Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My Christmas Miracle

I'm pretty sure I almost died two nights ago.

No, seriously. I had my first car accident...and it was a good one.

I'm happy to say that I've never had a brush with death before. I've been uncomfortable, unhappy, and down right in pain, but nothing this close to being in real trouble.

Long story short, I hit some ice on Highway 101 and my car and I went careening across the road, hit a ditch, rolled once, and came to a rest on the driver's side in some trees about 20 feet off the side of the road.

When I hit the ice I remember thinking, "This may end badly."

God bless my Toyota 4Runner that gave it's life for me.

Once I stopped moving, I assessed myself using my now defunct EMT skills.

Neck moves? Check.
Legs move? Check.
Bleeding copiously? Nope.

After realizing that I was miraculously unscathed, I assessed the dog and realized that he, too, was miraculously unscathed - if not a little confused.

Then I sat there and took a little time to collect myself, all the while thinking of those cars in all the action flicks that immediately burst into spontaneous flame as soon as they get in an accident.

Luckily, that didn't happen.

I found the down jacket - as it was a balmy 25 degrees outside - and realized I was laying on my down sleeping bag in its stuff sack. The bag had been thrown in front of me when we rolled and, in addition to cushioning me from the cold, wet ground that was trying to come in at me through the missing driver's side window, it had effectively blocked any broken glass that might otherwise have found its way to my face.

Again, lucky.

Eventually, I leashed the dog and the two of us crawled out of the now non-existent sun roof.

The car was a mess.

The front end was destroyed. The top and the passenger side were crushed in and all the windows were gone.

I think that's when I started shaking.

As I said, I've never been in a car accident before myself. Working on the ambulance, though, I've pulled a lot of other people out of cars that looked like mine. They weren't usually feeling very well.

So in the long run, the fact that I now have to replace my favorite car in the universe that I was THIS CLOSE to having paid off, doesn't really matter.

What matters is the fact that two nice men who were on their way to the hospital took the time to stop and see if I was ok. They called 911 and then called my family when they got to town since there was no cell reception where I crashed. Their brother was in the truck with a broken arm and they stopped anyway.

What matters is the fact that my family came to get me, hugged me, and then made me laugh. They damned my luck and are helping me find a new car even though they have plenty of other things they could be doing with their time.

What matters is that I didn't get hurt and I can now spend my time finding things to play the Pollyanna glad game about. It's amazing how this experience has changed my view of things.

In the long run, it actually does come down to the fact that realizing what you can lose really can make you appreciate your life and what you have.

It's a hard way to be reminded, but I'm going to try to stay positive.

Maybe I'll get a new 4Runner for Christmas.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Real Life

"You must have the best job in the world!"

I hear it all the time. And, yes, I do.

But that doesn't mean that it doesn't have its down side.

Last week, my best friend, Holly, visited me. I've known her almost 10 years now. We met as seasonal interpreters in the Tetons - a time that almost seems like summer camp when I look back on it. It was a time when a group of us giddily bonded over cheap beer and the shared experience of doing stressful but rewarding work in one of the country's most beautiful places. You make friends fast in a place like that, and there were a lot of us that worked and played together every day.

When we first got to the Tetons, one of our supervisors warned us to not get too invested in people.

"They'll just leave eventually," she told us.

We scoffed at her. Called her callous and jaded.

But she was right.

Slowly, after one or two or three seasons, my friends stopped coming back. They'd move on to "real" life - a full time job with benefits or a significant other or a place where you could get groceries without having to drive for an hour.

Even Holly left...in search of a different adventure...and eventually a different park.

But I stayed. And I made new friends...who also eventually left. Some came back every once in a while to work another season or just to visit. But I became the one who was "still there". For nine years I watched people come and go.

Until I got tired of being the one left behind.

The Service supports the idea of moving on to move up, and eventually I found a new job. A new place. New responsibilities. A bigger paycheck. All held hope and the promise of something different. Something better. A "real" career. A "real" life.

