Kicked Off a Mountain

It was early in the afternoon in Taos, New Mexico as my brothers and I discussed our plan for the rest of the day. More of the same? Or tackle that climb to the top of the mountain? After a spirited conversation, we chose the latter.

We were on a family skiing trip. For the past few days we’d been lucky enough to enjoy good skiing on runs that didn’t require you to throw ski’s over your shoulder and an oxygen mask on your face. And, if it was any other day, more of the same would have been better than anything I could hope for. However, it wasn’t any other day. It was the last day. So doing stuff that didn’t necessarily sound super appealing began to look more appealing.

To be fair, the hike didn’t look too bad and we were in reasonable enough shape. From the top of the ski lift you could see little specks of people trudging along a ridge that appeared to be relatively flat. If they could do it, why couldn’t we? Maybe twenty minutes of walking with our heads down and we’d be atop the mountain, strapping in to our ski’s and board, ready for the best run of the week. (The whole point of hiking to the top of the mountain was being able to ski down afterward. It was a run that was supposed to be unlike anything you could find anywhere else on the mountain.)

With that in mind, we slung our skis and boards over our shoulders and began our hike. Spirits were high. We navigated through clusters of snow laden trees that remind you—if you could forget—how beautiful the mountains are, before hugging a little ridge that spit us out into an open, expansive area of the mountain. From there, the next stretch almost appeared to be downhill! It was all so pleasant.

At the end of our “downhill” stretch, we came to a halt. There was a rope between us and the rest of the trail. It had a sign attached to it that said something about being closed because it was too late in the day and conditions on the mountain could rapidly deteriorate after said time. Something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. So we discussed our options briefly, and, without much concern, decided to jump the rope. After all, there was a group of five or six people some two or three hundred yards in front of us plugging away. Plus, it was only minutes past the aforementioned cutoff time. How much of a difference could a couple of minutes make?

On the other side of the rope, the severity of the slope quickly increased. For a while, it wasn’t so bad. After all, we were hiking a mountain. We expected this. We were ready for this. But then, a few minutes later, as the slope continued to increase, something changed. It was no longer a casual walk in the woods. It was climbing stairs while being sucker punched in the stomach (a little known fact about hiking at 12,000 ft: it’s harder to breathe than hiking at, say, anything below 12,000 ft).

There was no more casual conversation. Just heads down, one foot in front of the other, straight into the wind and snow that was now falling, seemingly not at a vertical angle, but at a horizontal angle straight into our face as though each and every freezing snowflake was piloted by some angry little snowflake pilot.

The one bright side—for me, at least—was being a snowboarder. My two brothers, on the other hand, were skiers. This meant a couple of things. First, my boots were significantly more comfortable. Think of walking in a pair of sneakers vs. walking in bricks cemented to your feet. And second, I could use my snowboard to dig into the snow like a very wide, and not incredibly convenient to carry, ice axe. The combination of which resulted in me scampering up the mountain quite a bit quicker than my skier counterparts (at one point, I was so far ahead, I even sought respite in a igloo; something I’m still a little unsure about).

Finally, though, we all made it to the top of the mountain, my brothers a good ten to fifteen minutes behind me. An accomplishment that put our total hiking time a touch past our initial twenty minute estimate to an hour and a half (this would now be our last run of the trip). But, no matter how grave our miscalculations were, we had made it.

We sat at the top, snow still falling suspiciously angrily at our faces, taking in the view and admiring our achievement. Minutes passed. Then a few more. Then, somewhat inevitably, we decided it was time to move on from our pretty, chilly perch—rather, we could finally feel our legs again—so we walked to the edge of the steep slope, strapped in to our respective slide-down-mountain-on-wood equipment, and took off.

The run was good. Was it the best run I’ve ever been on? Probably not. But the snow was largely untouched by other people, and no human machinery ever ventured that high, so it made for a natural skiing/snowboarding experience. And between that and our unforeseen trek to the top of K2, there was something extremely satisfying about it.

As we approached the bottom we could see a man motioning us his way. He appeared to be an employee of the mountain. Thinking he was waving us over to congratulate us on our achievement and welcome us back with freshly baked brownies, we obliged. However, it soon became clear this wasn’t a celebration over tasty treats. Quite the opposite. He was scolding us.

Apparently he had been watching us for some time. Maybe he picked us up around the odd igloo—or, Basecamp 1, as I like to call it. Or maybe he picked us up shortly after we jumped the rope. It’s anyone’s guess, really, but the latter is surely the likelier of the two considering this was a chief concern of his. Why would we disregard the rope like that?

It was a fair question, but we had a good answer: the people in front of us seemed to. Not surprisingly, our answer did little to appease his concerns. In fact, it made things worse. He laid into us about being reckless, and putting more than just our own lives at risk. Which was a justifiable thing to say, however, we weren’t totally unexperienced on a mountain, we began our trek at an appropriate time, we came to the rope only minutes after the path was closed for the day, and people were still skiing down the mountain around us. But again, he wasn’t wrong to say what he did.

So it wasn’t all too surprising when he informed us that he would be removing us of our ski passes. We didn’t protest the decision. After all, it was the last run of our last day, so it had no impact on our skiing adventure. We would be skiing down and packing our bags either way. That, and we kind of deserved it. Something we explained to the man, which seemed to sour his experience, but he went ahead anyway. Snip. Snip. And snip. And then we went ahead and skied down the rest of the mountain, pass-less, and packed our bags.

