Step back, Karen


We know (we KNOW) that I am a picky traveller. We know that I have my routine, and I like to follow that routine. We know that I like people to follow the rules when travelling, stay in their lanes, stay in line, don't cut in line, wait their turn, keep their distance, and, good lord walk the extra two feet to walk behind me instead of cutting across the line in front of me. Just two more feet and you can walk in the GIANT SPACE BEHIND ME.

Besides that, you know what? During a pandemic, keeping one's distance is ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT.

Yeah, so, my routine at this airport is to arrive close to the C gates, head to the Starbucks, pick up a travelling drink and sandwich, then head off to my gate. The pandemic thwarts that plan a bit, in that I need to find a place to eat that is away from others, and that I want and need to keep a larger distance.

Which means, of course, every person and their brother will walk in front of me instead of behind me to cross the line. I counted this time. Zero people crossed the line in front of the guy in front of me, no one walked behind me, and everyone who crossed the line cut in front of me, even when the shortest distance was behind me. To stop the crossing, I would have needed to move closer to the people in front of me.

To my incredible frustration, my moving one step forward meant that the woman behind me would move two steps forward, closer to me each time.

Yes, Karen, you should stop moving closer to me.

I mean, aside from the dicknosing that she's doing, if she thinks the 24" distance she's standing is the 72" recommended distance between people, it's no wonder her husband thinks he has a 12" dick. [Narrator: "It's four inches."]

I had checked my bags for this flight, as I have road trip clothes and mountaineering clothes, along with the road trip food and camping items. Those were all heading to the plane's underside. With me, I had my work laptop and personal laptop and other electronics that I normally carry when I'm working remotely for months. Yes, I had two bags with me, just not the ones that I would roll on the ground, not ones I wanted even to touch the ground.

But needs must.

Glaring didn't stop the woman from creeping up on me. The bag would have to do.

Did I mention (yes, yes, I did) I like my personal space?


The flight wasn't much better, but at least my expectations were set: middle seats are open, expect to sit near someone either across the aisle or at the window seat.

The plan is arrive, gather my baggage, Lyft to the Oliphants, lunch with Claire and Matthew, hop in my car, gas up, drive to Seattle, pick up my rental gear, pick up my REI order, drive to Sedro Wooley, check into the hotel and sleep.

And I'm off


Mom has come out to say good-bye to me as I head off.

She isn't as goofy in this picture as I subsequently convinced her to be.

Say, did I tell you about my adventures three days before the first day of high school at a new school in a new state? I can't find that tale anywhere here, so ... just before high school, I moved from Indiana where I lived with my dad, to Arizona, where I lived with my mom. Three days before the school year starts, at a new high school for me, BJ and I are at Golfland, a water park that was still trying to figure itself out during the summer we had arrived in the state. They had slides that looped around, and two that went, well, not QUITE straight down, but not really not straight down.

These days, park goers go down the slide feet first. With enough swinging on the handholds at the top, you can swing out to some good momentum and lift off the slide on your way down. Most people are able to land gently feet first, as they have experience doing exactly that for most of their lives, landing on their feet.

That summer, however, when we were there, patrons were instructed to go down headfirst, arms straight out in front of them stiffly, don't get too much momentum, absorb the shock with your hands, but don't bend your arms.

BJ went down first. Once he had cleared the bottom of the slide, I went.

Yes, I lifted off the slide.

At 90 pounds soaking wet, lifting off the slide doesn't take much momentum.

So, at the bottom of the slide, I kept my arms straight, landed, washed out to the pool at the bottom of the slide, and looked around for B, who was already out of the pool and on his way to the line for another drop. I followed him out of the pool and started up the line behind him. On the way, my chin itched, so I wiped at it, and kept going. A red spot caught my eye so I looked down.

To see blood all down my white bathing suit.

I felt my chin, looked at my hand, it was bloody, too. B looked over at me and, oh, I hadn't kept my arms straight, I had landed on my chin. Blood wasn't exactly pouring out my face, but it wasn't exactly not flowing quickly. We went back to the lockers, called Mom to pick us up.

After Mom picked us up and dropped off B, she and I went to the emergency room for stitches on my chin. Just before me in line at the emergency room was a three year old who had been paying catch with his dad and fell, landing on his chin. He, too, needed stitches, similar to me. I was fine for the most part, until the kid started screaming in the back. My chin was still numb when I went to the back for stitches, but was nervous nonetheless.

Come Monday morning, first day of school, I had the choice of wearing a band-aid on my chin or having the stitches hang out my chin. I chose the former the first day, the latter the second day, and cut them out before the third day.

I still have the scar.

And, well, here's the place.

They're open. During a pandemic.


The Night Before


The day before a long trip, and I am okay. I've planned enough that everything is packed, separated into the climbing portion of the trip, and the road-tripping portion of the trip. I have a lot of stuff to be carrying, but most of it I'll be dragging. I am going to check luggage for the first time in I don't know how long.

This is okay.

My usual MO is of awake until 4am the morning of a trip, failing to sleep the night before, with anxieties and just-one-more things to do aren't happening tonight. I'm ready. I have a plan. If it doesn't work, I'll adapt. This is a data gathering trip, so there is zero chance of any failure. What's good? What's bad? Who knows? That's the beauty!

Tomorrow, I'm going to be flying, visiting friends, driving for hours, picking up gear, driving more, sleeping. The day after that, I'm going to climb a mountain.

I'm doing to try mountaineering for the first time. First step towards Vinson.

Couldn't Have Waited Until Tomorrow, Eh?


