On Sliding Boards

I recently visited an office building that had a sliding board in it. The sliding board, a 29-foot-long strip of white fiberglass that connects the third and fourth floors, is one of those architectural flourishes meant to signify the vivacity and effervescence of a brand. Of course, I wanted to slide down it. But first I had to read the Slide Rules, which basically state that you must use the stairs if you are pregnant, wearing high heels, or under the influence of alcohol. None of these conditions applied to me, so I climbed onto the slide, which is narrow and tubular enough to feel like a miniature Olympic luge course. After a little push, I was off, landing a few seconds later in the marketing department with a pleasant little adrenalin rush.

It’s been along time since I’ve been down a sliding board, and I had forgotten that titillating, vaguely queasy feeling you get in your stomach on the way down. I should have remembered it, though, because my four-and-half-year-old daughter is still very much into slides, calling the sensation caused by the descent a “tickle tummy.” Whenever we’re out in the car, I’m always on the lookout for little humps in the road that could produce the right conditions for the tickle-tummy effect. Country roads are best for this since they are often undulating, especially when the road fords a small stream by means of a little bridge. If I spot a promising hump from far enough away, I accelerate on the approach so we get the little lift-off at the top that generates the desired sensation. It’s a nice, though slightly uncomfortable feeling, a tingling premonition of impending excitement—or danger. As Dutch columnist Toon Verhoeven put it:

Better one butterfly in your stomach than ten in the air.