When we were kids, we’d get conscripted to do a lot of boring work that was supposed to build our character and make us appreciate what we had. And it did, but that didn’t set in until years later. At the time, the only thing it did was bore us to pieces and make us desperate for entertainment.
When my sister and I were six and nine, respectively, our parents purchased a house which they renovated before turning into a rental property. We were stranded there most of the day while they worked. Sometimes we would be given menial, repetitive tasks that a child could perform, but we had a lot of free time, too, so we’d take things along to keep us occupied.
Since this was before the availability of MP3 players and portable gaming systems, we had to make do with reading material and coloring books. We also had a couple of old sleeping bags that had probably been around since before we were born. They were brown on the outside and lined with a flannel-like fabric printed with brown and green ducks flying against a mustard yellow background. These were for naps.
One day, we all piled into the family van and headed over to the house for another long, agonizingly dull day. As I have mentioned in a previous post, I did a lot of dumb things when I was a kid, and this was no exception. Out of sheer boredom, I had what I thought at the time was a brilliant idea. I stepped into the sleeping bag as though I were putting on a pair of pants. I pulled it all the way up to my chest and began sliding down the hallway, one foot in front of the other, like a zombie in a sack race.
Suddenly, I felt myself falling forward. Before I had time to pull my hands out from inside the sleeping bag to break my fall, I had smacked the floor with my nose. Hard. It hurt!
After the initial shock and pain had subsided, I turned around to see how I had tripped. There was nobody there. The entire floor was empty. Everyone must be in the basement. Our parents had ripped the carpeting from the hallway, exposing the hardwood floor beneath. I decided the most likely explanation was that the sleeping bag had caught on a staple, a nail or a piece of wood, and that’s what had sent me toppling over.
I was wrong.
Years later, my sister and I were discussing The Sleeping Bag Incident, and I found out what had really happened.
I was the victim of my then six-year-old sister’s incomplete grasp of the laws of physics. She had been with me when I stepped into the sleeping bag before embarking upon that fateful walk. She thought it would be funny if she stepped on the sleeping bag behind me so that I would stop. In her six-year-old mind, I would simply stop walking.
And I did. The upper half of my body, however, still retained its forward momentum. Once my feet were tethered to the floor by my sister’s foot on the sleeping bag, my feet stopped moving, but my head did not and continued its forward motion. But now, instead of moving in a straight line, it traced an arc to the floor with my body as its radius.
And that’s when I executed a 10.0 face plant on the wooden floor which I am still amazed did not break my nose.
My sister, horrified that her plan had gone terribly awry, took advantage of the fact that I was momentarily blinded with pain, made a quick getaway to the basement and feigned ignorance. Really well, I might add. By the time I had recovered, I was none the wiser.
I’m not bitter, but I don’t think you’ll see me competing in a sack race any time soon.