I’m not a happy camper. I’m not even a good sport. I’m at the high end of high-maintenance. Others accept the rigors of travel and inconveniences of life with a stiff upper lip. Not me. I hate discomfort and place no value in stoicism. Once I was with some hikers cast onto an island with a seriously out-of-scale map. We ate our picnic at the first bend in the road, thinking that around the next bend we would find the boat waiting to take us back to the mainland. Four hours later we met a group coming from the other direction and, comparing notes, discovered to our mutual horror, that we had all traveled about the same distance. The sun was getting low in the sky when we finally arrived at the pier. Other groups had somehow found the energy to finish not only our trail but several others as well. I hate them.
I wish I could say that I stayed positive and optimistic for my fellow travelers that afternoon. I wanted water. I wanted more lunch. I wanted different shoes. I wanted to call a taxi. And I would have, had there been cell service on the island. Or taxis. My companions put more and more distance between us. I forgive them because they carried the empty picnic hamper.
I could give you other examples. One that springs to mind was a recent flight into Austin the night of the big storm. You know the storm I mean. It brought Lester Holt and NBC News to the shores of the Blanco River and caused classmates I hadn’t heard from in 40 years to call to see if I was all right. No, I wasn’t all right. I nearly died in a plane crash. I was the only one on the plane who realized the danger we were in and had the sense to scream about it.
I don’t know how people learn the skill of being a non-complainer, silent about their fears and non-complaining about their discomforts. I inherited complaining on my maternal side. My mother spent her later years minutely calibrating her comfort. I’m on track to be just like her. Near to hand: tissues, floss, lip gloss, nail file, paper and pencil, passwords, gum, iced tea, a candy or two. I can’t go on vacation without serious packing. No spur of the moment, devil-may-care adventuring for me.
After my neighbor discovered a rattlesnake in her entryway, I look under my patio chair before sitting down. I hate and dread ringing phones, doorbells, and going to the mailbox. I’m sure there will be a letter from the IRS.
You wouldn’t think, to look at me, that I carry more than my share of fear and dread. I appear to have a sunny disposition, to be someone who welcomes novelty, invitations. New acquaintances take me at face value and are surprised when I don’t want to go hear live music. They shake their heads in disbelief when they learn that I don’t like driving after dark, or riding with a driver who has consumed more than a glass of wine. And why won’t I dip my body in a pool full of other people’s germs? Or watch any kind of sporting event you can name?
I know I should be embarrassed about myself, that I should strive to get over my distrust of small children and dogs. I should not love to such a degree my new leather lounge chair with the motor mechanism. I’ll be sorry someday that I’m not out ruining my knees pounding the jogging trail, not at the fitness center right this minute doing weight-bearing exercises. Truly, sometimes I feel like the last sane person on earth.