Monday, December 04, 2006

A Querulous Old Crone

Yesterday, we were supposed to go on a bracing and salutary winter hike in the Columbia River Gorge with a bunch of friends, to be followed by beer and pizza (two of my favorite things) at the Walking Man brewpub in Stevenson, Washington (where the fabulous seasonal brew, Ho, Ho, Homo Erectus Double IPA, is on tap).

The temperature was stalled out right about at freezing and winds were kicking up to about 30 mph. B and I weren’t daunted. Nope. Not us. We layered up and headed over to our friends’ house, only to discover that the group consisted only of us, the two friends who organized the outing, and one other guy and his three-year-old son. Evidently, the guy who brought his son hadn’t quite gotten the message on the afternoon’s plans. He only heard the part about a pub and beer, not the part about hiking. That’s why he brought his toddler son, I guess??? No. It doesn’t quite make sense to me either.

Anyway, we gamely headed out to the Gorge, where—surprise!—there was all this snow. Snow we sure as heck didn’t have in Portland. I’m still enough of a Midwesterner that I’m always knocked for a loop when I leave Portland and find out that the weather is, like, totally different. How can that be? I still harbored the hope that the trail wouldn’t be snowy. It was.

Snowy Trail

There was a good three inches at the trailhead. Not a big deal, except that other hardy hikers had trampled the trail into treacherous ice. My nemesis. I rued the fact that I hadn’t brought my hiking poles. I’ve dislocated my knee twice as a result of taking nasty falls on slippery surfaces, so I’m super leery of anything in the least bit slick.

I hate it, but I turn into a querulous old crone when it comes to slippery footing. I inch along, with my knees locked (the exact thing I shouldn’t do, probably), grasping at saplings (another thing I shouldn’t do) and stray wisps of dead meadow grass. Pathetic! My trepidation and desperation are obvious. I don’t like to have witnesses to this spectacle. But there we were out on the trail with two people who are bona fide mountaineers (as in they’ve climbed Mt. Adams and other 10,000-foot+ glaciated peaks) and a guy wearing slick-soled street shoes and no socks. And, oh yeah, a toddler. They all acquitted themselves more competently than I did.*

I was actually more or less fine going uphill, but coming down? That’s when the humiliating inching and creeping and faltering began. B had the foresight to bring his poles and kindly lent me one of them, which helped a lot (probably more of a psychological crutch than anything). Thankfully, I made it down, knees intact.

Actually, the hike was quite beautiful. There were great views of the Gorge, draped here and there with lazy purplish fog from the snowmelt. And we passed several dramatic icicle-festooned waterfalls.

Of course, I totally enjoyed the beer and pizza (when do I not?) part afterward, but let me just sidetrack for a moment to document some less than chivalric behavior on the part of one of my fellow imbibers at the pub.

I was standing in a general sort of way outside of the two restrooms (labeled Dreamers and Readers), which, after some ginger jiggling of the doorknobs, I had determined were both occupied. This guy appeared and stopped dead in front of them, stymied by the Dreamers and Readers plaques on the doors. “Which one’s the Men’s?” he demanded. I found it a little hard to believe he’d never encountered unisex restrooms here in the freewheeling Pacific Northwest, but I explained it to him, breaking it down into simple terms: “You can use either one, but they are both occupied.” Ignoring the latter half of what I’d said, he lurched toward the Dreamers door (of course) and gave it a good tug. Guess what? It wasn’t occupied after all.

The next thing that should have happened is that he should have told me to go ahead and use the Dreamers restroom, since I’d been waiting there all that time—long before he came on the scene. But without so much as a look in my direction, he just stumbled right on in. Cad! (I could hear him tinkling, too—to add insult to injury!) I stewed for about half a minute or so and then screwed up my courage to try the Readers doorknob, which of course, easily gave way this time and had been free all along. D’oh!

This is forever happening to me. I really hate it when I’m in a public restroom and someone starts yanking at the doorknob and impatiently turning it this way and that, this way and that, this way and that. They never seem to deduce that because the door isn’t opening—despite their strenuous efforts—that must, therefore, mean that it is locked, and that, thus, someone is in there taking care of business and will, in the fullness of time, emerge and turn over the toilet to them.

I don’t know how many times, I’ve been seated on the throne, only to hear someone on the outside cluelessly rattling away at the doorknob. I’m then forced to pipe up and say something like, “I’ll be out in a minute” or “It’s occupied.” I think I once even said, “Estoy ocupado,” for some reason (maybe I was in a Mexican restaurant?), which probably means, “I’m occupied,” and may have sounded somewhat suspicious. At any rate, I’m always so flustered by the virtual invasion of privacy that I can’t think of exactly how I should state the obvious, so that the person will get the farking message! Whatever I say usually comes out all garbled and squeaky. So that’s why I’m always a little timid when it comes to trying to ascertain if a restroom is in use. I don’t want to put whoever might be inside in that awkward situation. And that’s also why I frequently (and embarrassingly) find myself standing outside of a restroom that doesn’t, in fact, have anyone in it.

*OK. So maybe I did a little bit better than the toddler, who was carried most of the way up the trail by one of our accomplished mountaineering friends. I think they both quite enjoyed themselves.


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