The road taught me an important lesson. Life cannot be controlled. I used to be a bit of a control freak, needing things to be a certain way, believing that controlling the little things in life would somehow make me happy.
On the trip, I searched for basic truths, about life and about myself. I found that life is about following the currents, and being happy with the little things.
On the trip I talked about needing kindness from strangers. Well, I’m still alone, and although I have some friends to hang out with and a not-bad social life for someone who’s been here about a month. Today is going to be a day where I go without talking to anyone all day. I have learned to enjoy this, to just be invisible. Some days i feel desperate to have someone to talk to. i email like mad and sign onto all of my messenger accounts. I turn up the ringer on the phone, check all of my email accounts, and catch up on the internet forums. Being on my own is something that I should be used to, so i have to curb the people-dependent behaviour. Going a full day without talking is a great behavioural science experiment for me to conduct on myself. It sure beats television.
I had to get used to being looked at as “the weird girl” just because it’s “weird” for a girl to be on her own. Cities are great places for single or gay people. Today I’m out wearing what I want, with very big hair. It’s a bit of a social experiment. I truly believe in not judging people by their appearance and I count on the same in return. The way someone chooses to dress tells us a lot about them and we can interpret the image they choose to project – but it’s a fickle science...
They’re classic Canadian rednecks. In their broken English (English being the only language they’ve ever spoken) they talk loudly about doing time in jail. The store is cramped, small, and has that strange “used stuff smell” about it. But it’s a great place to get some ugly used dishes, so I like to drop in before my shift at the pub. On Saturday, I walked in and fell in love. There’s a green velvet chair just inside the door. Inside the door means it’s a new arrival. It doesn’t even have a price yet. I walked around a bit and looked at dishes, searching for spice jars, specifically. This place has everything you could ever imagine, broken up into specific departments as indicated by the spelling error laden signs displayed everywhere. “Rackchets” is my favourite.
I ask for help from the elderly woman who runs the store and is obviously the hardened family matriarch. She’s the one that tosses the other family members around with verbal abuse from her solid stance at about 4’11.
I’m late for work but I don’t care because I hope to be quitting that job soon. I really just drive up there since I have to check my mail in squamish, maybe climb a bit and oogle the mountain biker and climber boys who frequent the restaurant. Oh, and I need the money. On my way out the door I have to pass the Gorgeous Green Chair (GGC) and I stop in my tracks. Okay, I’ll just sit in it. I sit down and am enveloped in comfort. It rocks, it swivels, it is so mine. I ask the elderly matriarch the price and find it pleasingly affordable. I arrange to pick it up the next day and head to work.
It’s a full moon, which is something I learned to celebrate while on my trip. I’ve turned semi-superstitious; if I notice a small pattern in my life, I’ll call it good luck and try to repeat it. It provides me with a way to follow life, and provides me with a small sense of routine. I camped out at the chief on my own that night to celebrate the full moon, and to dodge the impending but much needed doom of obtaining full-time employment. When I’m pitching my tent
, I reflect on the first time I pitched it - 4am in West Virginia. That was about four years ago, I cracked one night, drove into work early the next morning, bought the tent at MEC on lunch break, and hit the road straight into Friday Afternoon Toronto Long Weekend Traffic. I was fatigued from being awake for so long. This was my first road trip with betsy who was only 14 at the time and hadn't been checked out before the trip. it was so late and this was my first time experiencing solo-roadtrip delirium as i ripped the tags off the tent and figured out how to pitch it. I then found myself wide awake as my brain filed through and replayed scenes from every horror movie i had ever watched. there's a good reason why i don't watch horror movies anymore. In contrast, my Sunday night at the chief was so comfortable and it felt good to be out camping by myself again. I make a mental note as I fall asleep to the roar of Shannon Falls: camping by myself is something I'm going to need for the rest of my life.
It’s back to the mini flea market, to adopt the GGC. I have a few theories on how to fit it in my car. Hey, sometimes you just have to believe. A lady in the store offers to help and at first I decline, pick up the chair and walk out the door. Oh my god it’s heavy. Jane runs out to help. She’s a somewhat trashy looking woman in her late 40’s with lots of ear piercings, big 80's glasses and about six necklaces that sit on her proudly displayed bosom. We carry the chair out to the car and I inform/warn her of my determination to fit it in my small car.
For Christ’s sake, I lived in that thing, it can fit a chair. We try the first theory. Front door, passenger side, seat down. It almost makes it, but the frame of the chair base is just about 1.5” too big to get in the door. Darn. I’m laughing at the situation and thanking jane for her help, while we share quips about the humourous side of being women struggling to get a big chair in a small car. She tells me how muscular she used to be, and I tell her I used to be pretty muscular too, and we share a laugh about how we used to feel manly with all that muscle tone, and we’re adjusting to feeling feminine. So anyway, we've established that we’re stubborn and strong and we can do this. The trunk is the next option for the GGC to come home, but it’s full. I keep chatting with jane as I empty the trunk of a lot of roadtrip leftovers of climbing and camping gear. I push loose socks, shoes, and empty starbucks coffee cups around while unloading backpacks. This used to be my closet, and now all my stuff is on the road, including the soup I bogartted home last night from the restaurant.
The trunk/closet turns out to be pro-choice and the GGC won’t fit. Okay, I can give up, I’ll just take a store credit and get some dishes or something. Jane and I stand on the side of the road, taking in the scene. Bouldering pad, back pack, duffle bag, and a whole lotta crap surround the GGC on the road. It’s a shame I can’t take it home. Jane and I look at each other with the same idea – why not try the back seat? I run to put the front seats up as far as they’ll go, and we laugh at how with great drama I release the driver’s seat, only to have it click up just one damned notch. Yeah, I’m short and if the seat was any further back, I wouldn’t have been able to reach the pedals. We manhandle the base off the chair, there are tools involved now so we’ve had to do a bit of grunting. We get the base off and squeeze the chair into the backseat. There is a lot of rejoicing when the chair finally eases in and I’m jumping up and down. The chair is mine. What’s mine fits in the car, and the GGC is IN the car. Fuck yeah.
I calmed down enough to offer Jane a coffee to say thank you and she politely declines. “The smile on your face when we got that thing in the car was enough for me.” She says.
She asks if I have someone in the city to help me get the chair back in the car and I say that no, I don’t really know that many people. She looks concerned so I reassure her that I could always ask my landlord to help. She’s amazed that I’m on my own in the big, scary city and I tell her about my roadtrip – about traveling around the states on my own in this little car. Doesn't it look a little bit lived-in? She looks a little distressed and scolds me about all the bad people you have to watch out for. I politely correct her and tell her that there are plenty of good people out there too, and this is something I learned on my trip – just to believe in and look for the good in people. I’m not a crazy hippy, I tell her. I mean, look. You’re a complete stranger and you just helped me get my GGC home. You didn't have to do this, but this is something that helps me to believe in people, so thank you. It isn't just about getting the GGC in the car, here. Her expression softens and she smiles. It’s like her face cracks when she smiles – the stress in her life has set some very stern lines on it.
Well, it was great to meet you and thanks again. I tell her. She extends her hand out to shake mine. Good to meet you too. I drove away high on life, with the base of a big, velvet green chair in my rearview mirror, at kissing distance from the steering wheel with the seat up all the way. This was one of my favourite things, and my sure-fire way to be happy: a quick burst of human interaction where I observe myself as a third party and I’m glad that I triggered a bit of happiness in someone’s life in return. Life is good. Now it’s time to climb.