I’m a type A+++ personality. I would like to say that I’ve mellowed in the passing years, but the ugly truth is that I’ve only gotten worse. It’s a running joke around my friends that I can’t even relax because I put too much pressure on myself to chill out just right. Thank God I married a laid back dude or I’d have spun out like a top many moons ago. It’s a sad state of affairs.
Last summer, we got together with some of our college friends and their families and rented a cabin in the Tennessee mountains for a week. It was the first time we’d all been together in years and years and years. We all have small children (not a male child among us, if you can believe it) and we had all sorts of activities scheduled. One of the things we decided to do was to go tubing.
When I was young, I spent three summers at Camp Kanuga near Hendersonville, North Carolina. We went tubing and I quite enjoyed myself.
So, based upon those dim memories of my youth I enthusiastically agreed to the Tennessee tubing excursion when the idea was broached. Woo hoo!
The appointed day came and we all got suited up and ready to go. The place where we were supposed to put in was named River Rat...something. They certainly had a brisk business going. Each child’s tube was lashed to an adult’s tube and we were supposed to float down river like we didn’t have a care in the world. Baby Belle 1 and I stood near the back of the line and watched the majority of our party drop seamlessly onto their tubes and cast off for a lazy drift down the river. I had to admit—it looked pretty effortless—the creek did all the work.
Our turn! I gamely stuck my feet in the frigging freezing water to show/lie to Baby Belle 1 that it really wasn’t all that bad (ha!). Just like those who went before me, I flopped down onto the tube, but it shot out from under me and my butt landed on the rocks lining the bottom. (“Ouchie” is all I have to say about that.) Baby Belle 1—who was already rather dubious about the excursion—started voicing her concerns and suggested that we should just “wait at the snack bar” for everyone else to come back.
I got my posterior centered on the tube on the second try and the [rather impatient, if you ask me] river employees dropped Baby Belle 1 in and shoved us on our way. We set sail in the freezing creek and I looked down the river toward our party: They were a little bit further ahead of us thanks to my inability to sit right the first time, but I assumed that we would catch up at some point.
My assumption went down in flaming glory. I watched my husband, my youngest child and my companions float down the river while the tubes carrying Baby Belle 1 and myself floated directly across the river and got stuck in the brush along the bank opposite the put-in sight. I wasn’t sure how I managed to defy the laws of physics and not follow the rest our peeps downstream, but I was stuck and Baby Belle 1 took that time to mention that snakes liked to hang out in the brambles.
A call of desperation to the River Rat employees [who had officially graduated from “impatient” to “assholes”] ignored me. I somehow managed to dislodge the tube from the tangle of trees and bushes and pushed us out into the middle of the creek where we were crawling along at a glacial pace and our party was now completely out of sight.
I felt as though I was splayed out like a starfish on the tube. For those of you not familiar with starfish, they are not known for their quick movement—or any movement, as a matter of fact. I decided that I would do better on my stomach so that I could at least guide us like a turtle downstream where I stupidly promised myself that things surely had to get easier.
Our location in the creek was only knee high at the time, so I decided it was as good a time as any to put my dumbass plan into action. I grew up at the beach and I’m used to the ocean. Granted, an ocean swimmer might step on a shell or the occasional marine life form, but it is mostly sand between the ‘ol tootsies.
The creek bed was covered in rocks and—whaddaya know—those rocks were as slick as pig shit. The second I put my foot down, I was on my butt amongst the rocks yet again. I had nothing solid to hold onto, so I prettily flopped around like a flounder for a bit and ended up just lunging for the tube. At that point, Baby Belle 1 was pleading with me to wade back to the drop-in site while we could still see it.
We continued to creep along, all the while getting stuck on every rock and branch that one could possibly catch. I don’t think that we moved in a single straight line once—I felt like a pinball bouncing around inside an arcade machine. I found an abandoned shoe during one of our many entanglements and desperately tried to use it as a paddle.
My husband became concerned about the fact that I was nowhere in sight, so he wisely elected to grab onto a branch and wait until we came along. I almost cried when I saw him and Baby Belle 2. Of course, it took us about fifteen minutes to get to him seeing as there were rocks and debris to obligatorily get stuck on in between him and us. He floated calmly in place while his wife and his eldest daughter tearfully recounted their experience.
After Baby Belle 1 and I finished, Scott looked at me in exasperation and said, “You are supposed to relax. You just...float.”
Huh? Had he not been listening? “Did you not just hear me tell you that everywhere I ‘just floated’ got us completely stuck? Can you explain riding a southward current totally eastward? I mean, you’re the mechanical engineer and all—“
I was suddenly married to Mr. Miyagi: Wax on, wax off.
Believe it or not, someone was actually having worse luck than me. As Scott and I sat there and debated the finer points of floating, another gal in the party came down river behind us. She, like me, was nearly moved to tears by the sight of familiar faces and she also got the “Just Float” speech from Scott Miyagi which she took in a similar fashion because we’re practically sisters.
Since neither of us bought the snake oil of Scott “Just Float” Council, she and I made the pinky swear that we wouldn’t leave each other no matter what. We didn’t really want to get started again on that Godforsaken river, but we grudgingly acknowledged that it was the only way to get to the end, so we set off with heavy hearts.
We trudged along with Scott’s cheerful PSA’s: “Attention non-relaxing people! Relax! Float like a jellyfish!” While me and my friend muttered under our breaths that we would happily act like jellyfish and sting his ass if he ever got within reach.
We next tried to 12 Step the river: (1) We admitted that we were powerless over the river; (2) We believed that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity—or at least get us the hell out of the river; (3) We made the decision to turn ourselves over—and then we would get stuck on a rock again. Although we started over numerous times, we never made it past the third step.
Ashley: “I’M FRIGGING RELAXED! I AM A TOTAL AMOEBA YET HERE I AM STUCK ON YET ANOTHER MOTHER FLIPPING [still trying to tone down the cussing for the little delicate ears] ROCK! SON OF A MONKEY!!!”
Scott: “Just float!”
Ashley: “[To BB1 and BB2] Cover your eyes, pumpkins. [To Scott] FLOAT THIS!!!”
Finally, finally, finally, finally, finally, we came within sight of where they plucked you out of the river and put you on a bus. I swear it felt like I’d been in that damned creek so long that I should have floated on back to the North Carolina shore. Disembarking was just as much fun as getting in the tube, but at least I got to get out of the water.
We’re meeting our friends in the mountains again this summer, but we have tabled the tubing idea. My posterior cheeks are still sore from the rocks and it will take at least two years to recover.