, unless you try to stop.”

He looked up at me from his gurney and said indignantly, “I was right. The only reason I fell was because I tried to stop.”

I looked at him blankly.

My son’s going to college in the fall, and I am so proud.

I keep telling myself that.

•••


I know you heard about the U.S. Park Police arresting former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry and charging him with stalking a woman.

Barry, who currently is a D.C. Council member, was arrested July 4 in Washington after a woman flagged down an officer and said Barry was stalking her in Anacostia.

He was charged with misdemeanor stalking and released.

For Barry, this is probably just a misunderstanding. After all, since when is it a crime to follow a woman without her permission?

Still, it sounds like Barry might have to dust off his “Bitch set me up” defense.

A classic.

When he was in office, Barry was known as “mayor for life,” but it was more like “mayor for 5 to 10, with time off for good behavior.”

When corruption in his administration was uncovered in the ‘80s, people said it would be the end of Barry’s political career.

When he was filmed smoking crack in 1990, people said it would be the end of his political career.

And when he was convicted of tax evasion in 2005, people said it would be the end of Barry’s political career.

I’m beginning to think his political career has no end — and I blame politics.

•••


Some time before his “accident” on a long board, my son approached me while I was on the computer and asked why so many people were upset over Michael Jackson’s death.

“Because he had so much talent and died young,” I said.

“Young?” he said. “Wasn’t he, like, 50?”

I slowly turned to look at him and said, “50 IS young, says the 49-year-old man!”

You can reach Carleton Bryant at 202/636-3218 and cbryant@washington times.com — but only after his skateboarding lessons.

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