As I walked into an Internet café in the middle of Idaho about an hour ago – and I use the word “café” lightly – I was asked by a fellow patron how I got there.
To the café, I assumed. How I ended up in Idaho would have been a much longer story and, quite frankly, none of his business.
I walked 3.5 miles to The Cocoa Grove, I told him, in the blistering mountain heat, where the sun was about four inches above my head, in clothes I had been wearing for two days.
I’m sorry, three.
That seemed to satisfy his curiosity regarding my odor, or, at the very least, to fend off his boredom long enough for the barista to pour his Fanta from a can.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned on this road trip with my husband, two sons and our dog, it is to only answer questions that have definitive answers. Rhetorical queries like, “Why is it so friggin’ hot?” “Why are you so lame?” or, “Do you think God just heard you cuss?” I’ve resolved to completely ignore. While I have nothing but time to kill on this vacation, I will not kill it wasting time.
I will, I told my new Fanta friend, spend my time camping in forests littered in bullet shells, surrounded by “BEWARE OF BEAR” signs with no cell reception. I will also walk around with pajama bottoms tied around my head and a spatula in my pocket to make pancakes for every meal around a mosquito-free fire.
And then, I continued, I will go crazy, steal my sons’ iPad and run 3.5 miles through an ozone layer of 102-degree fever to the closest, albeit ill-named, civilization I can find. I’m sorry, but there is no grove in sight.
“So, how did I get here?” I asked him. How did I go from a city girl raised in San Francisco to some escapee hillbilly, drinking Sanka on ice at a card table in the middle of nowhere, typing on a screen that has ‘Fat Fart’ permanently inscribed onto it, confiding in a total stranger with nothing better to do?
Two weeks ago, I lovingly piled my family into the car with promises of moonlight and trail mix. Today, I am a matriarchal failure who has left her family scratching their dirty heads, in the comfort of an air-conditioned car, no doubt looking for their iPad.
That’s the thing with trying to fit in, I went on to say.
As moms, we lie to other moms – “Sure, my Johnny eats all of his vegetables. Doesn’t your Billy?” We also lie to our kids – about tooth fairies and their terrible artwork. In general, this kind of fibbish banter is harmless, if not necessary, simply to get on with our days. It’s lying to ourselves that steers us into the bowels of The Cocoa Groves of the world.
The truth is, I told him, I hate camping. I hate driving. And as much as I accept my role in a family full of boys, I am not one. Lizards are a bore, skipping rocks never works, and no matter how many times I grill an Oscar Meyer weiner, I’ll never think it’s funny.
“So now what do I do?” I asked him. “Do I slither back like a snake in heat, and pretend that I just went to the bathroom behind a rock for a few hours?”
He just shrugged, told me to call them and left.
So I called them and asked them to pick me up. Now, as I sit here waiting, I marvel at the other differences between them and me.
No matter what the question, they always answer.