"I'll pay you five dollars if you go first!"
The three of us were perched on the edge of the flume, attempting to make our "fluming" debut.
In a small rural town, thrills are hard to come by. The teenagers in my region have therefore had to invent some pastimes, and thus, fluming was born. The flume is a giant half-pipe, at least as wide as I am tall, that carries water from one side of a canyon to the other. If you looked at the flume and the canyon from far away, it would be in the shape of an inverted arch, with the river at the bottom of the canyon being the top of the arch.
Perhaps the water in the flume is used for irrigation; I'm not really sure. All I know is that it runs like a river, and, according to everyone else, you were supposed to jump in at one side of the canyon and "ride the flume" to the other side. It looked very dangerous. It was also illegal (like that matters).
"Just jump in, come on, it'll be okay," urged my friend Ashlynn.
"Then why don't you go first?" countered Kristen.
I pulled a hair tie off of my wrist. "Let's see how fast the water is going," I said. I let the tie drop and it was promptly whisked away by the current.
"That's pretty fast," said Ashlynn, laughing nervously. "What if we don't know where to stop and get out of the flume?"
"It's supposed to dump into a canal. Steph said we would know when to get out," Kristen said in such a way that it was clear she doubted Steph.
"I'm more worried about the depth," I confessed. "What if I jump in and I can't get my head above water? Or what if it's too shallow? Then I might break my legs, or those bars will hit me in the head." Metal bars ran zigzag over top the flume, and on these bars were some old wooden planks.
"Hey, what are those boards for?" I asked suddenly.
"That's how we get back," said Ashlynn. "You walk on top of the flume from that side to this one."
This was sounding worse by the second.
"Just go, I'll come right after you!" Ashlynn assured us.
"You're the oldest, you should - "
At this point, Kristen had obviously summoned the courage to push herself into the flume, and with a splash she disappeared beneath the water.
Next it was my decision: I could stay right where I was and be safe, but I knew I would regret it. So jump, or don't jump?
Before I could convince myself not to, I jumped.
The cold water rushing up my nose was the first sensation I remember feeling, and it wasn't pleasant. But then my head surfaced and I was speeding down the flume, with my feet slipping across the algae-slick bottom akin to sliding across the kitchen floor in your socks. I was letting out a sound of pure joy, somewhere between laughter and a high pitched scream but definitely closer to laughter. It was so fun I could hardly control myself. I was shaking all over with excitement. As I rushed forward I took the moment to realize that I was currently high over the canyon, even though I couldn't see over the edge.
I can honestly say that riding the flume that first time was the most fun thing I did all summer. It was risky and I had no idea what to expect. But if I had let that stop me I wouldn't have experienced the joy that fluming brought me. Sometimes we have to step out of our comfort bubbles, ignoring the danger and our own uncertainty, and just jump.
Editor's Note: While it is good to step out of your comfort zone every one and awhile, it is more important to stay safe! If something is too risky or dangerous, don't attempt it just to do it. Have fun, but always stay smart.