Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Natural Disasters

So you've probably heard that there has been a humongo rockslide in Colorado that has highway 70 shut down "indefinitely."  They're obviously not quite sure when it will be up and running again and supposedly the detours around it are up to 250 miles out of the way.  Or maybe one local was just exaggerating a bit.

I lived in Colorado one summer.  It was the summer between my junior and senior year of college.  I scored a marketing internship that made me realize I would never, ever, under any circumstances want to actually get a job in marketing.  I lived with my friends Jamie and Monica.  Monica already had an apartment because she was going to college in Boulder and her roommates were gone for the summer, so we just moved in.  I had convinced Jamie to dump her loser boyfriend and drive west with me where she could live in Boulder and get a job waitressing for the summer.  (Well, I did not actually convince her to dump the loser--that was her idea--but the way he was pissed off at me you would have thought that Jamie had broken up with him to be with me and that we were living our love song together in the  Rocky Mountains instead of rooming together while also interning and waitressing and sort of dating dudes named Pat and Pete.)

We had some silly adventures that summer--including a visit from a long-distance sort-of-boyfriend Jamie had met on Spring Break in Florida, strung along over the phone for months, and, in a moment of weakness, invited out to Colorado for a visit, only to decide the day before he was due to arrive that she actually did not like him at all.  I begged her to wait to break it to him until the three day weekend was over, but no.  Jamie dumped him the day he arrived and then the two of them still tried to do "fun stuff" even though he was a mopey puddle of pathetic all weekend long.  Jamie asked me to go to dinner with the two of them so it would be "less awkward."  Right.  Because nothing says "not awkward" like dinner with the chick who just dumped you after you cashed in your mom's frequent flier miles to come see her and her best friend, whom you had earlier overheard asking Jamie to please just "take one for the team" and make out with the poor dude for the next couple of days. 

Needless to say, dinner was terribly awkward.  I tried to fill the frequent lulls in conversation by saying things like, "So, uh, Ryan... Did your family take lots of vacations when you were a kid?"  Finally we just ate in silence, pretending to watch whatever baseball game was on TV.  Good times. 

Dinner was actually at the restaurant where Jamie worked that summer.  It was a huge place called Rock Bottom which caused me no end of amusement when I would call and she would happen to answer the phone:  "Hello, this is Jamie.  You've hit rock bottom."  I started saying it when I'd answer the phone at our apartment and I found myself ceaselessly amusing.

Unfortunately, Jamie's work schedule pretty much blew (funny how when you work at a bar you have to work Friday nights and Saturday days) so she sometimes missed out on adventures like the white water rafting episode during which Monica's boyfriend's roommate's wolf-dog (seriously it was half wolf) sat on my Kate Spade bag and crushed it in the van on our way to the river and I was so upset I barely had fun rafting.  She couldn't make it to the Grizzly Rose the night that Blackhawk was playing and I two-stepped in flipflops with cowboys.  She also missed our roadtrip to Cheyenne, Wyoming to see the rodeo (the granddaddy of 'em all) and the Toby Keith concert (this was before Toby Keith got all crazy right-wing brain-washing in his song writing).  And she missed the tubing adventure during which my innertube splashed down over some rapids and overturned and I flipped out of it and bashed my head on a rock.  But she got to re-live that with me because I got home that night and called Jamie and told her she had to leave work early and bring me a bag of frozen peas and also not let me go to sleep because I might have a concussion.  On Monday I made an appointment with a doctor because I was worried I might have a brain bleed or something.  He had me do some hand/eye coordination movements and remember the word "firetruck."  I will never forget the word firetruck.

But in spite of having to work weekends, Jamie and I managed to have some good times of our own and I am not referring to the hideous double-date with Pat and Pete during which we realized we were partnered up with the wrong boys and I would have been much happier if I could have left with Pete in his cute little vintage Volkswagon and let Pat and his popped collar talk to Jamie about how he thought Shakespeare was overrated.  I'm also not referring to the time we were "helping" Monica housesit in some gazillion dollar mansion and also taking advantage of their laundry facilities and Jamie washed her waitress apron and dried it with a green crayon in the pocket and turned the inside of their dryer green.  Permanently.