This story is now some seven or eight years old, but it’s one we often reference. Why? I think for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a good story. There are mountains. Adventure. Danger. An igloo that probably served as both a hideout for some secret military group and a place of respite for a group of rowdy, borderline alcoholic, foxes. But also, and more pertinently, it’s a story about mishaps.

It can be easy to forget the stuff that went right. The stuff that went according to plan. Sure, there are pleasant, memorable moments there to—like going for a walk in the park with a loved one and not getting pooped on by a bird. But if everything went right those “according to plan” moments wouldn’t be as sweet, and our memories would be full of indiscernible moments. You need stuff to go wrong every once in a while. It’s a key component of life. So take chances, do things you probably shouldn’t (like dancing on a slippery floor; not robbing a bank), make mistakes, and laugh about it later. It’ll serve you well in the long run.

[Authors note: In this instance, we were, of course, in the wrong. Skiing on a mountain is dangerous enough, let alone doing it when and where you’re not supposed to. Should we have hopped the rope? No. Mountain rules, like most rules, are very much something to be taken seriously. Thankfully, nobody was harmed or ever really at risk of being harmed in this story. We never even considered what we were doing to be dangerous. That’s not to say what we did was right, or justifiable, but it wasn’t a case of neglect. We made a calculated decision (fortunately it worked out and we can now look back on it as a fun, humorous story), albeit the wrong one. To anyone who works on a mountain or looks at this as an act of negligence or defiance: sorry, and thank you for putting up with stuff like this.]

The Worst Listener I Know

There’s this guy I know. He’s a terrible listener. That’s not to take away from the type of professional he is, or his ability in other departments, it’s just a fact. He’s a terrible listener. Always has been.

His name is Stop Light. You may have heard of him. He likes to hang out at intersections—even when he’s off duty he just stays there, for fun, flashing his yellow or red light—and tell people when they can and cannot go. Which is something he takes very seriously. For example, the other day, I was running a few minutes late and and found myself fast approaching Stop Light. As I drew closer, I politely asked Stop Light if he would stay green. Upon which, he immediately turned yellow and then red without so much as considering my request. Can you believe that?

Here’s the kicker, though. That wasn’t an isolated incident. This sort of thing happens daily. Sometimes it happens when I’m approaching Stop Light, sometimes it happens when I’m already sitting there abiding by HIS rules. And no matter how polite I am, or what I’m trying to do, it’s always the same: complete and utter neglect. I could be on my way to the hospital to check on a family member (who’s not in any dire condition or imminent danger, maybe a sprained ankle, but it looked bad at first and I’m trying to show my support), or an important meeting (with Google, probably, who want to buy the App I’m about to think of), or to get a free ice cream cone (because I was caller number seven on an obscure radio show, but to capitalize on my good fortune I have to get there in ten minutes or less otherwise my winnings go to caller number eight, who is already there), and it still wouldn’t change a thing.

Even so, if that was it, I think I could get past it. I could respect the fact that Stop Light is just doing his job. Quite admirably, too. He’s actually one of the better workers I know. If we all had the same professionalism and work ethic as Stop Light, I’m sure things would run a little smoother, people would be disappointed less, and the world would generally be a better place. But it gets worse. This neglect happens at all hours of the day. Here’s what I mean:

It’s the middle of the night—2 a.m. or 3 a.m. You’re coming home from a long road trip, or finishing up a late shift at work, or returning from a night out on the town. You’re exhausted and all you want is to get back to the comfort of your home, maybe microwave a corn dog or two, and slip into bed and bury yourself under the blankets. But, before you can do that, you have to navigate past your good friend Stop Light. Which may seem like a simple enough task, but, unfortunately, Stop Light likes to make things difficult. Nine times out of ten, he’s going to stop you. And not only that, but he’s going to make you sit there longer than you have to. There’s no reasoning with him. You can tell him how nobody is around for miles—not a single car has passed within the last 30 minutes, and not another one will for another 45 minutes when Tad and his buddies make their way to IHOP for some middle of the night pancakes—or how tired you are, he’s simply not willing to listen, no matter the circumstance. And that’s what bugs me.

Look, I’m sure Stop Light can be a nice guy. Heck, I could see us being friends and grabbing drinks or going rock climbing together on weekends. Sadly, though, unless something changes, that’ll never happen. I’ll keep asking for little favors, hoping my words are heard one day, and that we can put all this I’m better than you stuff behind us. But, for now and the foreseeable future, I’ll have to accept Stop Light for what he is: the ultimate professional AND the worst listener I know.

12 Things That go Faster Than the Last Hour of Work

It’s four o’clock. Or whatever time it is that you have one hour of work left. You’ve put in a good shift—even got a few things accomplished that you didn’t expect to—and now all you desire is to see that last second of work tick off the clock. The only problem is, the last hour of work always, ALWAYS creeps by with the speed of a snail who hasn’t seen a treadmill in a few weeks longer than he’d like to admit. For perspective, here’s a list of things that seem to go faster, and in reality probably do, than that last hour of work.

1. Painting a fence AND watching it dry. You applied more than one coat because you’re a professional and you stand by your work.

