Monday, October 17, 2011

The Donkey Encounter

Who doesn’t love a good family outing?

I sure didn’t. Family time during my adolescence usually involved a lot of educational speeches, intense physical exertion or even labor, and more than likely ended with someone in tears.

One time on a family vacation my father decided a good way to pass the 4 hour car ride was to put me on trial for not putting chlorine in the pool when I said I would or something to that effect. My mother was the judge, my dad the prosecution, I represented myself as the defendant, and my sisters served as the (incredibly biased – sibling rivalry can be an ugly thing) jury of my peers. The trial ended with me convulsing in sobs of self-pity, trapped in the confines of a moving vehicle with the very people who openly attacked me. (My dad later cheered me up by letting me pick a dead and dismembered pigeon out of the car grill with a stick.)

Or the time on yet another long car ride my ever-playful father invented a game where each person was to act like another family member; which quickly snowballed into a game called “capitalize on everyone’s deepest character flaws and exploit them mercilessly.”

Those were the best times of my life.

These, my fondest memories.

It was an occasion like this – seemingly fun but unbearable at the time – that this drama unfolds.

We were no strangers to Red Rock. My dad is a bit of a celebrity in the climbing world and often times the family would rise bright and early to embark on a hike of his choosing. We would attempt to start the trek with optimism; my little sister Emily charging ahead while bragging about how fast she was, how easy the hike was. My mother strode along, soaking up the nature, pointing out wildlife – “Ooh girls, Larry, look! Is that a roadrunner?!” “No, that’s a tumbleweed.”

Fast forward 3 miles.

Emily’s now riding atop my fathers shoulders, blaming her fatigue on the terrain and not her high-heeled sparkly sketchers. Valerie and I are trudging bitterly, complaining to each other in hushed tones, sometimes singing marching songs to keep us going. Mom is in the back, clutching my dad’s hand screeching “Larry! Larry!” as she struggled to conquer the rocky decline with her sub-par depth perception.

A beautiful family portrait.

By the time we reach the car we’re all in silence. Nothing left to say to each other, driving down the winding one-way road, my sisters and I yearning for the comfort of home. The sooner the better.

This is not a good time for traffic to come to a halt, so of course it does. A long line of cars and nowhere to go.

Please don’t suggest playing courtroom, please don’t suggest playing courtroom I silently pled.

We round a curve at a pace that causes me to notice a desert tortoise passing us. The perpetrator of the hold up is in my sights. A donkey in the road, and an unending line of Asian tourists stopping to take photos of the desert native. A novelty to them, an atrocity to me. We approach the ass, inch by inch, one car at a time, until we’re almost home free.

The donkey is clearly enjoying his celebrity status. He’s not moving from the middle of the road, he’s within arms reach even.

Did this stop us? It did not. My dad accelerates toward the beckoning horizon, showing little concern about the large animal obstructing our path to it.

Crash. Bang. The donkeys head hits right on the passenger side of the windshield.

Screams from my mother. Wails from my little sister. Explosive laughter from me in the backseat. Many, many Asian middle fingers seeing us off. My father, wordless, smirking. One half second totally justifying the hike which had so drained me.

Sometimes, you have to go through hell to have a little excitement.

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