529: Sledding Discussion

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Sledding Discussion
If you get your hands on that one, it's the worst place to have a breaking-up conversation.
Title text: If you get your hands on that one, it's the worst place to have a breaking-up conversation.


Cueball and Megan have a perfectly normal sled ride down a perfectly normal hill (engaging in what's traditionally a children's pastime)[citation needed] while Cueball is complaining that he has grown too old for certain things – like learning another language fluently (but not for taking a sleigh ride – although he does not really seem to enjoy it). There is a hypothesis, called the critical period hypothesis, which states that you can only learn a language fluently before a certain age.

Cueball hates that options are closed to him and feels like he has given up a life that was once possible. The joke is that this reminds Megan about their anniversary coming up. This means that she feels that she has given up a life that was once possible by staying so long with Cueball. Actually this may be the time when they are going to break up.

The reader would thus have expected something ironic to happen at the end of the trip but instead, the only humor in the last frame arises from their commentary on the lack of humor.

Calvin and Hobbes is an acclaimed newspaper comic strip that ran from 1985 to 1995. Calvin is a six-year-old child with an active imagination, and Hobbes is his stuffed tiger whom Calvin perceives to be alive through his imagination. The two frequently had philosophical conversations, often while sledding. Calvin sledded on densely wooded hills near where he lived, and the ride would often serve as a perfect parallel to the conversation they were having; for example, in one strip, Calvin talks about how seemingly mundane decisions can nonetheless have lasting consequences, by pointing out how all the things they see as they continue down the hill (and eventually crash into a ravine) are a direct result of him having taken a particular fork early on. The depictions of sledding in the comics often gave the impression of being particularly dramatic and action-packed, far more than would be expected of such a ride in real life.

The title text notes that if you did have a Calvin and Hobbes toboggan, it would be the worst place to have a breaking-up conversation, perhaps because the sled itself would literally break up during the journey – with potentially dangerous consequences. This is also the clue to the fact that the comic is in fact about a break-up situation.

Calvin and Hobbes is also referenced in 409: Electric Skateboard (Double Comic).


[Megan looks out window through blinds.]
Megan: It's snowing!
Cueball: [from off-screen] Sled time!
[Megan and Cueball outside with sled, at the top of a hill.]
Cueball: It depresses me that I'm too old to learn another language fluently. My brain's solidified.
[Megan and Cueball sledding down the hill.]
Megan: Is there one you wish you knew?
Cueball: No, I just hate having options closed to me. Like I've given up a life that was once possible.
[At the bottom of the hill, sled has stopped.]
Megan: Yeah. Which reminds me - our anniversary is coming up.
Megan: Man, that ride failed to be a metaphor for our conversation.
Cueball: Guess this isn't the Calvin & Hobbes-model toboggan.

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I am convinced there is also a subtle reference to one of Calvin's gags, regarding a toboggan's "model year". I'm a little too lazy to delve back into an archives site and cite it though, so have fun looking for it! Anonymous 04:06, 4 December 2013 (UTC)

I believe that the initial conversation of the loss of language opportunity refers to a theory in Language Acquisition called Critical Period Hypothesis[1]. 23:47, 6 September 2014 (UTC)

If it wasn't for the titletext I would've thought Megan to be referring to the lost freedom of being a single. Only after that I understood the "failed metaphor" part.

Except it's not closed to you. Plenty of people learn languages later in life that they end up being completely fluent in. Benjaminikuta (talk) 03:50, 26 March 2016 (UTC)

pancakes or waffles? - Tell me what you think. -- Comment Police (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I think a section heading is unnecessary. And comments should be signed. 15:59, 1 February 2018 (UTC)

I found the model year strip the other Anonymous was commenting about: https://www.gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes/2014/01/03

Is the ride actually a failed metaphor? If you accept a very cynical view on relationships, the ride goes slowly downhill, eventually leveling out at the bottom and slowly coasting to a stop, leaving you disappointed and having expected it to be more exciting than it was. When it's over you e not really gone anywhere, and you are left with the feeling that there should have been more to it. I mean, yeah it's dark as sin, but that does seem to be the vibe.