2. Watching a Trilogy called The Mechanics Behind Stuffing a Sleeping Bag. It’s not as exciting as it sounds.

3. Driving from Boston to Amarillo, Texas.

4. Folding the laundry. It’s a large load. You had to separate it into two different loads in the wash, and we all know those two loads should have really been three loads.

5. Cleaning a rather large house. It’s approximately 7500 square feet and every inch is filthy because it’s inhabited by a gang of toddlers.

6. The math behind a NASA mission to space.

7. Carving an intricate model of the New York City skyline out of brick.

8. Getting a commitment from your super indecisive friend, Brian, to go on that weeklong camping trip. It once took you two full weeks to get a maybe from him for Wednesday game night. When Wednesday finally rolled around that maybe turned into a I have measles and won’t be coming in to work today.

9. Fixing your printer’s “communication error”. You’ve been talking to a guy who may or may not be trying to scam you for the past two hours and now has complete access to your desktop.

10. Cooking anything in the crock pot. Okay, probably ribs.

11. Packing for a two week trip to Europe. But we all know two weeks could turn into I want to spend the next year in Europe, perhaps finding a prominent piece of real estate to open up a cafe or trampoline gym, so you pack for three weeks.

12. Doing your taxes. Because it’s that time of year and good luck to everybody.

Quiz: How Dependent on Coffee Are You?

Coffee: the fuel that fuels a lot of us when the fuel tank is on empty. But just how dependent are you on this fuel? Take the ten question quiz below and find out. How does it work? Read each question and simply answer yes or no. At the end, total up the yeses and see where you fall on the dependency spectrum.

1. When you wake up in the morning the first thing you do is get coffee. I’m talking roll out of bed, still in your snoopy pajamas and not totally sure what day of the week it is first thing. Yes or No?

2. You dream about coffee more than once a week. Maybe you’re sipping a freshly brewed cup on the patio of some cafe in Milan, or maybe you’re dancing slowly to You’re Beautiful with a tall, dark, handsome cup of joe. Yes or No?

3. You have more than three cups a day. Yes or No?

4. You’ve thought about the idea of wearing one of those beer dispensing helmets and filling it with coffee. Yes or No?

5. You’ve thought about setting up an IV to pump coffee straight into your blood stream. Yes or No?

6. Sometimes you have trouble falling asleep because you’re so excited about the coffee you’re going to have in the morning. Yes or No?

7. When desperate, you’re willing to top off that cold, half empty cup of Maxwell that’s been sitting in the break room since Monday. It’s now Thursday. Yes or No?

8. You know when people talk about the love of their life and say how when they’re with them it’s like they’re in this bubble of complete bliss and happiness? Coffee does that for you. Yes or No?

9. When bummed out you often drive to the grocery store and spend a long amount of time just sitting in the coffee aisle taking in the smell. Yes or No?

10. You can’t remember the last day you went without coffee. Yes or No?

Okay, now that you’ve finished the quiz, it’s time to tally up the yeses. To do this, you’ll need to go back through the quiz and add up all the yeses you circled in either pen, pencil, or other marking device. (Oh, you didn’t use a marking device because you only had to count to ten at the most? That’s cool, too. Just don’t tell your buddy who is proudly taping his quiz to the refrigerator, that he completed in crayon.) Once you’ve done this, refer to the graphic below and view the results.

Yeses: 1-3 — Amount of coffee dependence: low

What this says about you: you’re not against a good cup of joe. You even like it, and probably enjoy one in the morning on the odd day or at a coffee shop with a friend, but you don’t rely on it to get through the day. You could just as easily go without it and not feel like your life is spiraling out of control.

Yeses: 4 to 6 — Amount of coffee dependence: medium

What this says about you: you’re like most Americans. Coffee plays an important role in your day. It gets you going in the morning, and often in the afternoon too. Everything seems a little more manageable and a little less exhausting when you have coffee by your side. Go without it, however, and you might want to stab somebody with a blade that wouldn’t physically do them any harm but would still probably sting a little.

Yeses: 7 to 10 — Amount of coffee dependence: high

What this says about you: for you, coffee is no longer just coffee. It’s something more. It’s a reliable companion. A shoulder to cry on. An ear to speak to. A friend to go on a road trip with. Like a long road trip, too. Perhaps you could start in Key West, Florida and drive all the way to Alaska. Yeah, that’d be fun. Coffee would probably even drive a little if you asked nicely. That’s because coffee is whatever you want it to be, really. And you quite possibly rely on it more than you should. Consult a doctor if necessary.

We All do Dumb Stuff Every Once in a While

Not too long ago, I encountered a printer problem. That is to say, I was trying to print something and my printer all but told me that it had decided to take on a new career and would not be performing printing services anymore. Or at least it didn’t think it would any time soon. Kind of a bummer, considering I’d gone through the frustrating process of setting it up only a week or so before.

With that in mind, I decided I would fix the problem then and there. No waiting around and hoping things would get better or the printer would change its mind on its own and come back from sipping martinis in Punta Cana. Me taking action and being assertive. And to do that, I needed to convince the printer that being a printer is what it was meant to be—similar to somebody convincing a struggling professional athlete or artist or chef or rock skipper that that is what they were meant to be. Always has been. Now it just needs to believe in itself. But, after a long distance call to the easternmost portion of the Dominican Republic, I could see my words were having no impact on the printers crippling self doubt. So I took matters into my own hands.