But you need "real" people to have a "real" life, and in the Park Service, even though the place may change, some things remain the same. The summer camp still happens here in my new park. The seasonals still drink cheap beer and bond over the crazy things visitors say.

Now, though, I'm not part of the summer camp anymore. I'm running the summer camp. And every camp counselor knows that you don't get invested in the campers. You teach them and guide them and act like a proud mama when they do something well. But you don't get attached. They do, after all, leave.

I see now why my first supervisor said what she did. It's hard to watch people you love leave. Even if you know leaving is what's best for them. Whether you've known them for 3 months or 3 years, if you really love them, a little piece of you goes with them. And there's only so many of those pieces you can afford to give out before you start feeling a little empty inside.

Most of the good friends I still have in my life are left over from those summer camp days. We're all in different places now. Different parks. The people who left for "real" life are hard to keep track of...they're too busy doing real life things, I guess..... but those of us who cling to the park life try our hardest to keep in touch. We visit when we can. We call. We send little packages to each other. We love and support each other. But we know it will never be quite the same. We probably won't ever be in the same place again. For us, summer camp is over.

So I have to laugh sometimes when people say, "You are so lucky to have this job!"

Yes, I am. I really am.

But sometimes, especially around the holidays when what I would like most is to have all my friends together in one place, I wonder what it would be like to have a "real" life.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Hmmm....What Do I Want?

I consider myself a fairly organized person. I'm a planner. I try to think ahead. But there are just some things that I am not good at.

Leaving the house in the morning is one. It usually takes me at least 4 tries to get out of the house with everything I need for the day. Lunch, keys, coffee, jacket....whatever. I can never get it all the first time.

I am also really bad when it comes to places that have a lot of things for me to choose from. Libraries are notoriously bad. CD and movies stores are bad, too. They all baffle me. I know that there are books and songs and movies that I really want, but the minute I step inside one of those places, I can't for the life of me remember what I want. Oh, I try to make lists, but those, too, seem to disappear. And if I'm lucky enough to have one of my lists at the right time, it usually ends up being useless because I'm not in the mood for whatever is on the list at that time.

It's amazing I have food in my house as I usually have the same problem at the grocery store.

So, with this obvious deficiency, I have no idea why I thought online dating would be a good idea.

Online dating, in theory, sounds like a plausible way to solve the problem of finding someone to spend time with. There are, however, some serious flaws.

First, if there are no available members of the opposite sex in your community to begin with, going online will not magically make them appear. Going online will only tell you exactly how far away they are from you and how unobtainable they are unless you own your own leer jet.

Second, if you do not own your own computer, you are screwed. There is nothing more humiliating than sitting in the back room at the local library with 12 pre-teens talking about Joe and Susie hooking up while trying to think of some witty username like "I'm4uinForks" designed to make people way too far away (see the previous flaw) give your profile even a cursory glance.

And don't even get me started on the profile....

When you decide to become a member of an online dating society the first thing you are asked to do is describe yourself and state why people should "pick you".

Now, if I knew unequivocably what would make people "pick me", I wouldn't be on the stupid online dating site in the first place.

Then comes the part when my mental deficiency starts to play it's part. After describing yourself, you are asked to describe what kind of person you are looking for.

Hmmm.....I can't figure out what kind of burrito I'm looking for in the frozen food aisle and I'm supposed to be able to state eloquently and provocatively what kind of man I'm looking for?!?


With this dilemma I think the most I can hope for is someone who can read and isn't a felon.

But I've learned a few things from this fiasco.

I've learned that just because you can write something on a list doesn't mean you can find it...or that you'll want it even if you do find it.

And I've learned that wandering the aisles isn't really that bad a way to find something. After all, it's the stand-outs that catch your eye while you're wandering. You may find something you didn't know you were even looking for.

So, happily, my membership with findafellowfreakshow.com expires at the end of the month and I'll soon turn my energies to bigger and better things.

Maybe I'll finally find that library book I was looking for....