Monday, November 12, 2018

One Forgettable, One Forgotten

No, really — this is me smiling. (Note happy leg scabs.)

I used to be this person. Once, and upon a time.

Fifteen years back, now, in 2003, September. September 27. Fifteen years, and even another two months beyond that. A while.

I was sick. It was the year that I was sick. I don't know. Something. Maybe giardia, starting at the end of May, just after a routine trip around Mt St Helens. Nothing memorable about that except that was the trip that my spoon broke, so I used a stick. Maybe it was the stick.

I used a stick to finish just that one meal, then realized that I could do without it, and without a spoon, so the end of May, 2003 was the last time I took a spoon backpacking. But maybe it was the stick. I'm careful, and I can't see how I could have infected myself in any way, but I developed something, and it kept getting worse, and then eventually, in October sometime, it got much worse for a day, and then it was over. Over after I spent a whole day sitting on the floor with my back to the wall, trying to hold on to the carpet while intense intestinal cramps fought each other for the rights to my gut.

That was it, except for two days of diarrhea and a couple following weeks of vile outgassings to finish up.

But it wasn't all fun.

And carrying one of my early packs. The very first weighed 9.8 ounces and still hurt. Duct tape is a pack-maker's tool they never mention. But hey — it works.

That was the year that I was sick, from the end of May to the middle of October, and that was the year that I wrote a sample letter that my gastroenterologist thought was so good that he just signed it on the spot. And then I wasn't working any more. No one said good-bye.

I submitted the letter the next day and within about four hours (or a bit less — maybe it was two hours) I was free. Leave-of-absence for medical reasons. By a trick of the personnel system I was able to submit a thick sheaf of leave slips up front and retain my medical insurance, by gradually using accumulated sick leave over a period of up to a year. But I didn't need a year. I lucked. By the middle of October I had a different job — came out of the blue with a fat jump in salary attached, a two-year data-warehouse project, and I could continue working, for more money, and be asshole-free as well.


In 2003 I set off just a day or two ahead of the July 4th weekend on a 14-day, 200-mile trip through Olympic National Park. Even with rumbling guts. Several things did not go quite right and I began backtracking just shy of halfway through. Then in early August I took a week off on medical leave (Hah!) and picked up the route about where I'd abandoned it, and finished the second half of the trip.

Then I got my letter signed and quit. "Quit", in quotes, since I was still an employee, but no longer working. I had a year's worth of nothing, with free health insurance, and money in the bank besides, so I did more hiking, not knowing what would come next. Which, after another eight weeks or so, was a better job at the state agency where I had first started doing computer work, and not the zoo I'd just escaped from. Shortly after that project ended (successfully, early, and under budget) and I reverted to my previous agency, I quit. A "hard reset". I decided I'd rather die than keep working there, so I submitted a resignation with my two-weeks' notice, and a leave slip for two weeks, and walked out. My more-or-less temporary boss at the time was himself off on vacation but he handled it well, and I never did get charged for those last two weeks of leave that I took, which amounted to roughly an extra $2000 in the bank when I cashed out my unused leave. Decent guy.

I always felt bad about suddenly bailing out like that but there was nothing for me to do. They had me just sitting there killing time. Even though management was different from when I went on my leave-of-absence, and they weren't actively hostile, they still had their heads up their butts and there was nothing to do, and then my position was going to be eliminated, and I couldn't stand the pure waste of my life, so that's why I quit, on July 7, 2005.

I haven't worked since.

I made the shirt too. Found the cap on the trail one day. Photos shot with my first digital camera, a Kodak DC4800 (3.1 MP).

Got lucky.

I squeaked by. Now that I'm old enough, I have two separate governments sending me money every month to stay away and not bother them again, which I'm good at. Like a quiet little mousy-mouse. I even have health insurance such as it is, which is better than none, etc.

Last year my high school class had its final reunion. I didn't go. I didn't go to any of them, but I did look them up. I sort-of wished I'd been able to make it last year but I know it would have turned out hellish. I read the programs from previous years with insufferable and stale activities planned out to the exact pointless minute.

They were the same people I had known decades ago but older. No other changes. Older — that's all. The same games and blind mediocrities. The same. The same tiny samenesses.

They had posted the photos from the class yearbook online. I looked through them. There was a separate section for the deceased. I was surprised to find too many holes in my life in the shape of people I'd once known. And my photo was there too. I sent them a comment saying that I was surprised to find myself deceased but that it wasn't all that bad being dead and not to worry, but there was never a reply, so that's about my last contact with all of them, I guess. Even all these years on they still ignore me. Well, you can judge by the photos. One forgotten.

One more.

Me again.


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