I began, of course, with Google. I typed in some broad definition of the problem and the brand of my printer, and was able to find some common themes pretty quickly. After clicking around on a number of different links that didn’t quite pinpoint my problem, I found myself halfway down a Yahoo Answers forum. Which was perhaps the first of many red flags I would encounter, but I’ve found useful information there before so I didn’t think too much about it. And, as luck would have it, some kind Yahoo Answers person was providing a link to “Tech Support”. It was even accompanied by some reassuring words to the friendliness and competence of the technicians, as well as eleven thumbs up to only one thumbs down. It seemed legitimate.

The link took me to a website that looked professional enough; the brand name of my printer was in the URL. There was also a giant, flashing phone number at the bottom of the page. Needless to say, I called that number.

It was a decision that was totally out of character for me. I’m not usually one to take action like this. I’m the guy that prefers to let the problem marinate a good while. For example, in college, I waited almost an entire summer before checking my spring grades one semester because I didn’t want the results to ruin my time off. (A week before fall classes began, I conceded, feeling that the time was appropriate, and found the results to be better than expected; something that only happened because I waited until I was ready. If I would have checked the day after classes ended, my grades would have of course been drastically worse, because that’s how things work.) But, for whatever reason, today was the day that was all going to change. I was going to be more decisive and stuff. No over thinking. A step in the right direction.

On the other end of the phone was a man with an Indian accent. He was nice enough, and seemed interested in helping me solve my problem. So when he asked me to use software that would allow him access to my desktop, it was an easy decision: yeah, one second. Sure, his suggestions—potential solutions—had all been rather vague, and could probably be applied to any type of problem you had, like how can one make the color blue using only the condiments in his refrigerator. And sure, he hadn’t so much as given me one real credential. But by golly I was taking action, dammit!

A few downloads later and a foreign mouse was zipping around my desktop. He clicked around rather aimlessly for a while before clicking on something that pulled up some sort of code. It was here that he was able to identify the problem. “Hackers,” he said, highlighting two lines of code that apparently showed two unauthorized users accessing my wifi. This was the source of my printer’s “communication error”.

I had grown increasingly skeptical ever since allowing him access to my desktop. It all just felt, well, kind of like I was involved in a big scam and people somewhere were probably pointing fingers and laughing at me. But, there was this code. And he had highlighted an area that didn’t totally seem to contradict what he was saying. So I went one step further. “What do you suggest?” I asked. A question he gladly answered. Yes, he could fix the problem. However, he would need 20 to 30 minutes of complete and undisturbed access to my desktop.

My heart sank. For so long I didn’t want to believe it. Not him. Not here. Not now. We haven’t even discussed our dreams yet. Even so, I could no longer deny the obvious: I was being scammed.

My attitude changed immediately. We were no longer guys who were probably going to grab a beer later. We were now enemies. As such, I got politely aggressive. I told him this all sounded good and well, but it was getting late and I had somewhere I needed to be. So if we could pick this up later in the day that would be great. He was reluctant to the plan, but I held firm and we soon said our goodbyes. Upon which, I deleted everything I had just downloaded from my computer, put it in the trash, beat it with a hammer, set it on fire, drove to the Atlantic, boated out a few miles, tied some rocks to it, and threw it into the ocean.

I felt sick to my stomach. Not to the extent of having your heart broken sick to your stomach, but probably to the extent of making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and having your dog eat it, only to then find out it was actually the last pieces of bread in the entire apartment, sick to your stomach. Even after my recent trip to the Atlantic, I was still unconvinced about what this strange man may or may not have access to on my computer. I desperately wanted somebody to tell me everything was alright. So I asked both my fiance and twin brother, both of whom are infinitely more computer/tech savvy than I, if they knew anything about scanning for computer viruses, and they both said roughly the same thing: I was probably fine, but if I was really concerned about it I should take it to a computer store.

I didn’t really want to do this. I wasn’t embarrassed to tell a computer professional what I had just done—I’d tell him every little detail of what had just happened, from our blossoming friendship to him ripping my heart out—I just didn’t really want to make the drive. So I sat in silence and stewed about it for the next hour or so, contemplating the worst. Surely by now this guy, this masked man, has access to all my pertinent information and is buying a very heavily used Razor scooter and a bunch of obscure magazine subscriptions with my life savings. How could I have been so gullible? How could I have made such a dumb mistake?

Then, a little while later, I realized something and felt less bad: we all do dumb stuff every once in a while. Sure, some of us, myself included, do more than others—but we’re all guilty of it. And that’s okay. It’s part of life. All we can do is try our best and attempt to limit how many dumb mistakes we make. Or at least that’s what I’m going to tell myself, dammit!

[Authors note: some six hours later, after not so much as touching a single button on the printer, it printed off some five copies of the page I had been trying to print. I guess my words did have an impact. That, or Punta Cana wasn’t what the printer thought it would be.]

Ridiculous Office Rules

A lot of work environments have some sort of office place rules. Some are mundane and expected—like treat your fellow co-workers with respect and don’t drive the boss’s Ferrari into a dumpster. But some can be pretty ridiculous. The following 18 rules are a testament to that.

