The clock sounds its insipid chimes. Ten o’clock in the morning. I had planned to leave by now. Alas. My dog sits patiently by the door. He knows we’re going somewhere, or at least, that’s what he assumed. After all, I’ve been moving about all morning, gathering clothes and packing a bag, filling water containers, preparing food and locating various sundries. The sleeping mat was out in the shed, the tent was in my sister’s car. He pants with excitement, giving me his goofy, though endearing, puppy smile.
“Come on, man! Let’s go!” It’s a little shameful, but I have anthropomorphized him to the extent of giving him a specific voice- it’s airy and nonaggressive, endearing in an nonintrusive sort of way. It’s this voice with which we “converse”. So really, I’m just talking to myself.
“I know, I know,” I say to him/myself. “We’ll go, we’ll go.”
Unfortunately, saying the word “go” only makes it worse. This is a word that my dog actually does understand. Each time I say it, he bounds happily toward me, whining softly as though to spur me on.
“I know, I know,” I say.
All of our things are arranged carefully in the back of my vehicle. The cooler filled with food, the tent that weighs as much as a small child, the cache of books I plan to devour over the next thirty-two hours. Everything, it would seem, is ready for us to go.
Everything except for our destination, that is.
I had intended to go to Aspen today. The plan was to camp near the Maroon Bells tonight and to hike them tomorrow. I’ve been talking about this trip for weeks and each time I say the words “Maroon Bells”, my mind responds a little like my dog does to the word, “Go”. It bounds happily about my skull, whining softly to spur me on.
Unfortunately, I have left it sitting patiently by the door.
I’ve done this to myself before and I will, more than likely, do it again. I don’t plan. Or, I plan, but I don’t plan the way that other people do. My “planning” consists solely of daydreams and detailed scenes of what I will do and what it will look like when I get there. In my mind, I saw myself sitting outside my erected tent, fully worn out from the 5 mile hike my dog and I just finished, sprawling back in a camp chair and reading The Grapes of Wrath as the sun cascades over the meadow and a slight breeze whistles in my ear.
This daydreaming never considers that other people might indeed be envisioning similar scenes. This daydreaming never considers that perhaps the campgrounds have a finite number of sites to use and that indeed, people more logistically minded than myself will have planned the specific dates they plan to visit, for how long they intend to stay and indeed, which campground they will stay in.
It should go without saying that I did none of these things.
After all, why would I? Why would I set dates to go somewhere? Why not just, you know, go? Why not decide the day of and hop in the car and sail up to Aspen. Certainly the campground will have a place for the likes of me, won’t they?
No, as it turns out. They won’t.
“I’m sorry, sir,” the turtle of a woman says on the telephone as I call her. “There are no spaces available this evening.”
My experience has taught me that I can get my way when I want to. Ratchet up the charm a bit, tell the right joke, use the right tone of voice and indeed, most anything can be accomplished. My honed intuition tells me that this woman is bored. Perhaps if I lighten her day, she’ll get me what I want.
“Are you sure, ma’am?” I put an emphasis on the “ma’am” and a lilt to the sentence. She can hear my smile from four-hundred miles away. “I assure you, I’m a skinny guy and take up not more than the width of a finger. You’ll barely even notice I’m there. There’s an awful lot of forest, isn’t there?”
A lot of forest, yes. A lot of campsites, no. She hangs up the phone.
No matter, my brain says to itself. I’ll figure out another way. I call other campgrounds. Some have availability, but not for a dog. Some only have a day available. Some are forty miles away from Maroon Bells and laugh when I tell them my plans.
“You realize that the road to the trailhead is only in operation from 7-9 in the morning and 5-7 in the evening, right?” they say over the telephone, most certainly as a coworker laughs at them as they make fun of my plight and plan.
I tell them that I am aware.
“Brother, you’re barking up the wrong tree,” a man says. “That’s out-right stu-pidity. Do you realize what time you’ll have to get up to make it there in time?”
Others are kinder, if a little more grating.
“Oh, sweetheart,” a woman says. “You’re just an absolute dear to think that you can pull that off. Oh, sweet thing,” she coos. “Oh, baby doll, you’re just an absolute pumpkin pie.”
I lied. Some are a lot more grating than others.
I get in the shower- partially to wash the “sweet thing” and “pumpkin pie” off of myself, and partially to clear my head a bit. The only promising option for me to make the trip is to drive up and try for one of seven “first come, first served” site. There’s a chance, but, as the Forest Service categorizes this particular campground’s usage as “heavy”, the chance is slim. Somewhere between washing my hair and brushing my teeth, I give up on Maroon Bells. Instead, I’ll go to Telluride. Shorter drive, easier availability and- what the hell- I’ve been meaning to go anyway. Why not now?
This is how my trips usually go. For an organized and moderately detail-oriented person, the wings on my pants certainly get a workout.
The clock sounds again. Twelve o’clock. I hear a screeching of tires and look out the window. The FedEx truck steamrolls up my driveway and the driver leaps out of the truck before it has come to a full stop. He knocks. When I open the door, he throws a package at my sternum and puts what looks like a phaser in my face.
“Signhereplease.” He sounds as though he is actively attempting to swallow his tongue. I take the pen and sign my name. He stares for a moment at my scribble, shrugs and leaves. I pick up the palm-sized box from the ground. It’s from Apple. It’s my iPhone back from the repair center a full week before I expected it.
Another screech. Another knock. Another package thrown at my sternum. I’m sure I’ll have a bruise.
They’ve sent me a new SIM card. After Googling how to install such a thing, I perform the surgery and then connect the phone to my computer to restore the device. It dawns on my that my stomach is eating itself. I’ve had too much coffee and too little food. The room spins slightly to the left. A turkey sandwich is made and consumed as the phone and iTunes slowly sync. I recheck my packing. I add ice to the cooler. The dog is now sleeping by the front door. The room has righted itself. More coffee is made.
There is a pulse from the phone. The sync is complete. It’s now safe to disconnect the device.
My phone has only been gone for a few days and yet, it feels like a phantom limb in my hand. I am disgusted with how unable I have been to get along without it- indeed, just how dependent I have become on this stupid piece of technology. I fight back my gag reflex as I realize that none of the apps have gone back onto the phone. Now, I am angry and that, dear friend, is where I find myself now.
I’m not angry with Apple (well, maybe a little bit- they didn’t replace the phone, nor did they even acknowledge that the problems I am having are real), I’m not angry with the app store or my iPhone or the tent or the dog or how fuzzy my head feels (again). No, I am angry with myself. Upset because I still have not learned this lesson- not everything can be improvised. Not everything can be fixed by strength of personality. Sometimes, people cannot neither be convinced nor coerced to do what you want them to do- regardless of how nicely you say “ma’am” or “sir”.
So, here I am at one o’clock in the afternoon- partially defeated and still waiting on iTunes. My car is still packed and the dog is still by the door, but the wings of my pants are tired and drooping. Perhaps it’s time for a different way of doing things.
But perhaps not. After all, I have a lot of personality.