Bing. A text message from my boss, John Holyoke.
3:20 p.m., Feb. 7: “I just got face makeup.”
Huh? Bing. Another text.
“White and black.”
Oh, that makes more sense. John and I were dressing as grim reapers for the US National Toboggan Championships at the Camden Snow Bowl the next day. We had signed up for the Bangor Daily News toboggan team, The “Bangor Deadly Luge,” along with Brian Feulner, BDN visuals editor, and Anthony Ronzio, BDN Director of News and New Media.
So basically, I’d signed up to fly down a hill whilst clinging to multiple bosses. If that’s not awkward workplace bonding, I don’t know what is.
I was in charge of our uniforms: billowy black robes topped with oversized black hoods. I picked up a dress template from Joanne Fabrics and black fabric from Marden’s, then got to work. (I didn’t tell my bosses that they were technically wearing dresses, but I laughed a bit on the inside.)
Bing. Another text from John: “Do you have black lipstick?”
The next day, the BDN set up shop in Tobogganville, a cluster of tents and ice shacks located by the Camden Snow Bowl toboggan chute and extending onto the frozen Hosmer Pond. “The Bangor Deadly Luge” shared space with the equally frightful BDN team “The Walking Deadlines,” made up of four zombies: reporters Abigail Curtis, Seth Koenig and Kathleen Pierce, along with photographer Troy Bennett.
The competition was also a festival of sorts, including a costume parade, music by a steel drum band (and a tobogganer dressed as Elvis) and hot food and drinks by a variety of local vendors. We had plenty to do (and eat) while we waited for our chance to ride down the chute at 1 p.m.
Mostly, I walked around looking at costumes: ninja turtles, cowboys, divas, the crew from the “Wizard of Oz,” a team made up of lions, another made up of wolves. I even saw Willy Wonka walking with an oompa-loompa and a giant Wonka chocolate bar. It was like Halloween, except everyone was destined to ride on a narrow sled down a steep chute at 35-40 mph.
Our run lasted 9.47 seconds, and I don’t remember seeing anything. I sat in the front, with my feet tucked under where the sled curls up, the sled’s string in my mittened hands. John’s feet were in my lap. (If I decided to let go, he’d be in trouble.)
When they dropped us onto the chute, I laid back, so I guess I must have been staring at the sky, but honestly, I think I was to scared to actually process the blur of trees and spectators at the corners of my vision. I do remember holding John’s legs so tightly that I apologized after for possibly bruising his shins. I remember the toboggan shifting back and forth in the chute. It crashed into one side, then the other, making me feel like we’d tip over at any moment. I squeezed all my muscles, trying to remain upright. I held my breath, not making a sound.
We made it. With a thud, we left the chute and catapulted onto the pond. Slowly, we tipped to the right and wiped out in the snow. I heard my fellow teammates laughing, so I took a deep breath and joined in.