Remember those days, sitting on an inner tube, floating down a river or at the lake when you were young? The inner tube was one of the earliest forms of entertainment while on the water. We had inner tubes from cars, trucks and even a tractor once. That’s what I was thinking after I saw an old station wagon driving down the highway with a large inner tube in the back.
You don’t see them anymore, replaced by all kinds of new space age materials. There’s no dangerous valve sticking out ready to impale or black rubber that heated up to incredible temperatures leaving black marks up and down your body. Sometimes, the thing would blow up in spectacular style when left in the sun for too long. That’s how we lost the tractor tire.
There were never enough tubes to go around when we were kids so there was always a battle for it, on and off the water. Flipping people over, pulling them through the hole or spinning them until so dizzy they just wanted off. There were no rules or lifejackets. The adults no better than the kids and often worse. Getting cut by that gigantic valve was inevitable and expected, nobody seemed to care back then.
So it was quite a surprise to come home one day, many years ago, to find my father in the pool playing with an inner tube from a wheelbarrow. What possible fun could you have with it? We don’t know where he got it from, he was always coming home with floaty things.
Once all the kids were gathered round, he placed the tube on his head, like a crown and dove into the pool. The laws of floaty things dictated that he’d pop back up and that’s exactly what happened. Apparently he had been doing this all afternoon and was an expert. We loved it and wanted a turn.
He gave us one last demonstration. This time when he came back up, the tube was tightly wrapped around his neck, the valve sticking into his skin somewhere around the jugular. We laughed so hard we couldn’t hear his cries for help… at first.
We had many suggestions on how to get him out of his predicament, the favourite being to pop it. He didn’t like that idea. We ended up soaping his head, liberally, with dish soap. We all tugged and tugged while he held the valve away from any arteries. After a few minutes the tube popped off, his entire face was streaked with black rubber.
Our mom wasn’t home yet so we all had time to try the stunt, hoping, just a little, that the tube would end up around someone’s neck… it never did.