At Dolores River Campground, Dolores, Colorado...
I guess I will get the tale of this fiasco out of the way, as our dear traveling friend, Jackie, has probably already posted it on Facebook for all the world to see.
I didn't start the day thinking that I would be the subject of utter humiliation and the fiendish delight of, well, who knows how many others. It wouldn't have been so bad, except everyone who has a cell phone has a camera, and no idiotic event--especially with me as the victim--ever goes unrecorded.
It all began very innocently. I needed to take Mae to the nearest Honda dealer for an oil change and checkup, for which I made an appointment in Farmington, New Mexico--just over the Colorado border. For Sandy, the prospect of going to another city means only one thing: a new shopping opportunity. I am also aware, through experience, that our friend Jackie shares a similar rush at the thought of a new territory to mark with her credit cards. It was no surprise then, that Jackie and Steve, well, mostly Jackie, asked to tag along. That was more than okay with us, for it would make a rather long (one hour) trip much more enjoyable.
This is when I became entangled in my first debacle of the day, although I didn't realize that a far more egregious one had already occurred, unknown to me or anyone else at the time. But more on that one later.
Just before leaving Phannie, I decided to take our garbage bag to the dumpster, which lay some fifty feet away. Ever mindful of the need for efficiency (not to mention my abhorrence at the thought of having to make a few extra steps), I also grabbed in the same hand the case strap of my small, but quite expensive, Canon camera. I intended to drop it off at the car on my way to the dumpster.
Now, you may not realize this yet, but the accumulation of age is generally not friendly to one's short-term memory. I have certainly been aware of it for a while, even though this is my first time to grow old. On more than a few occasions, I have forgotten the name of someone standing in front of me whom I know as well as I know myself. This also extends to confusing the names of my wife and daughter--people whom I also know very well. These things are not easily finessed, and stumbling past the faux pas is usually painfully awkward.
And so it was that I passed by the car and, without stopping, made a beeline to the dumpster with trash bag and camera strap firmly gripped in my fist; I was certainly paying no attention to the item I shouldn't be clutching at this point. Instead, I was looking around and admiring the beautiful blue sky and enjoying the mild temperature. I was totally oblivious to the fact that my careful planning to avoid extra steps had already gone awry before the passage of even a single minute, due to my short-term memory failure.
Reaching the dumpster, which was, mercifully, almost empty, I lifted the lid and tossed in the items I had been carrying, paying little attention to the extra 'thump' as one too many items fell onto the bare bottom of the container.
By this time, the other riders had begun to congregate around Mae and, as I opened the driver's door, I somehow had the presence of mind to notice that my camera bag was not in its regular spot in front of the driver's seat. "This is odd," I thought, as it then dawned on me that I had a plan to drop it off on my way to the dumpster. It was at this point that I slowly turned to look at the dumpster that I had just left. Not wishing to confirm my suspicion quite yet, I made a hurried dash back up Phannie's steps--the extra steps my plan was to avoid in the first place. I was almost completely aware that the camera bag would not be there and, of course, it wasn't. It was a slow walk that I made back down the stairs to confront my friends and aware of the confession I had to make. At the same time, I was wondering how I would retrieve the camera, as I couldn't possibly reach the bottom of the dumpster.
After announcing my suspicion about the location of the camera, I shuffled back toward the dumpster, not unaware of the quite audible giggles behind me. Looking over the edge, I spotted it immediately and began thinking of a way to retrieve it without doing a dumpster-dive for all the other RVers to witness. Given the percentage of my agility--which may be a negative number as far as I know--my ability to get from outside the dumpster to the inside would require bringing in some kind of hydraulic lift--a noisy occurrence that would undoubtedly attract ALL of the occupants of the campground to bear witness. If only I had a cyanide capsule, I thought.
Then, I remembered that the camera bag had a strap that formed a small loop, and I began to think where I could find something with a hook! Alas, I had given up fishing eons ago, realizing that my consuming them in a restaurant was a far superior use of my time and the money I would inevitably spend on boredom therapy.
