My vacation usually takes place the week before & the week of Memorial Day, that transitional time between the end of spring & the beginning of summer. Two glorious weeks of hiking, camping, swimming, climbing, & any other activity that I can enjoy outdoors in the wonders & beauty of nature. It's a great opportunity to experience the many different environments & rare, wild, & historical places protected & nurtured in national & state parks. Some of the most beautiful & majestic masterpieces I've ever seen & experienced are the stunning, wondrous works of nature.
The transitional period is the perfect time to start vacation, because the parks & places I want to see aren't busy yet because the children & most students & their families are still dealing with schools. And by the time Memorial Day weekend rolls in, I've all ready staked out the perfect spot to enjoy the outdoors when the massive holiday crowd rushes in to claim a space of their own.
It's quite a sight to see the usually quiet & empty, tranquil spaces of the first week turn into noisy, chaotic, lively packed spaces during the second week when the holiday weekend comes. I don't mind it. I'd've all ready done the fun, solitary, spectacular activities & explorations by then. I'd've all ready reveled in the serenity of solitude & the joys of solo adventures as I go farther & make new discoveries & learn new things about these stunning, sensational spaces.
The crowds makes for a lively change, & excitement fills the air. It's kind of nice to see families & groups of people come out to enjoy nature & the national treasures protected by & entrusted to the care of the state & national authorities. These wonderful places & sacred spaces are meant to be experienced & cherished for their incomparable beauty & magnificence. And when you take part in the grand experience, you learn to love these places & you realize their significance & do your part to share these marvels & protect them.
I cherish these vacation times, & I consider these treks as sacred pilgrimages to worship at the holy alters of nature & renew my soul in the temples of time & space. There is so much beauty, & there are so many amazing endeavors to experience in these new, riveting places. Yet I keep returning to some of the same spaces, because I discover something new or its haunting secrets call to me like an evocative siren luring me into treacherous, dangerous, mysterious waters.
At times, I dream of these ethereal places & long to linger & lose myself once more in their empyrean presence; to immerse myself in the cosmic awareness; to live outside the ephemeral evanescence of the ever changing life. But I could not undertake my journey into joy this year, for life does what it always does: changing & challenging me to adapt, regardless of my plans & intentions.
I: Cast off
Recently, one of my coworkers relocated to the other side of the country to be closer to family. Her replacement, who's been on the job for three months, two of those months under orientation & training, just quit unexpectedly. She didn't show up for work & when the boss called her to find out if she was okay, she just said that she quit, because she just found out that she was pregnant & she didn't want to work anymore.
To say that we were pissed off is an understatement. We went out of our way to be nice & helpful to this new coworker, even though she came off as snobbish & cold. We figured she was just nervous to start a new job, but this stunt where she didn't even have the common courtesy to come in to work & give two weeks notice was just rude & unprofessional. We wasted all that time & resources training her, & now we have to start all over again. And to make matters worse, we were now short staffed at work.
I suppose I could've just gone on vacation anyway, & be all like 'Screw you mofos!' at work. But I like my coworkers (most of them anyway), & I didn't want to leave them a mess--a mess I would deal with once I got back from my vacation. It would be an avalanche of backlogs & paperwork & problems for me to sort through when I got back, & I didn't want that nor leave the team hanging.
The team works best when we work together, & we had goals to meet & plans to change & put into action to meet those goals. My coworkers & especially my boss were relieved & grateful that I was postponing my approved vacation to deal with the crisis. I've always been an excellent team player when the need arose. But that didn't mean I didn't complain a bit.
And that's exactly what I was doing, venting to my friends at a BBQ Sunday afternoon. Memorial Day weekend has morphed from a day to remember all those who gave their lives to protect this nation & its people to a three day weekend dedicated to mattress sales & BBQ. It's been several years since I've spent Memorial Day weekend at a BBQ. Usually, I'm enjoying a trek, sometimes with crowds, in the wilds of nature this time of year. But since I couldn't go hiking & camping in the faraway places, I might as well enjoy the BBQ. And this being BBQ country, it was BBQs all weekend.
This Sunday BBQ was the third one we've been to this weekend. The first was after work Friday at a friend's place. Then Saturday, we were at the beach. Now here we were at another friend's place, in a canal with the Intercoastal waterway on one end & the open gulf on the other end.
This friend, I'll call Sailor Jack, & it's not just because he loves sailing. There's a childhood picture of him in a sailor uniform complete with a salute that reminds me of Sailor Jack, the kid on the Cracker Jack box. And while the Cracker Jack version has one dog, there are three in his child pic.
