- 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.


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.

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