I used to work nights and weekends at Eastern Mountain Sports. The additional job was mostly to save money so that I could pay my loans while I was in the Peace Corps, but it was also for the benefits. As an employee, I not only got discounts on sweet gear like ENO hammocks and solar panels, but I got free rentals of kayaks and stand-up paddle boards.
One Sunday I wasn’t scheduled to work so John and I strapped two SUP boards to the top of his Honda Accord. I asked a few of my co-workers where we should go. The Perkiomen Loop, a section of the Perkiomen River, was close by and not that long. It sounded easy enough.
The day was pretty hot, but since the route was only supposed to take an hour at max, we decided to leave our water in the car. We also left our phones since with my luck I would drop it in the river.
We began paddling, enjoying the time together and the quiet. But the paddling seemed to go on much longer than an hour. Then two hours. Something was not right
Should we pull over and hike back?!” I asked in a panic.
What I really wanted was some direction. I had a tendency to get myself (and others) in these situations, but never wanted to solve the problem. I wanted someone else to take control.
Off to the left there was a rustling in the bushes and then I saw something walking with that iconic Big Foot swagger. But it wasn’t a hairy mountain man, it was a woman chasing her young child. It was now or never.
“May we use your phone?” I yelled paddling over in her direction.
Perhaps my chapped lips or John’s already apparent sunburn gave it away that we were incompetent paddlers in need of help. She didn’t question us, but just handed over her iPhone.
I dialled the only number I had memorized, my sister’s. I could feel her smugly smirking as I quickly told her where we were and what happened. My family has come to learn this is just how I am.
“Okay. I’ll tell mom,” Jolene said.
I knew I could count on my mom. She always seemed to save me in these circumstances. Like the time I was in Amsterdam and my debit card got demagnetized. I had called asking for money to be wired, but it was a holiday she couldn’t do that. Instead I like to say I pulled a Ghandi and fasted, saving what little money I had for cultural experiences. My mom later wired money to London, where I was returning to do my summer internship. At least this time I was not that far away.
When my mom’s silver hundai pulled up, John had to carry the boards up the hill to the parking lot. Barefoot. He had left his flip flops back in the car too. Stepping on stones without complaint, he carried each heavy board up the embankment.
He drove off with my mom to fetch his car and then we silently loaded the boards to return them back to the store.
I like to say that in those moments John was getting a sample of what was to come, that he saw the sometimes half-thought-out adventure that was dating me and still went for it.