Saturday, December 12, 2009

My Best Friend, The Angry Driver (Or: The Tragic Death Of Shamu)

Since absolutely nothing interesting is happening in my life right now, at least not anything I want to share with the internet, and this blog is new, I'm probably going to be filling it with a lot of stories that have already happened. Since the most that's happening right now is, well, I have two days to decide what to do with my life, and I have no idea what the decision will be, so I'm ignoring it by developing an addiction to Bones. Which, by the way, is awesome. 

This is not my most interesting story, but it's on my mind tonight, so I'm going to tell it. I know it's crazy long, but I'd say it's pretty interesting, so please, read! Or at least skim.

There are a few interesting stories that go along with my best friend driving. We spent most of the past summer in her now-deceased car, Shamu (yeah, like the whale--she explained it by saying "it's big and blue," but I'm pretty sure the whale was not actually blue, as it was an orca), while our other best friend was traipsing around Europe with our gay-but-in-denial insensitive Canadian guy friend (the people I know are a cast of characters, you'll get to know them all eventually). There were late-night trips to Waffle House, wild parties, sketchy drug deals, picnics, camping trips, lots of Mexican food consumed--we had a pretty awesome summer, really.  Lots of stories to tell.

Anyway, I don't have a driver's license (ridiculous, I know), so she drove. If you met her outside of her car, you'd think she was a really easygoing person, with no temper to speak of, despite being a redhead. You wouldn't be able to imagine her screaming curse words at anyone. 

And then, if you got into her car, you'd stare at her, jaw practically on the floor, for the duration of the ride. 

If you think you know road rage, well, you don't know it coming from a tiny, innocent-seeming girl. She'll scream at anyone she thinks might have made the slightest mistake driving. I don't think the anger is helped by blasting Nickelback out of the car speakers, her favorite band, whose music, whenever I hear it, now just takes me back to her car on our way to our after-graduation celebration camping trip. 

Just picture it. The most innocent person you know, sweet and quiet and nice to everyone, screaming like the most foul-mouthed truck driver you can imagine. It's definitely a sight to see, if you're not used to it. 

Once, we were in Shamu, driving away from the high school, headed to Subway to get some sandwiches, and two kids were walking in the road. 

"Get out of the road, dumbasses!" she screamed. They got out of the road.

As we were waiting in line at Subway, the same two kids walked into the restaurant. Road rage can come back to bite you, can't it?

Sadly, Shamu died a tragic death, also known as the time we got into a car crash and then hiked a mile through the woods in the dark and I fell into a river. 

The story is this: a friend of mine from out of town, who had never been camping, never seen the mountains, came to visit. We decided the way to make her visit awesome would be to go camping. 

I think now is the time for nicknames. I don't know if I should be revealing the actual names of all my friends to the internet at large, so I'm going to come up with nicknames for the three other people central to this story. Since I don't feel particularly creative, I used the Random Word Generator to come up with three common nouns. The friend from out of town will be "Inspection." My best friend the driver will be "Enterprise." The other friend I'm about to introduce will be "Epic."

So, after Enterprise and I decided to take Inspection camping, we called Epic. We decided that three girls with little-to-no outdoorsy skills should not go camping in the wilderness alone. Epic was our other best friend's (who the word generator has dubbed "Loophole") boyfriend at the time (and pretty much through all of high school--this is the summer after high school, and they broke up after she went to college), and had become a friend of ours. He's a slacker and major pothead, but a nice guy, entertaining, and good at camping. So, anyway, we call up Epic, and he says, sure, he'll come camping with us. Since he's supposed to be at summer school (which he failed but he hadn't yet told his mom about the failure at the time of this story), we go to his house to get his tent, and have to lie to his mom about not knowing where he is, while he's lying down flat in the back seat of the car in the driveway (I am not condoning any of our behavior, okay? Don't get any ideas. We were not exactly role models for good behavior.). So, we get the tent from his house, a few sleeping bags and firewood from mine, and groceries from Ingles (local chain of grocery stores), and then Epic decides he needs to complete our camping supplies with marijuana. 

Again, I am not condoning anyone's behavior. Drugs are bad, okay? But, I'm telling a story, and I'll tell it honestly.

