In my life, I get asked two questions above all others. One is “How are you still alive?!?!?” which is always asked in an incredulous tone. The second is, “How do you manage to get yourself in all of these situations??!?!”. The answer to the first question is a trade secret. Someday, I’ll reveal it, when I figure it out. The answer to the second question is harder. I usually laugh it off. Sometimes, I’ll try to explain that I have the devil’s luck (http://www.lastadventurer.com/last-adventurers-fieldnotes/2010/4/29/smoke-em.html), sometimes I confine my response to “wrong time, right place”, and sometimes, I’ll try to explain that it’s all a question of perspective about whether the incident was extraordinary or not.
For example, a couple of Wednesdays ago, I left my office. While sitting in a long line of cars, I saw something that did not belong in the day-to-day sameness. It was a car with a flat tire parked up against the curb. Behind the car, an old man was struggling to get the spare out of the trunk. After watching seven cars pass the old man without stopping, I realized that I would be ashamed to proceed any further without helping. I pulled out of the line of cars I was sitting in. I parked on the curb behind the old man. I introduced myself and offered to help. He told me he was 87 years old, and among other things, very grateful for any help I could give him. I rolled up my sleeves, got the spare out, wheeled it over to the flat, and then noticed that the car wasn’t really on the jack that he had put under it.
As I hesitantly reached in to see whether I needed to remove the jack entirely and replace it, the car shifted. I jerked my questioning left arm back, but not fast enough. Something clipped it – the bumper, the car, whatever – something. Blood began to well out of a gash. Shaking my head at my own naiveté, I went back to my car, and bandaged my arm. Then, I went back to the old man’s car, laughed off his comment that he had thought I was leaving, and finished changing the tire. After he and his wife thanked me, they drove off. I then continued on home, and cleaned and bandaged the wound. Later, at dinner with friends, one of them pointed at my arm and asked what had happened. I told them, and as they shook their heads in disbelief, the above question came up. Amused, I told them that it was nothing, because it was within the normal range of experiences in my day-to-day life. At that point, looking at their faces, I could tell that their perspective, it was an adventure.
Despite this, I was nonplussed. The next day, I was with some different friends, when the subject came up again as the bandage was still there. One friend kept asking me, “how exactly did that happen?”. And, after I had explained it a number of times, he was still curious – and had a number of questions I couldn’t answer. Laughing, I told him that I didn’t have the answers to his questions because I had been too busy trying to save my arm. As I joke, I told him that I’d draw him a picture of the events. After finding pen and paper, I began to draw a picture – but in the midst of drawing poorly, I realized that I’d rather make a joke out of it, and began to make some additions. The picture you see at the top is my recollection of the picture I drew for him. Yes, my art skills are horrendous. And yes, my handwriting is even more awful.
In the picture, fish fly across the sky, trees have wisdom, the old man was an evil wizard, and there was a summoning circle to another dimension, among other things. When I was done, I handed it across to him, and said pithily, “This should answer all of your questions!”. He stared at it for a bit, and very rightly criticized my drawing and handwriting, but laughed about things. Later, when I was at home, I realized that the story had become an adventure due to the attention and silliness that had followed it.
In that way, perspective’s an interesting thing – it changes based on time, place, and sometimes, the reactions of others. I find it’s always good to try and consider as many perspectives as I can, when I’m making a decision, solving a problem, addressing disputes, dealing with crises, accepting rejection, or simply choosing a flavor of ice cream, before remembering who I am, and using that perspective to do what needs to be done. I find if you want to have an adventure, all you need to do is change your perspective. Adventure is everywhere. My tip: start small, consider different things, and work your way up from there; and always be ready to deal with small issues, like scraped arms, with a smile.
I’ll be out at the Xterra Malibu Creek race tomorrow (http://www.trailrace.com/malibu.html) for most of the morning, racing and talking, if anyone wants to swing by. Next week: race coverage, and an extended series of posts about desert adventuring and the perils it may entail….