Lessons on The River of Life, Part 2
“Sometimes you eat the bar, sometimes the bar eats you.” – The Stranger, The Big Lebowski
“What could possibly go wrong?” – Idiots everywhere
I used to work with a girl who said that every time she tried to float the Boise River she would get caught in a thunderstorm. For some reason, she had bad river-floating karma. Sometimes I wonder what Leigh Ann and I ever did to the Boise River, because we seem to have some bad river-floating karma too. We had a good four years of floating without incident, but this year the bad luck returned to smite us out of our river-floating safety bubble. Maybe it’s because this year ends in 13, I don’t know.
To begin with, our raft was too small, owing to the fact that Leigh Ann’s husband foisted on her one that he had purchased to transport his mountain bike down the river whilst he floated in the comfortable, durable raft that is currently sitting in Leigh Ann’s carport, serving as a hobo spider hotel. She asked him to clean the spider webs off their good raft, but apparently he was too busy running back and forth Ingressing places like Fairfield and Parma for that sort of thing. (Why Leigh Ann wouldn’t clean it off is between she and her husband).
Both of us barely fit in the supposedly-2-person raft with Leigh Ann sitting on the bow and me squished uncomfortably in the raft (rather than sitting on the side or the back—I would have fallen off because it was too flimsy). The raft manufacturer’s idea of how large a “person” is is very off. Obviously they were thinking of Munchkins and not full sized-adult “persons.”
The trip started out okay: we saw a crane, a black swan* (it was amazing), ducks, dogs, a frighteningly muscular, super plastic-surgery-faced woman who probably paddled her giant inflatable 10-“person” raft from the beginning of the river to the end in under an hour, and a guy who looked like what Mickey Rourke would probably look like now had he not had all that plastic surgery. They balanced each other out in a way. Balance is important
Yes, balance is important, and it’s hard to balance a tiny raft over the larger rapids when you have one person sitting on the bow and another scrunched in the stern, no matter how much Leigh Ann tells you to “Arch your back!” as you go over the rapid.
The river likes to send floaters careening from one bank to the other, and I have many memories over the years of Leigh Ann screaming “Duck!” as we swooshed under overhanging branches while trying to get back to the middle of the river. Branches gave us trouble on Sunday, but not the overhanging kind that typically trap river floaters. Our issue was caused by someone who, out of some very misguided and misinformed good intentions (or not), took a saw to some of the branches along the river. Branches that were very innocently growing in the water, parallel to the surface with a few perpendicular upshoots, and would never have caused anyone any trouble.
But some idiotic jerk came along and sawed all the branches and their little upshoots off at water level, so when our little raft-that-was-meant-to-hold-a-mountain-bike-or-two-Munchkins was hurled over to the side by the river’s swift current, it caught on the jagged sawed-off branches and tore (because it was made from too flimsy of a material to hold up to any kind of stress).
“There’s a hole!” yelled Leigh Ann, handing me the paddle, “you’ll have to steer!” I am NOT good at steering. But Leigh Ann was busy trying to hold the hole closed, so I did my best to keep us from slamming into rocks and steered us between some logs that were laying in one of the shallower areas of the river. We looked for a place to get out, but there were no beaches anywhere, just rocks.
A rapid approached, and while I managed to steer us to the left of the huge rock jutting up from the middle of it, our deflating raft folded in half and flipped us out into one of the deepest stretches of the river. We were able to hang onto the raft and float along. I even managed to catch our bag of stuff this time! There were still no beaches anywhere, but it didn’t matter because we couldn’t have steered to one anyway. We tried to float on the surface of the water because we knew it was going to get shallow.
And boy did it ever! One minute we couldn’t touch bottom, the next our legs were being battered and scraped against rocks in water that was a foot deep. We approached the ominous FLOATERS KEEP RIGHT sign under the Park Center Bridge and we were far, far to the left. We got dragged across a barely-submerged concrete slab at the base of the bridge (the reason the KEEP RIGHT sign exists). I managed to stand up, but Leigh Ann couldn’t and plunged into a deep whirlpool on the other side. I walked to the edge to throw her the now-useless raft and fell into the whirlpool myself because I couldn’t tell where the concrete slab ended.
We were lucky that some 12-year-old boys were jumping off the bridge at that spot. One boy caught Leigh Ann’s bag and handed it to me as I managed to grab onto what was left of the raft, and then he showed us where we could get out, on the other side of the bridge pylon. I have never been so glad to see a 12-year-old boy. Incidentally, they were the only people who took notice of us and attempted to help us at all. Everyone else just kind of looked on in amusement. One of my crappy fake Crocs floated down the river and the boy said “Do you need your slipper?” and I said “Hell no.”
We managed to swim to the side, but it took us a few minutes to get out of the water because A) neither of us could catch our breath and B) the rocks on the shore were encased in spider webs. The only things we’d lost were Leigh Ann’s two Nalgene bottles and one of each of our shoes, and the raft (obviously), which was thrown down in disgust on top of the spider-webby rocks.
We stood on the bike trail, bleeding, and while Leigh Ann wanted to find someone with a phone, I convinced her to walk to where I’m housesitting, which is less than a mile from the Park Center Bridge. If we’d stood around the bike trail any longer I think it would have been a more traumatic experience because wasps were appearing out of thin air to investigate the blood on our legs. So we hobbled through a parking lot, Leigh Ann wearing one Haviana and one fake Croc, and me barefoot.
She kept insisting that I take my shoe but I assured her it would be easier walking for both of us if one had two shoes and one had two bare feet rather than each with one foot shod and one foot bare.
Amazingly, some guy had left his flip-flops on the ground next to his truck. I stole the fuck out of those flip-flops. We turned back to look at the floaters in the river and, noticing several people swimming in the deep part where we’d flipped over, tried to warn them that the water was going to get VERY shallow VERY abruptly. They of course ignored the two bedraggled bleeding women shouting at them from a parking lot. I imagine they all got a rather nasty surprise.
We very slowly made our way to Otto’s house, me in way-too-big flip-flops, Leigh Ann with one flip-flop and one fake Croc. It’s amazing that of the shoes that survived, there was one for each foot and not two rights or two lefts.
Walking through Municipal Park, we met a girl with a little hedgehog that squinched its eyes closed and curled up into a ball out of shyness. His name was Hamilton, and though we didn’t get to pet him or anything, Leigh Ann declared getting dumped in the river “worth it just for the hedgehog.” It was the cutest animal I’ve ever seen, no exaggeration.
On a less pleasant note, when we stopped by the park restroom, Leigh Ann discovered that one of the toilets was “Overflowing with shit. I mean, it was like shit on top of shit. Could you shit on top of someone else’s shit? Seriously, it’s a mountain of shit.”
When we got back to Otto’s house we each had a beer and called Leigh Ann’s husband to come pick us up (we had to wake him from his nap since he’d started Ingressing at 3:30 that morning), retrieved our cars and went to a sushi joint for some hot sake. For some reason I didn’t want anything to do with fish and had teriyaki beef instead of sushi. Fish still doesn’t sound good.
Leigh Ann said she was probably going to have nightmares about drowning, but for me the idea of drowning is preferable to the idea of being carried by a current and getting smashed against rocks or concrete, especially broken concrete, since for some reason I imagine all bodies of water having broken concrete just out of my vision, possibly with rebar poking out of it. Also old rusting cars with skeletons in them, which is a direct result of watching too many episodes of Unsolved Mysteries as a child.
*Looking back, I see now that the black swan was a bad omen.
Moral of this story: Ingress is the only thing worse than spiders.