When Milk and Whiskey were “tweens” our mom decided that dad wasn’t the only one who could take the kids camping. So she gassed up her Honda, reserved a tent cabin in Yosemite National Park and set sail with family friend (and reliable back-up adult) “Aunty” Jane along for the ride. (not code for pot)
On the way up we had a pleasant drive through California gold country, stopping to buy fruit and other snacks at the famous roadside stand and petting zoo, “Casa De Fruita!” For the next hour, I sat in the back seat playing slug bug with MILK and happily munching on dried apricots and nuts while singing along to the Cars classic album Heartbreak City. A while later I began to fart. This will come into play later in the story.
We pulled into Yosemite with the windows rolled down and everyone cursing me for the “eye-searing stench” from the back seat. In my defense I was not the only one eating the dried apricots, and I think “eye-searing” was a bit harsh, but when you’re the only boy in a car with three girls, guess who the fingers are pointed at. If only we owned a dog.
As the grownups checked us into our rustic accommodations, I flipped through a photo album on the counter that featured pictures of damage to vehicles and campsites inflicted by the local wildlife in their never ending search for poorly secured food. The clerk took our money and gave us directions to our tent-cabin, which basically consisted of a wood floor and sides reaching up about three feet. The rest of the hovel was canvas, cots, and a wood stove.
To give you an idea of how woodsy our mom and Jane were, they didn’t even open the door. The ladies stood there staring at the “cabin” and, ten seconds and an AMEX platinum later, our hovel magically became a four bedroom cabin with two fireplaces, full cable TV, air conditioning, a fruit basket, and a deck with a gas BBQ.
The farting continued. At some point in the evening, I was scent outside under the pretense of getting another bottle of wine from the car. Really, they were just trying to clear the air, but halfway down the pitch black path to the car, I heard some mysterious forest noises and hauled ass back. I refused to leave the cabin for the rest of the night.
So the following morning, after a rugged room service breakfast, we were walking down to the car when mom noticed a crowd around the trusty Prelude. “Hey, what the hell?” She hiked up her big girl pants and stomped towards her car to run off the group of villagers who were probably up to no good.
As we drew closer to the car the crowd slowly parted for us but their eyes stayed riveted on the car.
“Oh, shit” Mom quipped. I looked at her with that special “hey I’m not allowed to say that” look.
The car had been peeled open like a canned ham by Smokey’s cousin, “Hungry” the bear. The bear had grabbed the top of the passenger side window and pulled it down… not just the glass, the whole damn frame. It was an awesome example of why you shouldn’t arm wrestle bears, or exercise your right to arm bears, or let your children feed them candy bars; those animals are terrifyingly strong. If I had completed my mission the night before, I was certain I would have been given the canned ham treatment as well.
“I hope it didn’t swipe the Cars tape,” I joked. Mom shot me a look that silenced the sarcasm.
A ranger walked over. “I’m really sorry about your car ma’am, he got a couple of others too” He snapped a Polaroid.
“Is that for insurance?” mom asked.
“Hah, good one, nah it’s for the photo album we got on the desk at check-in.” He chuckled and walked away writing a note on the picture.
Mom, Jane, Milk, and I stood there for a while just looking at the car. The bear had ripped apart the driver’s seat and done some decent bear claw related damage to the backseat as well.
“But we didn’t leave any food in the car!” Mom said to the universe, hoping for a mulligan.
“You and your damn apricot farts,” Jane said looking at me. Then they all glared at me together. Again, I spent a good deal of my childhood completely outnumbered by women.
“My insurance guy isn’t going to believe this one,” Mom muttered. And he didn’t, either. He hung up on her. Did I mention it was April first? Seriously.
I began to build a defense which I knew wouldn’t hold water in the judgement of these women, then I switched to a distraction technique. “So we’re still going to see Bridal Veil Falls, right,” I asked.
“And ride horses???” Milk chimed in, suddenly realizing that this could mean the fun would be cut short. “You promised we would ride horses!” She did the lower lip quiver thing little girls do.
“God Dammit!” A man yelled out two cars over.
We turned and watched some guy experiencing a rerun of our own previous reality check.
Here’s the moment when I learned that, in life, no matter how bad you think things are going, there is always someone more screwed.
Hungry the bear, while having broken into several cars in the parking lot (and all were Hondas), had merely vandalized ours. He’d not only vandalized this fellow’s car, he took a giant bear shit on the driver’s seat as his final act for the evening. While the man was trying not to puke, the ranger explained the bears seem to favor Hondas because they can sink their claws into the rain gaskets and then just peel the door off. I hope Honda has since remedied this now painfully obvious bear defense design flaw.
Four men helped wrestle our door’s frame back into some semblance of its original shape. The door still closed, which meant we could still drive home. Instead of hitting the road, though, we went and rented some horses. When life throws as many hilarious disasters at you as it does at our family, you just learn to roll with it.
At the end of the trip we drove home with Saran Wrap duct taped to the window frame to keep the wind out.
So gentle readers remember, when life gives you lemons just think, “Could be worse, could be bear shit on my car seat.” I’m told that smell never really comes out. It’s all berries and grubs…and probably hot dogs. Maybe lemons will help.
Final note: our car is still in that album as far as I know, and the women still remind me that my farts are to bears what chum is to sharks.