I never smoked pot, which surprises lots of people given who my friends are/were, but, I've never tried it; however, at this time, I had zero problems with my friends smoking it (I have mixed feelings now, but this is not a post about drugs). My friend from out of town, Inspection, had no experience at all with anyone doing anything even slightly not allowed, let alone doing illegal drugs. Epic had asked Enterprise and I if we minded him smoking on this camping trip, and we'd said no, but I'd forgotten to fully warn Inspection; I had forgotten that not everyone had my experience with and attitude towards drugs. I mean, in my mind, pot was barely a drug. Cigarettes are worse, in my opinion (then and now). 

So, we went to his friend (who doesn't need a name, I don't think) slash dealer's house. This is not a scary drug deal. This is a high school kid who sells pot to his friends. I mean, it got out of hand later and he was more of a legitimate drug dealer, but when this took place, he was just a high school kid selling pot to his friends out of a suburban neighborhood. Not scary, in my opinion. 

But for Inspection, this was a drug deal. Epic went in by himself, and we waited in the car. 

"Is he buying drugs in there?" asked Inspection, sounding freaked out. 

"Um. Yeah." Oops. I'd forgotten about Inspection being way more in line with the rules and the law than we were. "Do you mind too much?"

"Um....I guess not....It's interesting..."

"Have you never been around anything like this before?"

"No. Never. I mean, I guess I knew people did drugs, but I've never seen any before."

Apparently, I wreck people's innocence. This was not the first or last time. "I'm sorry about that, if I'd thought, I would have told him not to...I'm really sorry..."

"No, I don't mind...Are you guys going to smoke it, too?"

"No, not me, Enterprise maybe, but Epic's just a pothead, don't worry about it...I'm sorry!" I continued to apologize for quite some time.

Anyway, he got his weed, and we drove about an hour into the mountains, parked, and then hiked about a mile into the woods, to a campsite Epic knew. This involved crossing a river. The trail was rough, not too bad in the middle of the day, but lots of rocks and roots and such. This will become important. 

We set up camp. Well, Epic and Enterprise set up camp. Inspection and I tried to help. We are not outdoors-people. Inspection had never even been camping before. We built a fire. Epic smoked some weed. 

And then it was dinnertime. Rather than doing any sort of cooking, we had gotten sandwich-making supplies, string cheese, chocolate chip cookies, and some Cheese-Its. 

"We're eating the lunch of a third grader," remarked Enterprise. 

Yes, we were, and it was awesome. Epic ate four peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It's called the munchies, people. He also drank half the beverages we'd packed, because we'd packed for girls, not a six foot tall pot-smoking guy. 

"I think we need more drinks," he said. 

"Yeah, we could head to the convenience store, about twenty minutes down the road....What do you say, Enterprise?" I asked. 

"Sure," she said. We hiked back to the parking lot, but left all our stuff and didn't bring flashlights--we didn't expect to be gone past dark. And, we were never that great at thinking ahead. Enterprise and I are sort of known for a lack of judgment. 

Anyway, we went to the convenience store, got a couple of canned drinks, and were driving back as the sun started to set over the mountains. We actually stopped to watch it for a few minutes; it was beautiful. We were alone on the road, and it was a beautiful evening. It wasn't quite dark yet, and we thought we could make it back to the campsite before it was totally dark. We weren't worried. 

Inspection and I were in the back seat, talking about something I don't remember now. Epic was in the passenger's seat, and, of course, Enterprise was driving. I was holding a can of diet coke, which I opened, and that's when it happened. We were way up in the mountains, with solid rock on one side of us, and a 200-foot drop straight down on the other. I don't remember anything except Epic yelling, "Turn the car! Turn the car!," and then blinding pain. Later, Enterprise told me what had happened: the back wheel of the car had slipped off the pavement (there's no shoulder on the road), she'd been going a little fast, and she overcorrected, sending the car towards the drop-off. In reacting to Epic yelling, she'd turned it back towards the rock face, and the car had slammed into it, spun around, and ended up with the back of the car against the rock. 

I hit my head twice, my forehead on the seat in front of me, and the top of my head on the roof (I was only wearing the lap-belt part of my seatbelt). I ended up bruised on my head, dazed for several hours afterwards (apparently I was repeating myself quite a lot; there are parts of this I don't remember clearly), and bruises from the seatbelt all over my stomach. 

