Two quick points, before we get started…
I know without a shadow of a doubt that anyone who reads The Large Man Chronicles would never leave a grocery cart in the middle of the parking lot. Large Man readers are way too sophisticated and thoughtful a breed for such careless and inconsiderate behavior. But I see it every time I go to the store and it really pisses me off.
I made a vow today that if I ever witness someone committing this heinous breach of parking lot etiquette, I will pummel them with humiliating insults about their manners, upbringing, and their heritage. Well…I mean if I think I can get away with it. I obviously wouldn’t say anything if the perpetrator were considerably larger than myself, or had a general “gruffness” about them.
I find grocery cart leaving to be one of the more despicable of the Large Man Common Decency Crimes. Others include, but are not limited to; talking in a movie theater, smoking in a public place, allowing your small child to kick the back of my seat on an airplane, texting while driving, ordering drinks on my tab without an invite, unsolicited advice, failure to return a call when a clear request has been made, and not cleaning up after your dog. The dog one is really big.
Right now, this moment, I’m enjoying a Samuel Smith’s Organic Lager from Great Britain. It’s really good. You don’t usually expect such a crisp texture in an English style lager. It’s a little dry with some citrus after tones. I think it is well worth the $12.00 price tag. However, I think it’s fair to say that American micro-brewers now produce a product that is equal to, and in many regards superior to, the best beers brewed around the world. I believe we compete with the Brit, Dutch, and German potions, and even the Belgians beers that are becoming so popular.
With today’s Sam Smith being an exception, I’m working my way through a few of the Belgian brews. While I certainly find these beers to be palatable, Sierra Nevada’s basic Pale Ale is simply better…Bell’s Two Hearted Ale is much better…and don’t even get me started on the Kona, and Dogfish Head product line.
I have a few friends that keep talking about the Belgian brewery, Chimay…and how the beer is brewed in the old style by Trappist monks in this very primitive and humble monastery in the town of Chimay (What a coincidence that the brewery and the town ended up with that same name). I’ve had a few…they’re okay.
Because of the Trappist beliefs, all the proceeds go to the support of the monastery and its charities. This a completely non-profit enterprise. That’s great. I admire and support all that kind of activity. Hooray for the monks! But I have to ask, How good is the beer gonna be if the brew master knows that no matter how great a concoction he comes up with, he ain’t getting rich, and he ain’t getting laid? I may be over simplifying a man’s motivation, but I think it’s food for thought before you drop $10.00 on a 6 pack.
Enough about that, I’ll post script my two points by asking you to remind people not to leave carts in the parking lot – put them back on the sidewalk at the store, or in one of the many corrals that the stores provide as a courtesy. Also, just think about the motivation of the person brewing the beer before you buy. This may lead you to a happier life. But every now and then, please pick up a 6er of a Chimay beer so as to help out those generous and charitable monks. If you have a good tax guy, you may even be able to deduct part of the cost.
Now to our story…
A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to spend some time with a customer who had made an Everest attempt last summer. I sat with a group of people in a circle around this guy and just listened with absolute awe.
“I learned a lot about myself on that journey”, he said with more than just a little regret mixed into his confident voice.
“I can climb that f-ing mountain. I know I can. I didn’t eat right. I lost 29 pounds, and at that altitude I just never could recover.
“How high did you get?” I asked with fascination.
“I got to 24,000 feet. The summit is 29,035 feet, so I still had almost 1 full mile in elevation to go to reach the summit”, he replied.
“Okay, let’s say you made the summit from that point, how much longer would it have taken you?” a listener asked.
“About 4 more days”, he said with a smile.
All of us in the group took a simultaneous gasp at the thought. This dude had to turn around at a point when had he continued, it would have taken the better part of a week to finish the job. Amazing.
It took him almost three weeks to descend back to a base camp that would then hold him for another week to re-acclimate his body to conditions meant for man. He told us that what is basically happening is that the “lack of oxygen is slowly taking your life. You’re body is just gradually dying because the mountain is trying to kill you. The challenge, or the game, is to get to the summit before the mountain wins. You come back alive; you win. It’s a pretty simple concept.”
Everyone in the group considered these astonishing thoughts as we took a sip of our beer, wine, or sangria, in the comfort of this country club setting. Each of us contemplated ourselves in the same situation.