1. Fifteen minute mandatory yoga sessions immediately following lunch. You work at a trendy upstart. Jeans are acceptable. Flannel shirts are encouraged; the glasses with no lenses, too. And if you can’t touch your toes by the end of the week you’re gonna have to take a 20 percent pay cut.

2. Wear a bow tie with three colors when two colors was clearly said to be the minimum in the employee contract. They said two colors was the minimum, but that hasn’t been acceptable since before Donny from two cubicles over was born.

3. Wear less clothing on Thursday than you did on Wednesday, but still an appropriate amount. For example, you could wear suspenders on Wednesday and a regular belt on Thursday. Or mittens with holes in the fingertips as to not hamper workplace performance and then no mittens. Or a wool jacket making you physically uncomfortable for the entirety of the day, and regular, sane workplace attire again the next day. That sort of thing.

4. Can’t type the letter ‘A’ in emails. If you do, you have to wear a giant letter A on your shirt for the rest of the day.

5. Nerf War Friday. This may sound cool, and it is the first couple of times, but ever since you took a dart to the eye and a karate kick to the back by the always overzealous Ken, you think it’s less cool.

6. No coffee on Monday. Only acceptable substitute: the instant decaf coffee typically only reserved for an overnight backpacking trip for nobody ever.

7. When somebody finishes a project everybody has to stomp their feet twice, clap once, and do a chair spin while yelling, “Woo!”

8. Replace all ‘th’ sounds in names with an ‘f’ sound instead. Jonathan becomes Jonafan. Nathan becomes Nafan. Bethany becomes Befany. And so on. Anybody who has one of these names isn’t made aware of the rule.

9. 20 push-ups for anyone who says “On Fleek” or “Let me tell you a story about a little biscuit who met some gravy last night” when referring to a date or intimate connection. This one everybody agrees on. Even Jason whose favorite word combination is “transcendent yo.”

10. If you fart, silent or otherwise, you have to claim it by saying, “Yahtzee!” 20 push-ups for not claiming it.

11. Mandatory water cooler talk for five minutes at the end of every hour. Any topic of conversation is acceptable, but borderline inappropriate and invasive questions are encouraged.

12. Drink 48 ounces of water ever workday. To track performance, every employee must fill up a company issued 48 ounce water bottle at the start of the workday. There are checks every other hour to track performance by a guy whose only job is to check water drinking consumption. (And before you even think about dumping water, just know: Becky, a friend of a friend of an acquaintance from a few years back, once attempted to dump water into a flower pot, but was caught by said guy who’s only job is to check water drinking consumption, and was fined by an amount of 5 extra ounces the next day. She never showed up to work again. There’s also supposedly a pretty sizable lawsuit in the works.)

13. Every Friday at 2:30 there’s a 30 minute discussion about underground art. You have to make at least one contribution to the conversation.

14. No chair can recline past a 35 degree angle. There’s a guy whose only job is to measure chair reclining angles. He’s ruthless.

15. Paper airplane competition every Tuesday, with the winner getting the rest of the day off. As a result, this competition is taken quite seriously, and Brianna definitely didn’t smash a computer with a golf club that one time for a controversial measurement.

16. Slow clap every time somebody returns to the room after being gone longer than 5 minutes.

17. Be able to tell the difference between the ten different candles that are used throughout the office. Blindfolded.

18. Show up to work ten minutes early. OK, this is probably good practice. As long as you’re getting paid for it, at least. If you’re not, though, its’s more than acceptable to tell the boss this isn’t a high school basketball game, man.

Lost in Turkey

There was some combination of hand gesturing and words in Turkish that seemed to suggest no as I attempted to take my belt and shoes off. I was sweating more than I would have liked, and the confusion of whether or not I should start taking clothes off only made me sweat more.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, and no—I was not seeking the comfort of another human being in a foreign land. I was, however, in a foreign airport (Istanbul, to be exact). And I was seeking to board my flight to Antalya. The latter of which was leaving in a matter of minutes.

Why Antalya? Soccer. You see, months before this, I had flown to California and participated in a soccer combine. What that means, basically, is that a bunch of people who wanted to get paid to play soccer showed up at the same place at the same time to play in front of people who claimed to be of reasonable enough importance. I did well there, I guess, and the people of power invited me to play in front of professional scouts in Antalya, Turkey. An invitation I gladly accepted.

The team, as well as the coaching staff, was compiled of people from all parts of the globe—a good majority scattered around the United States, a handful from South Africa, and some from England. Which meant a couple of things, among them being everybody’s familiarity with McDonald’s. But it also meant everybody had a different flight schedule. As such, we were to all meet at our final location (Antalya) at a pre-determined spot (a cafe just outside the airport). Simple enough, right?