His whole family are sailors. His father is actually a retired navy surgeon who spends his time with his second wife sailing to different ports, even racing in some regattas. His second wife is a retired navy lawyer. They've been married for a few years. They recently acquired another boat & plan to race that as well. I'll call the father Captain & his wife, Serenity, because while the woman may have been a lawyer, she was a total hippy who loved parties, dancing, & hosting large gatherings where the alcohol & laughter flowed freely. And any gathering where the alcohol is let loose usually leads to gossip & loss of inhibitions.
And that's exactly what I was doing, letting loose with my anger about the situation at work & the mess we were dealing with. My friends Sailor Jack, Bud, & I were talking about the ridiculousness of the entire situation with a few other people. A few I knew from other gatherings. Others were neighbors & people I was meeting & greeting for the first time. Bud's wife joined our group accompanied by a New Guy that I had never met before.
By this time, I was feeling a good buzz & the alcohol caused me to lower my inhibitions & say things I usually don't say in polite company. At this point, I just went with what I felt, common sense & caution be damned. This state of inebriation is one my friends enjoy. I'm a nice, mellow drunk who tends to say ridiculous & silly things, sometimes filthy things, to the amusement of my friends, who often egg me on or keep my glass full of alcohol to keep the laughs going.
I complained about my quitting coworker, "It just ticks me off that we wasted two months training her, then another month helping her, & the whole time, she was totally standoffish & snobby! Every excruciatingly boring conversation with her consisted of her bragging about how she earned a Masters degree from an Ivy League school. That doesn't say a lot for the prestige & credibility of Ivy League schools if they don't teach their graduates ethics & common courtesy like coming in to work & giving notice, instead of just not showing up, making us worry something bad had happened to her."
"So what happened to her?", asked someone in the group.
I answered, "She said she was quitting because she just found out that she was pregnant & she didn't want to work anymore."
"What?!", "Is it a high risk pregnancy?", "Is she for real?", the crowd asked.
I confessed, "I honestly don't know why being pregnant would cause her to quit work or if she's even pregnant at all. All I know is, she wasted our time & resources & left a huge mess which caused me to cancel my vacation."
That caused the crowd to murmur their agreement & write off the Quitter as unprofessional. But Bud's wife, Mrs. Bud, offered a different view, "Well, pregnancy is a life changing event, & maybe we should be more understanding of her situation."
A few people agreed. But I was not ready to let Quitter off the hook. I said, "I don't have an issue with her being pregnant. My issue is that she didn't even have the common decency to let us know that she was quitting & give us two weeks notice to find a replacement. She didn't even bother to call us. We called her to find out what was going on, worrying that she was hurt or worse. She was so cavalier about the whole thing, like she didn't give a damn & that really pissed me off."
Mrs. Bud replied, "Oh, I definitely agree that it was messed up how she just quit like that. That's totally unprofessional. All I'm saying is that pregnancy changes things & makes people act differently."
"True," I acknowledged, "Pregnancy does change things." I'd like to point out at this time that Mrs. Bud, in addition to being a long time friend from college, was also eight months pregnant! Of course she would defend her spawning sisterhood! But as she was also my friend, I could not resist teasing her, as we often do to one another.
So I said, "As miraculous & life changing it is to be pregnant, why should I have to change my plans because someone else got pregnant?"
Mrs. Bud replied, "No one is asking you to change your life. But you do need to be more accommodating when these things happen, because it's a miracle of life. And if you show the proper concern & take consideration of the situation, then when a life changing event happens to you, others can make the same concerned considerations for you."
It sounded perfectly reasonable. But I wasn't looking for reasonable. I was looking for a good laugh. So I said, "Why does it have to a life changing event in my life to get that kind of consideration? What if I don't have any life changing events? Does that mean my life & time are worth less? Why do I have to change my work schedule & workload just because someone else got knocked up? It's like we're being punished for having the foresight & good fortune to stay child free yet we're expected to do more work for the same pay while the expectant ones get less responsibility. That's not fair. What happened to equality in the workplace? I say equal pay for equal work. You do more work, you should get more pay!"
Mrs. Bud replied, "It's not an equality issue, it's a quality of life issue. Pregnant people should be protected at work so long as they make valuable contributions. "
I said, "I don't begrudge them protection. I just don't like doing extra work because someone else decided to get knocked up."
"Maybe it's not a choice for some. Maybe it's unplanned. Maybe they can't do family planning for religious or affordability reasons," replied Mrs. Bud.
"First off, planned or unplanned or immaculate conception, religious figureheads need to keep their noses out of people's private business, especially when people's private business literally has to do with what they do with their privates! Second, if you can't afford family planning, then you should be making every effort to avoid behaviors that lead to breeding a family that you can't support!", I argued.
