[This is the third post in a series. For a little background on the thinking behind this, please read this.]
I have a friend who I have known my whole life. He’s not a best friend, but he is very distinctive. He’s big, and loud, and funny, and smart, and clever. While he now has a wife and kids and a house, he spent quite a while living a less tied-down life. As a young man, he had the inclination and the means to travel a lot, to try a lot of new things, to date extensively, and accumulate a lot of stories.
Years ago, he told me a wonderful story. We had gotten on the topic on bungee jumping, and I observed that I would skydive before I bungee jumped. If something were to go wrong, I think there’s some honor in a skydiving accident that is completely absent from any sort of bungee-related death. My pal then told me how he had almost bungee jumped, and why he decided against it. He’d been in Australia with one of his various glamorous girlfriends, and she had talked him into bungee jumping off some crazy bridge. So they paid their money, and stood in line while other tourists took their turns before them. As they got closer, the line forked, and the two of them queued in separate lines so that they could jump together at the same time. As my friend was being rigged up, the man in front of him took his turn, and plunged into space. Out and down he plummeted, until the slack came out of the line and it began to stretch. When he reached the bottom of the bounce, everyone on the bridge heard this plaintive yip from down below. The man bounced upwards and then back down, and again when he reached the bottom of the cycle a clear yelp came up from the gorge below. This was repeated more than a dozen times with increasing rapidity as his cycles of rising and falling shortened. Finally, the man was released from the harness, and it was clear it had been rigged wrong, with far too much force being transferred to his crotch. Immediately there was a very prominent and painful swelling from the trauma he had endured to his privates. My friend unbuckled the harness he was wearing, and walked away from the ledge. A worker told him there was no refund, and my friend said he didn’t need the fee as much as he needed not to endure the same agonies suffered by the poor fellow before him.
When I heard this story the first time, it sounded outlandish, but with more colorful language and a drink or two, I bought it. So much so I have retold it from time to time over the years when the topic of bungee jumping comes up, as I find the idea of the poor guy exclaiming with each bounce to be a pretty vivid image.
Last year, I was lifting a pint or two with some friends, and the teller of this story showed up and joined us. We chatted for a long time about all sorts of things, and then for some reason the topic of extreme sports triggered this story, and I mentioned it to him. He looked at me blankly, and said he had not idea what I was recalling. I explained in more detail, and still no lightbulb flicked on over my friend’s head. I gave up, as you cannot make someone recall something.
• • • • • • •
Since then I have been forced to ponder a series of related questions: did I in fact ever hear this story from this friend, or did I misremember the source? if I did hear the story from this friend, was he lying when he told it, or retelling someone else’s true story? I cannot believe it actually happened and he forgot it, so the choices are either another source or some sort of forgotten fabrication. Either way, while the story’s humor is still true, it lacks the zing of a real story with an attributable source.
In the past year, I have had two or three occasions when I would have cheerfully trotted this old story out, and I resisted the temptation, as I now cannot figure out how the tale came to be in my memory. I guess I should simply stop thinking of it as a story, and reclassify it as a joke, and tell it under that ægis. Still, the history major in me is not comfortable with that. I like attribution and footnotes and verification, and now that the story lacks its original truthiness, it no longer satisfies the way it used to.
I am trying hard with this modest little series of stories here on my modest little blog to stick to real stories for which I can vouch. They may not be as funny as some of the various stories I could relay or conjure, but I think they gain from their tested provenance, and I think you, dear reader, will enjoy them more if you know they are truthful retellings.