Jim Mullen: Take a hike, will ya?
My friend Charlie invited me to go on a 6-mile hike in a nearby nature preserve.
Sure, why not? Just because I’ve never been hiking before in my life shouldn’t hold me back. Besides, what is a hike, anyway, but a long walk? I walk all the time. Why, just yesterday I put out the garbage, and that meant taking it all the way to the end of the driveway. If that’s not a hike, I don’t know what is.
“Bring some water and something for lunch,” he said.
That’s so vague. How much water? How big a lunch? And how long is 6 miles? In a car, I could go 6 miles in 6 minutes, so walking would probably take twice as long — no, maybe four times as long. So, 24 minutes.
How much water will I need for that? And what will I put it in? I do have a couple of empty vodka bottles lying around; is one enough? Is two too many? And what will I carry them in? I know: my bowling bag. Now all I need to figure out is what to bring for lunch. How hungry can I get in just 24 minutes? I’d better not take much. Maybe a bag of chips and a candy bar.
When Charlie showed up on Saturday to pick me up, I couldn’t believe how sloppy he looked. He was wearing some old beat-up boots I wouldn’t be caught dead in, some ragged old pants, a floppy hat and a giant backpack, and carrying a walking stick. The poor man. What if someone we know saw him dressed like that? How embarrassing for him!
Charlie gave me a funny look as I put my bowling bag in the back seat and asked me if I wanted to change my shoes into something more comfortable.
“More comfortable than bowling shoes?” I asked. “I don’t think that’s possible.”
After an hour in the car, I began to wonder where we were going.
“Hiking,” Charlie said. “We’re meeting everyone at the north entrance.” Everyone? The north entrance? Obviously I should have asked a few questions about this little walk we were going to take before saying yes.
Twenty people dressed more or less like Charlie were waiting for us in the parking lot. As soon as they saw his car, they waved and took off single-file up a dirt trail. A very dirty dirt trail. Charlie and I quickly followed them.
After 15 minutes, I told Charlie that since we were halfway to the end of our hike, this would be a good time to stop and eat lunch. My bowling bag seemed as if it were carrying a real bowling ball, not just two vodka bottles filled with water and a bag of barbecue potato chips.
“Halfway there?” he said. “What are you talking about? We just started. We won’t be halfway there for two hours.”
An hour later, I begged Charlie to take a rest. There was something wet in my shoes. Blood? Sweat? Mud? I was afraid to look. I sat on a big rock, opened my bag and took a big swig of water. Of course, what Charlie saw was me drinking a quarter of a bottle of vodka in one gulp. In a moment, I realized I could salvage what little manliness I had left by letting him believe his eyes. Besides, the more “vodka” I drank, the lighter my bowling bag got.
I took another slug and said, “Let’s go, I just needed to hydrate.” Soon we caught up with the rest of the group, and ate lunch before trekking back. The vodka bottles had pulverized my chips to dust, so as I poured them into my mouth, I followed them up with a few more hearty swigs. The other hikers, eating chia-seed health bars and drinking rarified water, edged slowly away from me. When I started eating my sugar-filled candy bar, I’m sure I heard one of them start to retch.
That was four days ago. The good news is that the feeling is starting to return to my feet.
The bad news is, that feeling is pain.
Contact Jim Mullen at JimMullenBooks.com.
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