"Are you saying poor people shouldn't have children?", Mrs. Bud challenged.
"No," I countered,"I'm saying there are alternatives & affordable & free ways to prevent pregnancies."
"It sounds like you disapprove of pregnancies in the workplace," argued Mrs. Bud.
"Only when they interfere with work! It's a workspace, not a maternity home!", I said, "I feel like I should be given the same courtesy & understanding for my life choices & how I choose to live. A single or childless person should get the same respect & considerations as a pregnant person."
"But the circumstances are different!", stated Mrs. Bud, "As a pregnant person, society must recognize that I am bringing new life into this world, contributing to the propagation of the species & ensuring the survival of the next generation." Then she got a wicked gleam in her eyes.
I recognized that gleam. She was about to talk smack at me. And I was right! She said, "Whereas pregnancies contribute to & ensure the continuation of human life, what you do in private as a single person with other people is considered immoral & illegal in several states! You can't possibly compare the beauty & nobility of childbearing to your sordid, lurid life!
That got a few chuckles out of the crowd.
"How dare you!", I replied indignantly. "I'll have you know that what I do in private with company is consensual, fun, & good for tourism! I bring pleasure & spread joy!"
"The way you go about spreading joy is likely to spread disease & bring a need for penicillin," she said.
"I'll have you know that I have a clean bill of health from the health dept certifying that I am drug & disease free & fit to interact with society!", I declared. "And my excellent health & exquisite pleasure skills aside, we still haven't addressed why I should have to change my plans & work duties because you decided to revamp your vagina via a one baby demolition crew! Why am I having to do extra work because you were too drunk & too horny or too lazy to take a pill or use contraceptives?"
"Ok, regardless of whether it was planned, unplanned, or poorly thought out, it doesn't matter. What matters is that you are pregnant, & that changes things," she answered. "And anyway, how do you suggest we stop pregnancies if there's no access to contraceptives or you get caught up in the moment because you're drunk & horny?"
"Easy!", I declared, "Either keep those legs closed, use an alternate route, or learn how to swallow!"
At this point the crowd burst out laughing. Even Mrs. Bud was giggling & cursing me at the same time, "Bastard! You're making me laugh so hard I have to go pee!"
Before she waddled off, escorted by Sailor Jack towards the house, Bud said, "Well, I guess that's the end of that & good riddance to Quitter. I guess you don't have to worry about dealing with her anymore."
"You'd think so right?", I replied, "But before we closed Friday, I got a call from a rival company, asking about Quitter. She had listed me as a work reference, without asking me or giving me a heads up!"
"What!?!", the group exclaimed. Sailor Jack asked, "So what did you do?"
I said, "I told them the truth. I didn't know her well enough to give a reference. When the caller said she was here for three months, I told him she was in training for two months, worked less than a month on her own, then she didn't show up for work Monday. We were worried & when the boss called her at home to find out what was going on, she then told us she was pregnant & she didn't want to work anymore."
The others chuckled. Mrs. Bud said, "Well, I guess that ship has sailed."
"And sunk in the ocean!", I added.
"Yeah, after you torpedoed her with that reference!", chuckled Sailor Jack. And we all laughed at that.
"Hey, I was only telling the truth!", I said.
Bud summed it best, "She screwed y'all at work then she got screwed herself."
"Twice!", I acknowledged, "First by getting knocked up, then by acting like a horrible, unprofessional ingrate! If your actions stink, then don't be surprised when people treat you like crap!"
And so ended the debate in laughter as Sailor Jack escorted Mrs. Bud to the nearest powder room. But my lively exchange with Mrs. Bud was chaste & humdrum compared to the storm that was brewing next door when we heard the drunk neighbors start yelling & arguing with each other. Naturally, we were curious at the commotion & drawn to the domestic natural disaster that began with the vivid curse, "Go see your f*cking whore, you uncut cheesy d*ck a$$ fingerer!"
I didn't know much about these new neighbors. This was the first time that most of us had seen or heard them. But in under two minutes, we learned that the man, if his wife is to be trusted, had a whore, was uncircumcised, produced foreskin fluids, & was no stranger to digital manipulation of the rear posterior opening. And before the evening was over, we'd learn a hell of a lot more than we wanted to know about these noisy, foul mouthed, drunks next door.
This wasn't the vacation that I had in mind for this holiday, but it was just as interesting & exciting in the most surprising ways. And when this evening came to a close, I can honestly say that I would make new discoveries & find myself in the most unexpected & totally new situations. Adventure comes in many forms. I didn't know it then, but my adventure had just begun