Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Idiot and the Jackass: A Valentine's Tale

It occurs to me that I never told you all about Joel's and my first date. Back then, I was all shaky-shaky-baby-steps about getting back out there post Heartbreak, so I just threw something generic out there about My Casual New Friend at the end of an entry about Internet dating mismatches. And I *will* write about it, maybe tomorrow.

For now, I want to tell you about one particular moment when I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with Joel. We were in Yosemite. We went over Joel's Easter break from school, which is ideal because the melting snow makes the waterfalls run fast and furious in April. We decided to do an easy hike to Mirror Lake, which supposedly reflects Half Dome. We had all of our camera gear, and when we got to the lake, it was full of sediment and not at all reflective. We were both disappointed, but I was really whiny about it. I didn't want to take the trail all the way around the stupid, uncooperative lake, so we decide to trudge through the water- We are smart! Or not. It was cold as fuck and deeper than it looked. Joel kept going, but I decided to get to the other side by climbing over some slippery, slippery rocks. He told me not to do it, but I can be incredibly stubborn when I'm blatantly wrong.

Now, I've noticed a little phenomenon when I'm covering spot news that I like to call "the idiot and the jackass" syndrome. A lot of times someone will do something incredibly stupid, like climb down a manhole into a sewer without taking a methane reading first. That person is the idiot. The tragedy is often compounded when a heroic passerby or friend decides to try to jump down into the sewer to save the idiot and ends up dying as well. That guy is the jackass.

So there I am trying to cross the slippery rocks in a lake turned rapids in icy cold water. Joel is trying to tell me what to do, and I keep shouting, "I need to think! I just need to THINK!" Of course I fall in, and I'm wearing 40 pounds of camera gear on my back, a wool sweater, jeans and heavy hiking boots. I manage to catch a dead tree trunk and climb back onto the rocks and out of the rapids of doom. (I am the idiot here, by the way).

A small crowd has formed, watching this little drama unfold. I seriously consider announcing to the crowd at large that I am about to start stripping off layers of clothes so I won't be weighed down if I end up back in the rapids. There are a lot of little kids watching, and I'm worried about a less than PG13 rating once I lose the fleece.

Joel gets a long stick, which I make him use to catch the camera backpack by the straps because of COURSE I am far more worried about my gear than I am about dying. (Lowerpro's Stealth backpack, by the way? A++ Gear was bone dry after complete submersion)

A kind woman runs and finds a thick, sturdy tree trunk. She and Joel lay it across the rapids. Now I have to shimmy/shuffle my soaked, humiliated ass across the rapids on this big stick. I had about 3 feet left when Joel climbs out on the rocks, reaches for me, and says completely calmly, "I will not let you fall." I was overwhelmed at moment by a deep sense of calm. I knew, at the moment, that I would be fine, that he would get me through this, and I wanted to spend my life with him.

My hero, right?

Here's the thing. JOEL. CAN'T. SWIM. If we both fell back into the water, this story would very likely not have a happy ending. Then it totally hits me: "Oh my God. I am the idiot, and he is the jackass." We are SO the morons that people tell cautionary tales about. We are the reason National Parks post signs with stick figures falling off rocks.

We made it to the other side safely, and I made him swear never to tell anyone what happened because it was so embarrassing, a pact that last less than three days for both of us. I never blogged about it, though. So here you are. Happy Valentine's Day!

1 comment:

cindy w said...

Oh my lord, this made me laugh like you have no idea. Whenever you guys decide to have kids (years from now, I know - no pressure!), please make them take swimming lessons, ok? It seems like there's a reasonable chance of them inheriting this klutz gene that you two both have, so better to be safe.