Of course, I won the biggest screw-up-of-the-year award when I stayed there alone the next night and then locked myself out of that house with no phone, no wallet, no shoes and no bra (it was first thing in the morning) and I had to walk down the gravel road (ouch!  barefoot!) to the neighbor's house where they were outside waxing their airplane (I shit you not) in my boxer shorts and Beastie Boys t-shirt and explain that I was house sitting and locked myself out and could I please use their phone to call a locksmith.  The locksmith arrived forty minutes later only to tell me that since I had no proof of residency (um, because I didn't live there), he couldn't let me back in the house.  So then I did what any reasonable person would do who was stuck outside in their pajamas and no bra with cut-up feet and a full bladder.  I started crying and telling him my life story and it turned out he was from Neosho, Missouri so we were practically neighbors back home and I really think that is what changed his mind because then he relented and said that since the dogs appeared to know me (stupid, friendly beasts who loved everyone) he could let me in just this one time.  Of course getting back in the house cost me all the money I made house-sitting that weekend, but, you know.  At least I had my dignity.  Oh, right.  Didn't have that either.

So there were some mis-adventures.  But we also had some good times driving out to Poudre Canyon (pronounced "pooter" which provided us much amusement) to see my great aunt and uncle who were camping there, going to see A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum in some other dinky little town, checking out area parks and pretending we were real hikers, and of course just going out to The Sink, The Walrus, and various other bars.

Jamie had never been to Breckenridge so one day she was off work, I called in sick, and we decided to drive up there.  Of course as our luck would have it, it happened to be a rainy, rainy day but we decided to forge ahead.  So we headed out of town, radio playing that Janet Jackson song that I called Pete's song:  "Maybe we'll meet at a bar, he'll drive a funky car..."  It was definitely raining by the time we got out of town and started gaining altitude.  Jamie was driving her not-so-funky Grand Am and we were chugging on up the mountain with her windshield wipers working like crazy until it was raining so hard we were just barely creeping along.

And really, it was a good thing Jamie was driving because she was much calmer than me behind the wheel.  Driving back from Poudre Canyon, I made her drive my Mustang because going around those hair-pin curves in the dark was more than I could handle.  Just thinking about it now can still make me queasy.

Finally it was pouring so hard we followed the example of the vehicles in front of us and just pulled over.  We sat on the side of the highway, listening to the rain pound the metal roof of the car.  It wasn't quite hailing but it was almost that loud.  Jamie had turned off the car so the wipers weren't going but we could see the faint glow of the taillights of the truck in front of us even through the water streaming down the windshield.

Then we heard an unidentifiable noise.  It wasn't loud--at least not compared to the pounding rain.  We strained to see out the window but the brake lights in front of us were no longer visible.  Jamie turned on the car and the wipers and after they streaked across the windshield we saw that the truck in front of us was now hidden.  In the couple of yards or so between us and the truck in front of us there was a huge pile of mud and rocks.  Looking up to my right at the mountainside, I quickly saw that this was the result of what looked like a pretty big mudslide, still barreling down the mountain.  The hood of Jamie's car was about a foot from the enormous pile of mud and plants and rocks that had already hit the shoulder of the highway. 

I remember making a kind of squeaking noise that was supposed to be a scream but was more of a panting squeak, half-expecting the rest of the mountain to just pile up on top of the car and bury us alive.  Jamie didn't say anything.  I stared at her, gesturing wildly at the muddy mountainside and making my squeaking noises and she just set her jaw, yanked the car into reverse, and smoothly pulled out and around the ever-growing mud pile.

We were saved.

And it wasn't even lunchtime yet.  The rain had lightened up a bit and we continued onto Breckenridge, still reeling from the adrenaline rush of almost getting our car knocked off the highway or buried under a huge pile of mud and rocks.

We had lunch in Breckenridge and did some souvenir shopping to commemorate our near-death experience.  Jamie bought a couple of sweatshirts which was serendipitous because of course it started pouring again when we were as far from the car as possible in the little down town area so we sprinted back, our flipflops splashing and sliding in the puddles, wearing the now-soaking wet sweatshirts that Jamie had probably intended to give as gifts to family members.

By the time we headed back down to Boulder, our mudslide pile up was still there but they didn't have to shut down the highway because it was still mostly on the shoulder.  We felt doubly lucky to avoid death and a lengthy detour. 

Yes, it was an exciting summer in Colorado.  Highway mudslides and rockslides can be dangerous though.  Perhaps even more life-threatening than head injuries and broken hearts and hangovers, which seem to the sort of natural disasters that are just par for the course when you're twenty-one and spending the summer in Boulder.

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