Up until the Istanbul airport my travels had gone smoothly. My biggest problems, in fact, had been occupying large amounts of time between layovers and figuring out European outlets. But since arriving off the plane from Germany, things had gone… less smooth. For starters, there was the incident where I tried to get through the wrong customs line. You know, the one for only Turkish citizens (which feels like something I should have been able to figure out). After hopping a hand rail or two, however, I was able to correct that mistake and eventually make my way to the front of the correct customs line (the one for non-Turkish citizens), where I was promptly informed, rather bluntly, and with a look one might give their seven-year-old after eating sand, that I needed a Visa. I won’t go into detail why I didn’t have one, or why I thought I didn’t need one—we’ll chalk it up to miscommunication—but the fact of the matter was this: it was very much something I needed. The customs guy made it very clear. Painstakingly clear. I can’t emphasize enough how clear he made it. It was like he was telling his mother not to mix his white underwear with his Superman underwear, something he thought she should have already figured out, especially after last weeks debacle. So I backtracked a good bit, found a place that would sell me one, and spent twenty dollars to acquire it. All in all, it was a pretty easy process—even for a first time Visa-purchaser such as myself—but it did cost me a fair amount of time. Not ideal, considering this was my shortest layover; forty five minutes from when I landed to when I departed. Which, at this point, left me with about fifteen minutes before my plane was scheduled to take off. And before getting on that plane I had to make my way back through customs, through security on the other side, and then to a bus somewhere in the airport that would take me to that plane. (Did I mention this was my first time traveling out of the country?)

Eventually, after enough hand gesturing, I determined that the nice Istanbul security men and women did in fact NOT want me to disrobe. As it turns out, it’s not a requirement to take off one’s shoes and belt in a Turkish airport (maybe it’s not a requirement in any other country outside of the United States, I don’t know, this was and is my only such experience). It is, however, one of the faster ways you can expose yourself as being an American. Well, that and wearing American flag pants and a camouflage bandana while gulping down 56 ounces of soda.

I stomped my shoes on, buckled my belt, grabbed my bags, thanked security for not having to give a very PG strip tease, and rushed through the rest of security and into a large open area of the airport. It was almost stop-sign like in shape, but more sides. Maybe a decagon, I don’t know. And at each side was a hallway leading to another section of the airport. I needed to take one of these. The only problem was, I had no idea which one.

It was an overwhelming sensation. Being in this crowded, foreign airport. Running behind, not knowing where to go, while everybody around me seemed to know exactly where they were supposed to go. The airport was all but spinning as I stood there and tried to gather myself. I attempted to navigate by sign, but most of it was written in Turkish. And the little that was written in English didn’t exactly paint a clear picture. Finally, though, I saw something that looked promising enough and took off down the corridor, hoping for the best. Soon, I came upon some stairs, at the bottom of which were a bunch of passengers boarding a bus. Which, by some minor miracle, was the bus I needed.

The flight from Istanbul to Antalya was relatively short. Maybe an hour and a half. For flying, that’s basically enough time to ascend, level out for a little while, perhaps just long enough to enjoy a sandwich, and descend. Which we did. It all went rather smoothly, too, including the eating of my sandwich, which just so happened to be a turkey sandwich—something I thought was more than amusing, and would document with a picture.

Upon landing in Antalya, however, I was greeted with a feeling of uneasiness. This despite the amusement of eating a Turkey sandwich on a Turkish plane somewhere in Turkey. With all the chaos in Istanbul, I hadn’t had much time to think about it before. But as I grabbed my bags and exited the plane I couldn’t help but wonder: what if nobody’s there to meet me? I mean, sure, that’s an unlikely scenario. After all, this is a professional organization and trips like this are what fund their existence, so surely following through on a plan and punctuality are things they believe in, but still: what if?

I convinced myself it was just my imagination. Of course that’s not going to happen, Devon, this is real life. The professional world. People do what they say they are going to do, that’s just how it works. There will be a team of guys in red track suits in the cafe, like we discussed, holding signs that say something like, hey young man, yeah, you, the one looking right at us thinking, ‘are those the guys who said they were going to meet me here?’ Of course we are! Yay for people who do what they say they are going to do! This is all so wonderful! People are great! The world is full of magic and wonder and common courtesy, who needs to be skeptical of others? While we’re at it, would you mind giving us the numbers to your checking account?’  Right?

Wrong. Nobody was there to meet me upon arriving at the cafe outside the airport. Nobody was wearing a red track suit. Nobody was holding a surprisingly descriptive sign answering all my unvoiced questions, easing my nerves and pointing me in the right direction. Just a number of people greeting loved ones, and others trying to leave the airport to find their ride. In fact, it was all pretty dead.

Not knowing what else to do, I took up a seat in the cafe. When—or if—somebody was going to show up, this is where they would come, I thought. I was welcomed by a waiter, who asked if he could get me anything. Surprisingly, there wasn’t as much of a language barrier as I thought there would be. At least, not with him. He spoke good enough english, to the point where we were able to communicate rather easily with basic words and physical gestures. I thanked him, but politely told him I was okay; water would be fine. He responded, politely informing me, in order to sit in this cafe I would have to order something that cost actual money. So I reluctantly purchased a tea. (Spending money wasn’t exactly at the top of my to-do list. After all, I may soon need to buy a scooter, some goggles, a scarf, and a map to a lost city where I could find enough gold to buy a plane ticket back to the United States.)

As I sat there, sipping my tea, I thought about what I could do in the event that somebody never came. I went back through my email—using data, which cost just about the same amount as buying a medium sized yacht—to make sure I was in the right spot, which I was, then I looked up the address of where we were supposed to stay for the next two weeks, some 45 minutes away. An expensive taxi, perhaps?

Just then, an American looking kid, roughly the same age as me, walked through the cafe looking just as confused as I was. It was the best thing I’d seen since stepping foot in Antalya. We made eye contact eventually—being the only two people in the cafe there was always a good chance this would happen—and confirmed what we were both thinking: we were here for the same reason.