Okay, I have this incredible 1970s tile throughout most of my house. It looks likes this:

Now, with that tile and tile pattern spread out throughout an entire house, you would think that you wouldn't be able to tell if, say, there were a cockroach ANYWHERE on that title. There are varyingly sized splotches of brown here and there and in that other place, too. There are splotches of brown in the hallway and the dining area, in the bathroom and the kitchen, at the front door and the back door and the OTHER door. This tile is everywhere in this house and so are all those irregular brown splotches.

So, imagine my surprise at the discovery that I have EVERY BROWN SPLOTCH IN THIS HOUSE MEMORIZED.

Yes, every one.

Why, just this evening, as I was walking down the hallway to finish packing for my upcoming trip, I spotted a new spot. "Huh. That's new," I thought. "What is this?" I wondered, as I approached the bedroom door.


Yes, cockroaches and scorpions, every desert house has them. There was zero reason to even consider that my house would not also have these, but come on! It couldn't fucking wait until tomorrow, when I would be gone and it could have the whole house ALL TO ITSELF? GAH, roach, what were you thinking?

In true "you can't explain a phobia" fashion, I squawked. This time, however, it was in anger. Instead of my historic call-Eric-to-save-me solution, I stomped back to the kitchen for the broom. "I don't want to deal with this," was the stomping thought. I briefly considered the vacuum cleaner to suck up the roach off the floor, but dismissed the idea after realizing I would have to later dump the roach from the vacuum canister, and argh why do twice what you can do once? The broom it was, along with some vague plan of sweeping the roach from the edge of the door jamb, into the hallway, then no doubt screaming like a banshee as I chased it all over the house with the broom cocked over my shoulder in the perfect kill shot stage position.

When I returned with the broom, however, the roach had graciously moved to the center of the hall, no doubt to taunt me.


Okay then.

I deftly rotated that broom 90˚, double gripped the handle, swung the top of the broom from somewhere left of the moon, and brought the glory of some god down upon the monstrosity.

As Kris would say, "He don't feel so good."

I am grateful to Mom for showing me that, yes, you can kill a cockroach with a sufficiently strong enough blow. You can also stomp on them if needed. The things I learn as an adult, I swear.

The hard part was, of course, gathering the roach corpse without shivering all over. I managed, with copious long-distance broom and dustpan holding, and a quick dash, but not so quick that the roach flies back into my face, outside and TOSS into the yard with the shell of the horror husk.

One more day, roach, you could have stayed hidden for one more day. Instead, off you go.

So Many Snowflakes


I went to the DMV for my license today. Actually, I went to the DMV for the documentation I would need to register to vote in a minor attempt to turn a red-state-turning-purple blue, the license was a bonus.

Now, to be able to actually pick up that license, I had to make an appointment. To make that appointment, I had to call the DMV appointment line every 30 minutes or so for three days. Eventually I reached a person, who was lovely and booked me this appointment. After the appointment was booked, I gathered all the documentation the appointment required: previous driver's license, proof of residency, utility bills, and the like. I had the extra stuff for the Real ID, but no absolute need for the id. I was set.

I arrived at the DMV, puzzled over which door was the entrance, was accosted by an independent campaign worker, found the entrance and went in behind another DMV visitor. The lines for the first roadblock were ... interesting. In the time of Covid19, please stand 6' apart, and yet, the line snaked back upon itself. The spots on the floor "stand here!" were six feet behind the spot in front and behind it, but less than two feet away from the spots to the side. I suspect the person who laid the spots didn't really think in more than one dimension.

I waited for maybe five minutes as the line moved forward, until I was second in line. The person in front of me let the DMV gatekeeper that he did not have an appointment. The gatekeeper said, nope, you need an appointment. The person said, well, he had called and the lady said he could come down without an appointment. The gatekeeper said, nope, you need an appointment. The person in front of me started near-begging, just let him in. The gatekeeper said, nope, you need an appointment. I watched this play out, wondering why, given all the notices about how appointments are required, this guy thought he'd be special and allowed in without one. He was turned away.

I let the gatekeeper know that I had an appointment, but was 10 minutes early. No problem, step forward, have your picture taken, and continue to the first line on the left.

In true DMV fashion, hooboy, is my picture bad.

I approached the DMV clerk with the proper attitude, as told to me by John Schmidt decades ago: treat them as if they were your best friend, uncle, grandfather, the person who wants most to help you in all of this world, smile and be kind. I have no idea if the woman was having a good day, but I didn't make it any worse.

Now, the woman handling the license next to me, she was having a bad day. The two women in the next line, thankfully six feet away, from me were practically badgering the clerk. No, I don't have that form, do I really need it? Why do I need it? How can I get my license without it. Can i bring it later? You sure I need it? What else can I get instead? All while leaning into the clerk and each other.

I had all the documentation needed, which made my appointment less than fifteen minutes from gatekeeper to "you are registered to vote, have a nice day." I have no idea how long the two hovering women took.

As I was leaving the DMV, a large man followed me out. He was loudly muttering, "Typical government bullshit" as he huffed away, clearly dissatisfied with his DMV visit.

Which started me thinking. My appointment was easy, I made the appointment, I had my documentation, I lowered my expectations, I helped the people helping me. Contrast my experience with these three other experiences: couldn't get in, didn't have required documentation (likely necessitating another visit), and who knows what the last guy experienced. I travelled the well-defined path. The other three were snowflakes. They expected the rules to change or be ignored because, well, for some reason, who knows, because they are who they are? I don't know.

What I do know is that I suddenly had empathy for those DMV clerks and gatekeepers: they need to deal with hundreds of thousands of people a year, most of who need or want special treatment, rather than following the rules. While some rules are arbitrary and an expression of power, many of the processes in place are there so that the department can process hundreds of thousands of people a year. That's a lot of people.

That's a lot of snowflakes.

Hello, Sheepie

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