It has been a very difficult year. In June my dad was diagnosed with cancer; in October my job went from stressful but rewarding to ridiculously stressful and un-rewarding; and in February my hair entered that in-between awkward stage in the growing-out process. To cope, I tried drinking more regularly and wearing decorative headbands, but I could still tell my face has aged twenty years, my body ten, and my liver forty-five. It is a very difficult time indeed.
My boss can sense that I am about to take the break room refrigerator hostage and eat all of the leftover Anniversary/Birthday Celebration Dairy Queen cakes, so she nominates me to attend our company’s annual Circle of Excellence trip, which recognizes hard-working employees in our department (i.e. those employees that allow slave wages and labor to be imposed upon them without complaint).
This year’s trip is in sunny San Diego at a spa/golf resort constructed out of heaven’s own amenities. The bed in my hotel room is piled so high with soft and fluffy things (I swear I see a lamb and a silkworm farm at the foot of the bed) that I need a step stool to climb my way into it.
Our first night in San Diego features free drinks, food, and mingling with the senior execs (On a side note, who in their right mind has ever considered the chance to mingle with the people who make 100 percent more and do 50 percent less work as a “reward?” I would prefer an hour with the mistress or wives/husbands of these execs so at least I can gather some valuable gossip to blackmail my way to the top someday, or alternately, prevent my eventual firing when they finally track my Internet usage).
After one of the vice presidents calls me “Jess” for the fifth time in an hour, my friend Shelly and I decide to call it a night. We have a big day of site-seeing and avoiding company-sanctioned activities ahead of us so we figure we should make ourselves as scarce as possible to prevent anyone getting too familiar with our faces.
We get up bright and early and take the shuttle in to La Jolla. We are both grateful to be away from the forced conversation that comes with trying to socialize with other stressed out employees who feel the same sort of wary dislike of us as we do of them. My idea of relaxation isn’t talking to three hundred strangers about retirement plans but instead focuses more around sipping a cocktail, napping, and eating junk food.
As soon as we get down to the beach, we see the sea lions. We have both seen the sea lions many times before, yet we are still enchanted by the sea lions. One of us suggests we get closer to the sea lions so we can take pictures of the sea lions frolicking. To get closer to the cute, playful little sea lions, we have to walk on twenty-five feet of wet rock. This does not seem to be a problem since we are wearing fashion tennies made with sensible rubber soles and not something unsafe like sandals or flip-flops.
I begin skipping over the rocks like someone with the balance of a Chinese gymnast and the dexterity of a porn star. I have almost reached my goal when suddenly I can’t feel my feet (but I catch a glimpse of them flying up in the air) and I hear a tremendous THUMP sound near the back of my head. I close my eyes and wonder what could be happening (Did one of those cute little sea lions attack me and throw me to the ground, kung-fu style?), and when I open them I see only blue sky. If I was a cartoon character I would also see a circle of stars over my head and the chirping of birds.
Shelly’s concerned face pops into my vision, along with a strange man who may or may not be with us. It is hard to say since I think I have been concussed and perhaps have significant memory loss, but I am still not sure of anything.
Shelly asks, “Are you OK? Jenny? Can you hear me—you fell onto a rock. Are you OK?” I can tell she is sort of laughing due to my history of falling, tripping, and spilling. I’m sure the fall would have done the folks at the Wide World of Sports proud and would have been featured at the top of the show in the “agony of defeat” segment.
I respond, “Arghish scrimble pookbah.” Then I lay my head back down on my new favorite rock pillow and think about taking a nap.
Unfortunately Shelly and the concerned passerby do not agree with my plan of napping and force me to slowly sit up. I try and tell them that I don’t like their plan but it comes out something like, “Fernowl slowsupke.” They begin to pass weird looks back and forth and I try and reassure them that I am fine by waving my hand in the air a few times in a weak “I’m okay” gesture.
After a few minutes of them trying to convince me not to lie down and me trying to communicate that I am fine, the cobwebs slowly start to clear out of my brain. The helpful passerby tells me several times that he was a few steps behind me when I fell and saw the whole thing happen. He says I basically flew up into the air and landed on the back of my head. I know he is right because my head feels like it is going to split open, and there is blood flowing everywhere (which is a huge bummer since I had really liked how my hair turned out that morning).
Between the three of us, we have two travel-size Kleenexes, which are not exactly doing the job of slowing the blood flow. They start talking about moving me to the shore so they can call an ambulance or the beach patrol or anyone who can put my head back together without ruining my hair.
I do not like the idea of movement at all. While it seems like a super idea to be back on dry land, it does not seem like a super idea to try and walk on wet rocks ever, ever, ever again. I suggest we wait for a helicopter to come by and airlift me to the beach. They say that they like my idea but want to have a back-up plan in case a helicopter doesn’t happen by in the next ten seconds. I suggest we train one of the sea lions to swim me back to shore on its cute little sea lion back. They say that this is another great idea but again want me to think about their plan of walking carefully back to the beach.
Reluctantly I agree to walk/crawl back to the shore. I have to keep one hand on the back of my head to keep my brains in (at this point I am assuming the worst and have prepared myself for the fact that I will leave 20 percent of my brains back on those goddamn rocks) and one hand on Shelly’s back. I decide that if I go down again, I am taking her with me so I will at least have one friend to grunt at every day in the hospital.