This was enormously comforting. Sure, there was still no solution to the larger problem, but at least there was somebody to solve the problem with. And an American at that (which may or may not be a good thing, but at least we could communicate and get made fun of together). We chatted, more about soccer and college than our current predicament. He had gone to school in Hawaii, something I was fascinated with and couldn’t stop asking questions about. Like how much did milk cost there? He also ordered a water and got away with it, something I wasn’t totally cool about with our waiter.

This back and forth continued on for a good while. Between the stories and laughs, it was all but the perfect first date. Even so, there was always an underlying feeling of angst. After all, we were in an unfamiliar country, both of us halfway around the world from home, very much looking the part. And still no sign of anyone.

Minutes that first crept by were now escaping us in chunks. Ten here, fifteen there, five more just for fun. If you were attending a lecture on something you didn’t really care for, you’d be pleased at how the time was passing. But, unfortunately for us, we were lost in Turkey instead. Finally, though, with the question of how the two of us would proceed from here at the forefront of our conversation, we saw something in the distance. People, to be exact. Wearing something red. Yep, it was a couple of guys wearing red track suits, heading our way. And only an hour late.

…..

I’d like to think there’s some meaning I can take away from this story. And who knows, maybe there is. Something about throwing yourself into the deep end, the unknown, and finding out what you’re made of. Or getting out of your comfort zone, or being spontaneous, or not freaking out when things look bleak, or the fact that the professional world isn’t always so professional. But maybe it’s none of that. Maybe it’s nothing more than being totally lost halfway around the world and hoping for the best. And hey, if nothing else, there’s always eating a turkey sandwich on a Turkish plane somewhere in Turkey. And that seems pretty special to me. So much so that I’ve created a list of things one could do that would be equally special in other countries.

Things One Could Do That Would be Equally Special in Other Countries as Eating a Turkey Sandwich in Turkey

1. Get covered in grease in Greece. Go to Greece, maybe Athens. Spend a good while there enjoying all it has to offer—meet somebody special, drink fancy wine, walk the grounds of the original Olympic games. Before you know it, you of course fall in love with all things Greece and decide to live there for a while. You work at an Auto shop, for money to live, and then realize months later that you ironically get covered in grease daily. You laugh a little.

2. Drink a can of ‘Duh’ in Canada. I envision this drink being comparable to a Sprite. Not too overwhelming, just something with a little carbonation. Crack it open and enjoy everything about this.

3. Meet and befriend twins in Germany named Germ and E. This speaks for itself.

4. Find a patch of green land in Greenland. This may be impossible. Pics or it didn’t happen.

5. Dance with a girl named Fran in France. When people ask what you two are doing, tell them you’re ‘Francing’.

6. Stub your toe in Spain. Really sell this one. When people ask if you’re okay, say, of course I’m not okay, I’m in so much spain. This works similar to using meow instead of now. Repeat ad nauseam.

7. Say ‘in the uh’ in India. It would probably look like this:

You [pointing at nothing in particular]: “What’s in there?”
Stranger: “In where?”
You: “In the uh… in the uh… I don’t know, man. I just wanted to say ‘in the uh’. Thank you, and sorry for wasting your time.”

8. Find more than one toy whale in Wales. Again, pics or it didn’t happen.

9. Find a banana in the Czech Republic. And when you do, say this to the next person you see, “So I’m sure you get this all the time, and I think the answer is pretty obvious, but is this how Banana Republic was founded?”

10. Eat chili on a chilly day in Chile. I think we all knew this was going to happen.

Running Has Its Moments

Over the years I’ve done my fair share of running. Not because I’m a runner by nature, or one of those people who just loves to run, but because I grew up playing soccer and doing so involves a good bit of running. Running in games. Running in practices. Running in my free time in order to be in good enough shape to run the duration of the game, and to potentially do so better than the guy next to me. In other words, running and I were pretty close. Maybe even close enough to grab an ice cream cone on the weekend together.

It wasn’t until a couple of years ago when I hung ‘em up for good that I really stopped running. And, for a while, it was nice. Actually, it was better than nice. It’s not that I disliked running—if anything, it was the opposite; I always enjoyed the challenge and discipline it required, even the uncomfortableness of it—and I like to think I was pretty okay at it, but for the first time in a long time I didn’t have to run. And I liked that.

Recently, though, I began running again. Or at least I’m trying to run again (some days are better than others, and some days involve more sitting on the couch wearing sweatpants than others). For a number of reasons, really, among them being training for a half marathon. But if I’m being honest, I kind of just wanted to.

Which is weird. Running isn’t fun. It’s the opposite of fun. Like hitting yourself in the toe with a hammer hard enough to be uncomfortable but soft enough to be tolerable, for an extended period of time. But at the same time, there’s something desirable about it.

For me, running is a place of mental respite. A place I can escape to when my mind is troubled. Sure, it can also be a good place to think, but run far enough or hard enough and sooner or later your mind gets quiet. And then, at that point, all that matters is the next step. Not a professional, or financial, or relationship woe, or frustration with the dog tracking mud all over the house and generally being a maniac, just one foot in front of the other, until you do it enough times to get to wherever you’re going. Beautiful, quiet tranquility.

