Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Raiding the Archives 2 - Me Funny

This article represents the first time I "wrote funny". It came
quickly on the heels of my Father's Day piece, and also set the tone
for future lighter-themed writing arcs. Every time I read it, it takes
me right back to what was a very enjoyable day. I hope you find the
reading experience similarly refreshing.

Originally published Monday, July 1, 2002, the London Free Press, on
the Editorial page. Column ran over four-columns, with picture & cutline.

New water park 'cool'

By Carmi Levy

If you work or live downtown and happened to see a couple of grown men
walking down the street dressed in soaking-wet flowery shorts and
t-shirts last week, I apologize for alarming you.

Contrary to popular belief, we were not engaged in a systematic revolt
against the corporate dress code. Nor were we trying to relive our
childhood. We were merely a couple of corporate office types seeking
refuge from the heat and humidity in the quickest, easiest, cheapest
manner possible.

On that fateful day, my colleague, Steve, was lamenting that high
temperatures and humidity were forcing his air-conditioner at home to
work full tilt. Mid-day electricity prices were heading for the
stratosphere, the shirt and tie he was wearing was beginning to
irritate his neck.

Relief was clearly needed. But how?

A walk through our usual haunts was out of the question, as neither of
us likes heat very much. I jokingly suggested we go to a mall and lie
under the fountain like the family dog.

When I mentioned the city's new splash pad, his look of despair turned
to one of triumph. We were about to go where no corporate weenies had
gone before.

The splash pad seems to be one of the downtown's best kept secrets.
Tucked into the forks of the Thames, just behind the Middlesex
building at the end of Dundas Street, the facility has just recently
been opened to the public after a weeks-long tuning and adjusting

Before settling on a splash pad, the city reviewed and, thankfully,
rejected a number of somewhat off-beat proposals.

Recall, if you dare, the jet d'eau, which promised to spew polluted
water skyward from a convenient spot in the middle of the river.

Approaching the new facility from Dundas, an expansive
stone-and-concrete promenade fronts on the river, overlooking HMCS
Prevost on the opposite bank.

Sleek stainless steel benches provide lots of places to sit and watch
kids and wannabe-kids frolic in the dancing waters.

Walking paths wind around it and above the wall built into a hill.

Its relative newness explains the fact it's almost deserted. Cyclists
and in-line skaters whiz by without so much as a side glance.
Riverfront picnickers are similarly unaware of the magical new
facility just meters away.

Close inspection reveals a Byzantine arrangement of red and yellow
buttons, as well as some odd-looking sensors on the concrete benches.

Steve and I, clearly the oldest people there by a good 15 years,
sheepishly approached the first big yellow button under what looked
like a Water Pik shower head on steroids, and tentatively pressed it.

Nothing happened.

We waited. And waited. And waited some more.

While we stood there and debated the merits of perhaps trying another
unlabelled button, the large red trough about four meters over our
heads finished quietly filling with water and with a whoosh, dumped a
torrent right on us.

Let the games begin.

Suitably soaked, we pressed every button we could find and gleefully
allowed the every fountain head to do its thing. Some sprayed geysers
of varying heights from the ground. Others shot horizontally like
neighbourhood fire hydrants. Still others cascaded waterfall-like from
the walls along the side.

The cute little flower in the middle sprayed a similarly delicate
fountain of water. Whatever it was, the worries of the day
disappeared, replaced by a rush of cold water and endless hilarity
brought on by the realization that working adults shouldn't be
cavorting like children in the middle of the day.

The half-dozen or so children who were there, dressed in
brightly-colored shorts and bathing suits, looked at us and shook
their heads in disbelief. We never did figure out how the buttons and
sensors worked. For all we know, they're not hooked up to anything.

And somewhere there's a team of psychologists videotaping us as part
of some secret behavioural research project.

After about a half hour spent ingesting chlorinated water in ways only
previously imagined, we grabbed our towels and tried to dry off before
heading back to the office. Progress was difficult because we couldn't
stop laughing.

Security guards snickered as we walked past, leaving wet footprints on
the marble tile floor. Let them laugh. As soon as the temperature
climbs again, we'll be back.



Trillian said...

I drive by that park everyday on my way to work and I've never seen anyone in it (granted, it's 8AM), but I've wanted to stop on more than one occassion to have a frollick. Nice to know an "adult" has already set the precedent.

carmilevy said...

That's a pretty big assumption that I qualify as an adult. Glad you used the quotation marks. Otherwise, I would have had to grow up :)

Every day I cycle past it on my way home. When it's really hot, I'll park the bike for a quick second, run through one of the sprays, then get back on and continue my ride. It's an amazing way to cool down on a humid southwestern Ontario afternoon.

Not recommended on the way IN to work, however.