It was at this point that our traveling partner and tireless tinkerer, Steve, produced a steel rod about five feet long with a hook on the end--used to deploy and retract the awnings on his coach. I could have hugged him, but he was a Marine, and I have a low pain threshold.
With great relief, I took the rod and, after about ten attempts, I hooked the loop on the camera bag's strap and pulled it up and out of the dumpster. Witness below my efforts, with Steve's help, to snag this catch which, in the photo, is in my left hand:
In the photo below, Steve and I are returning from the dumpster, victorious, and I couldn't help but be thankful that no crowd had assembled to watch this clown show. It may be hard to see, but I am holding the camera bag, and Steve is holding the rod with the hook. Note the smiles on our faces:
However, this was only the beginning of a daylong embarrassment that you haven't yet noticed in these photos; I'll reveal it shortly.
After retrieving the camera, we hopped into Mae and had an uneventful drive to Farmington, NM, a nice-sized town with perhaps the most unappealing topography I've seen. I won't say anything more that's derogatory, because it may be home to some reader, and I am loathe to disparage anyone's home town. However, Melloy Honda was ready for Mae, and the service rep, Brandon, was perhaps the friendliest, most thorough I had ever met at a Honda service center. (Mae is always serviced at the dealer because she is special--just like Phannie.) I asked if someone could take the ladies to a nearby shopping center, and they happily did so, leaving Steve and me sitting at a table in the waiting room.
After the oil was changed and their usual lengthy checkout completed (the service people found a nail in one of Mae's tires and patched it for free), I happened to look down at my feet. Steve and I had been sitting on taller-than-normal chairs at a high table, and perhaps because of this, I hadn't taken notice of the lower part of my extremities. Once I glanced down, I noticed this:
Horrified, I stood up, saying nothing, but surveying the waiting room to see if any of the other patrons were looking or pointing at my mismatched shoes. If they had been, they now had turned back to whatever they were doing, and I knew that Steve, Sandy and Jackie hadn't noticed, because the fun they would have had with me would already have been brutal. I finally determined that I was probably the only person of all I had encountered who noticed the mismatched shoes.
I decided the best thing to do was to walk unsuspiciously to the bathroom and think. Then it occurred to me that my trying to walk unsuspiciously would probably attract more attention than merely walking there normally; so, that's what I did. This period of introspection in the restroom proved to be fruitless because there was obviously nothing I could do to remedy the situation. I couldn't walk through the dealership in my socks or barefoot; that would look equally strange. I obviously could not produce another shoe, nor could I wrap one of my feet in a bandage, as I had none of those, either. It quickly became apparent that I would just have to walk back to my seat and suffer whatever consequences were to befall me. And then, another surprise!
Shortly after I reseated myself, Sandy and Jackie returned from their shopping trip and joined Steve and me at the table. At this point, no one had yet noticed the mismatched shoes--not even Sandy, who is incredibly observant--to the extent that she could spot an extra nose hair on a chihuahua. She always checks me over before we go out, so that people won't think she is with some homeless person. But not this time. Finally, the waiting room emptied, except for the four of us. At that point, I stood up, backed away from the table, and expressed my shock at the total failure of their usual powers of observation. I had to ask, "Do you notice anything unusual about my attire?"
They checked me over for a second and then looked at my shoes, at which point they all collapsed in laughter, and that's when I became the windshield for the rest of the trip. I noticed that when we left the dealership, they were already seated in the car as I was paying the bill. Then, when we stopped at a really good Thai restaurant for dinner, they bolted from the car and went inside before I had even turned off the ignition. Some friends, I thought.
Upon entering the restaurant, I noticed they had seated themselves in a dark corner, at a table with a low-hanging tablecloth, and I was instructed to keep my feet out of view at all times, which I would have done anyway.
I am relating this episode because, well, it was funny, something we will always remember, and the story of it will be told for the rest of my time on earth. Perhaps more importantly, it is a reminder to avoid taking ourselves too seriously and that laughter is, indeed, the best medicine. However, I will always wonder if I would have completely gotten away with this if I had just kept my mouth shut. I guess we'll never know.