Because I never pass up the opportunity to share my life experiences, I spoke up. This was poor strategy on my part. I’ve been a few places, and I’ve seen a few things for sure, but if we’re keeping score in this scenario – I’m not in the same league. I’m not even playing the same sport.
Note to self: It’s okay to LISTEN. Sometimes your cute little Large Man stories don’t measure up against other stories. When you hear Everest, don’t talk – just LISTEN!
I needed that “Note to self” before I began. But begin, I did…
“That’s some crazy shit Steve! I remember when I was in Colorado a couple of years ago…”
Now everyone turns to me, my boss is with me and I notice a raised eyebrow like he was wondering: What in the hell could you POSSIBLY have to add to THAT story?
I continued… “And I drove to the top of Pike’s Peak. I gotta admit I wigged out a little. The drive to the top of that mountain was some of the scariest shit I have ever done in my life. When I finally got to the top, I couldn’t walk, couldn’t talk, the combination of the thin air and all the frigging anxiety man, I was a mess!”
So Steve, the Everest climber, is compelled to ask, “You drove?”
“Hell yeah I drove! The whole fucking way dude! I was alone all the way to the summit. Have you ever been?” (I had to drop an f-bomb in there to make myself seem tough)
“Um, no, no I haven’t.” he replied.
I continued my pointless ramble, “It’s 14,000 or so feet at the summit, I almost turned around a couple of times. At one point I pulled over and said to myself, you have to go on dude, if you don’t you’ll regret this for the rest of your life. I’m so glad I did it; it just kinda sucked to do it alone. “
In reality, I was alone with about 300 other people who seemed to have no problem…older people, handicapped people in wheelchairs, small children, and their pets…a friggin Chihuahua was yipping at me as I got out of my car and staggered to the visitors center to throw up and rehydrate. It has occurred to me that I might not be wired for these kinds of adventures.
In my defense, on the way up, it feels like you are going to drive right off the edge of the mountain. All you see is the road in front of you, the next switchback curve, and a huge blue sky that opens up into a space that simply takes your breath. You think you have to be almost there, and then you see an elevation marker that tells you there is still 2,000 feet to go. But I guess it’s a little different on Everest.
I’m kinda feeling like I’m losing my audience at this point, so I get to the climax of my tale:
“You have to stop at a ranger station on the return, about halfway down, so they can check the temperature of your brakes. You can be in BIG trouble coming down this mountain if your brakes overheat.”
They all look at me and nod in agreement. Steve says, “Yeah, it sounds really tough.”
“Yours are fine” the ranger said as he put his little meter against my front wheel. And then he asked me. “Have you been crying?”
“NO! I haven’t been crying!” I snapped at the green clad soldier of the National Park Service
It wasn’t so much that he asked the question, it’s just that he asked it in one of those smart ass voices like you have when you talk to a grown man who’s been crying because he’s afraid of heights. This crying man may also be afraid of tumbling his rental car off of the tops of mountains, and dying in a fiery crash that may not be discovered for days so what little charred remains that might be left would be devoured by mountain lions, buzzards and grizzly bears. You know, he spoke with one of those voices.
I continue my tale, “So I told this ranger that he should shut the F up and let me pass before he got into a situation he didn’t want to be in. And I must have gotten my point across because even though he didn’t outwardly act like he was intimidated…in fact he start laughing a little bit to cover up his fear, but he waved me on, so I think we all know who won that little conflict.”
Now everybody in the group is just looking at me, no gasps, no astonishment; just blank stares.
“I’m telling you guys, that’s as terrified is I can ever remember being”, I say…looking for acknowledgement and empathy from my audience.
Crickets. I could actually hear crickets.
Everest boy says, “I was 10,000 feet higher than you at my base camp. Did you get a bloody nose? How long was the trip; top to bottom?”
“About 3 hours dude…it was insane.”
“3 hours! Did you get a bathroom break in there? Look, I’m sure it was a harrowing experience, but I was on Everest for 3 months. I lost a piece of my middle toe. You might want to think about your audience before you tell your tales of adventure.” He said through a laugh.
It was one of those laughs that someone laughs when they listen to somebody who talks too much. You know, one of those kinds of laughs.
Thanks for reading…and not judging. Until next time…
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