After the impact, I was in so much pain I couldn't see for a minute or so. The first thing I heard was Epic yelling at us to get out of the car. I didn't know if it was going to catch on fire or roll off the mountain or what, so I stumbled out and right into a mud puddle. 

We spent the next few hours sitting on the side of the road, first waiting for emergency services to get there (we were in the middle of nowhere), then for the tow truck, and finally, when all that was done, a policeman drove us back to the parking lot near where we'd camped. Our injuries were minor; I was covered in bruises and had a headache for days afterwards (probably a mild concussion, and the ambulance should have looked at me, but they didn't), Epic was fine, Inspection had a couple of bruises, and Enterprise had been hit in the face by the airbag, and her face was all scraped up (she had a bloody nose immediately after the crash, and, since we had no tissues or anything, was covered in blood). 

Epic was the only calm one, really, probably due to the fact that he was high. We were all glad he was there, though; we would have been freaking out otherwise. 

Anyway, we got back to the trail in the middle of the night. While it wasn't a bad hike in the daylight, we had only a keychain-sized flashlight, and had to go single-file, holding on to each other, with Epic in the front. Aside from a few stumbles, we managed okay, until we got to the river crossing. This requires stepping from one small rock to the next, which is manageable in the daylight, but difficult, to say the least, at night. 

Of course, me being as clumsy as I am, I fell in, just as my feet were starting to dry from the mud puddle. 

So there we were. Back at the tent, covered in bruises and blood, mildly concussed, soaked to the skin, with no way of getting home the next day, and dead cell phones. 

And this is only the beginning of why it sucked. 

The next day, we packed up camp, and hiked, bruises and all, back to the parking lot. We sat on the sidewalk and waited, borrowing cell phones from other hikers when we could, calling various people, searching for a ride. I didn't call my parents, because I hadn't called them after the accident, and I figured telling them about it later rather than immediately would make them assume I was hiding something. To this day, they don't know about it. 

One of the people we got ahold of was Kate's dad, who had had to deal with the car being towed back to the city after the crash. He couldn't come get us, but we learned some sad news: our summer of freedom would have to come to an end. Shamu was dead, and could not be revived. 

That car was our freedom that summer. We went on a three-hour roadtrip to a zoo just because we could. We stayed out until all hours of the night. We did whatever we wanted to, because we had transportation. Alas, it was not to be. Shamu, who had carried us faithfully for two years, had passed. 

Anyway, after two or three hours of waiting, Epic's mom finally picked us up. Embarrassingly, our freshman English teacher had seen us waiting, as she'd been going hiking with her family, and we had to explain to her what was going on. I wasn't so much embarrassed, actually, but Enterprise was, having crashed her car for no good reason. Not that there's ever really a good reason for a car crash, but sometimes there are circumstances besides you not being the greatest driver in the world. 

We'd been lying in the sun, with no sunblock, and the three of us girls (two redheads, one very pale brunette) ended up completely roasted. Epic, with his apparently superior gene pool (he's pretty pale himself) was a little tanned. We were lobster-colored. I spent the next few days wearing a camisole without the straps because anything touching my shoulders caused agony, and taking a few too many prescription painkillers left over from when my mother hurt her hand. There were horrible blisters and I couldn't even take a shower or leave the house. It was pretty much awful. That, on top of the injuries from the car crash. The most painful week of my life. Oh, and did I mention that we had to help Enterprise's aunt move the next day?

Yeah. Moving furniture in that condition was NOT FUN. And we couldn't get any guys to come with us; Epic's mom wouldn't let him leave the house, and it wasn't until we were a few hours into the moving that we managed to get our friend Loophole's little brother to come and help us (little being relative, as he was sixteen). 

I'm not sure that Inspection will ever come visit me again after that; there was a car crash, much pain, drugs, manual labor, lying to my parents.....The only way it could have been worse was if that had been the weekend we slept in a parking lot in hundred-degree heat. But, that's a story for another time, and this one's been long enough. 

We mourned Shamu's death as the end of our adventures, but trust me, we ended up finding ways around it, after we recovered. And that, my friends and nonexistent readers, is the end of the story of the death of Shamu. 

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