Mr. Grouch and I met in 1997, my freshman year of college, his sophomore year. It didn’t take long for me to fall head over heels. At 18 years old, I knew he’d probably be the one I married, but we were young and foolish and we used to drive each other batshit crazy. We broke up a few times and after 4 years of mostly-together-but-a-little-apart, we thought we might have broken up for good. We were separated for 3 1/2 years before getting back together for ever-ever.
Within The Hiatus, we each dated other people. I briefly kept company with a guy we’ll call Featherweight. Featherweight and I decided to go camping for a weekend, and visit my friend Nic, who was in the middle of a months long hiking adventure on the Appalachian Trail. I called Nic the day before we left so we would know his exact location on the trail.
Before hanging up, I asked him, “Have you seen any bears?” I was expecting him to say no.
Nic is a tall, lanky blonde, who was dirty and smelly and scruffy from months of hiking along the trail. He also pilfered 3 rolls of toilet paper – by unrolling them by hand – from the stalls at Applebees when we took him there at the end of the trip. The look on his mangy bearded face was priceless when we pointed out that we could have just given him several rolls we brought. But, that is completely irrelevant to the story. Back to the phone call.
Apparently only one day earlier, he had been walking briskly, arms swinging, with his 40 lb. pack on his back. He was listening to music and was so comfortable on the trail that he was paying more attention to his thoughts than the scenery, until he noticed a dark image out of the corner of his eye. He turned his head to the left, threw his arms up and let out an “Ahhhh!” when he realized there was a large brown bear standing at close proximity. He discovered that bears take loud yelling, accompanied with raised arms, to be an aggressive posture. He told me, “Everything you learn about what to do when you come across a bear goes out the window. I just started running”.
Nic started trotting down the trail and the bear started galloping after him. A couple of trail runners were jogging in the opposite direction, and when they saw this chase, they turned around and started running the other way. Three people in a row, sprinting as a brown bear followed. Eventually the bear swiped at Nic’s pack and then stopped the chase.
Remember, this was the day before we were going to meet him on the trail. My panicking-about-bears problem was born.
So Featherweight and I start hiking on the “trail”. You can’t follow the Appalachian Trail by looking down at your feet because there aren’t clear paths worn away by walkers. In order to make sure you stay on the trail, you have to look for white swipes of paint, called blazes, on the trees. You scan to the left and to the right and when you see a blaze, you know to walk in that direction. Then you scan again and search for the next blaze. This is what they look like:
After 3 miles of walking, Featherweight and I realize we had been walking in the wrong direction. Crap. We turned around and after 6 miles of hiking, we were back at the beginning. The beginning of the end. We were now going to arrive later than we thought, and later in the day meant closer to darkness and I now knew that darkness was full of bears.
I started walking faster. It started getting darker. I started walking FASTER. Featherweight started lagging behind. Featherweight started whining about his pack being too heavy. Featherweight started whining about night-blindness and was all “I can’t see any of the blazes”. Featherweight started whining about me going to fast.
I stared at him incredulously. Darkness. Blindness. Bears. This is when I knew for sure he wasn’t the one. The proverbial straw on the camel’s back, if you will. I will not be slowed down and potentially end up lost in the woods, in the dark, with bears. I. Will. Not. Be. Slowed. Down. Even though Mr. Grouch and I never went camping, I knew if I needed him to keep up, he would. He wouldn’t let me get eaten by a bear. Even if he was tired, and hungry and couldn’t see, he’d at least protect me by making sure to keep up, you see?
Needless to say the camping experience with Featherweight was tense and awkward and we were so clearly OVER. I advise all couples to put themselves in a few stressful situations before picking a mate, otherwise you might not realize you’re dating a Featherweight until it’s too late.
Mr. Grouch and I are now older and we still drive each other batshit crazy. But, he can keep up with me, which makes him a keeper.
If you liked this post you may also enjoy An Open Valentine To Mr. Grouch