But that’s not to say that’s the only purpose running serves. Hopefully, on most days, you’re not running for those reasons at all. Hopefully you have more days filled with love and hope than you do anguish and turmoil. Hopefully you can run because you thought it was simply something that might benefit you. In some way, at least.

When I’m running I go through the aforementioned stages. First, I think about whatever is on my mind—a relationship, writing, the future. Then, after enough miles, my mind gets quiet and all that concerns me is putting one foot in front of the other. All this, I like to think, is part of a process to recharge.

Think of your mind as a battery. For a better visual, say that little iPhone battery icon on the top right corner of the screen. Maybe it’s a 6 Plus. Maybe it’s a 5s. Maybe it’s a piece of cardboard that you drew an iPhone on with sharpie, and went so far as to draw a little battery icon in the corner (and then in that case, well played). And before you run, you’re mind may not be fully charged. Perhaps, a lot of the time, it’s closer to red than it is green. But then you run and it starts filling up again, full of good, positive, creative energy, and before you know it your mind is fully charged, ready to tackle whatever challenge lies ahead.

Cool, right?

It’s because of all this, coupled with some intangible, unexplainable thing, that running is magnetic. Even though 90 percent of the time you hate it, and question what sane human being would do this horrible thing to themselves, when you get done you think to yourself, ah, that wasn’t so bad, I think I’ll do it again tomorrow.

If none of that resonates with you, there’s surely something in there about discipline, or pushing through discomfort and adversity, or accomplishing your goals. Not to mention the whole thing about running being healthy for you. Which is also pretty neat, especially when you start getting older and begin to realize nachos aren’t keeping that midsection tight.

Thoughts During a 3 Mile Run

Pre-run: Alright! It’s a nice day. The sun is out. I’ve got my new running shoes, which definitely weren’t overpriced. I mean, when you consider all the running I’m going to be doing it was definitely worth it. Snickers would agree with me. (Snickers is a moody cat that thinks running is for peasants. He also knows his way around a twice baked potato.)

Mile 0.0: Okay, I better do some stretching. Don’t want to pull anything. Let’s start with some toe-touching. How long am I supposed to do this? Can people actually touch their toes? OK, good enough. Maybe some arm swings or something now. Yep. That should do it.

0.1: This is nice. Pleasant, even.

0.2: Look at that, a bird feeding her young. How sweet.

0.4: Oh, another person running. It looks like they’re having a good time too. Man, you really can’t beat this.

0.6: Should I be breathing this hard?

0.65: No seriously, should I? This doesn’t seem healthy. I sound like a guy trying to pound a cheeseburger while climbing Everest.

0.8: Not even a mile yet? Surely I’ve gone farther than that.

0.9: Okay I’ve definitely gone farther than a mile by now. I don’t care what the trail or my fancy watch with fancy distance tracking features tells me! It’s all a scam by the government!

1.0: This was a mistake. A terrible mistake. I realize that now.

1.3: WHAT MISERABLE HUMAN BEING WOULD DO THIS TO THEMSELVES!?

1.5: Brownies.

1.51: Cake.

1.52: Cookie dough.

1.53: One of those giant subs you see at parties or in a meme.

1.54: Big steamy pile of lasagna.

1.55: Grandma’s casserole.

1.56: Pizza.

1.6: OMG THAT BIRD WASN’T FEEDING HER YOUNG; SHE WAS TAUNTING THEM. TAUNTING THEM WITH FOOD THEY’LL NEVER GET BECAUSE IT’S A COLD, CRUEL WORLD!

1.7: DON’T WAVE AND SMILE AT ME, PERSON RUNNING SIGNIFICANTLY FASTER IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION. THERE’S NO WAY YOU’RE THAT COMFORTABLE, YOU LYING SON OF A RUSTY PARK BENCH!

1.71: I didn’t mean that. I’m sure he’s a nice person. The park bench, too.

1.8 to 2.6:

2.7: If I ever get through this I promise I’ll do better, God. I’ll work harder at my job. I’ll be a better friend. I won’t take the good times for granted.

2.8: The end is near!

2.85: So close I can taste it.

2.9: Seriously, only steps away now!

2.95: WHERE IS THE FREAKING FINISH ALREADY!?

3.0: Ah, that wasn’t so bad. I think I’ll do it again tomorrow.

Why You Should Spoil Your Significant Other

The stereotype on being spoiled is a negative one. It’s a kid who gets all the toys they ask for, or somebody who never hears the word no. Basically, a person who gets everything they want. But being spoiled doesn’t have to mean that—at least, not to me. To me, it can mean going above and beyond what’s considered ordinary for somebody you care for. Like your significant other. And is that such a bad thing?

So then, how do you do that, exactly? Go above and beyond, that is. Is it with a gift? Perhaps a teddy bear and some flowers. Or tickets to the big game. Or a surprise brunch at the park with some wine and cheese (the fancy kind, too!). Or is it with love and affection? A genuine, lasting hug. A kiss on the cheek when they’re not expecting it. Spending an entire day together doing whatever they want. Well, I say it’s all of the above. And more. Whatever comes to your mind, really. There’s no one way, or right way, to spoil your significant other. It only matters that you do. Here’s why:

Because they deserve it.

It’s that simple. Now go and tell your significant other they are the best thing to ever happen to you, and that you also have a coupon for them for a twenty minute back rub. From you. Because, you know, they deserve it.