The past few days have been, well, I’m not sure how to explain it. Usually I consider things pretty carefully. I’m not too impulsive when it comes to spending money, because I only make a quarter of what I used to. I had such a great time kayaking with my neighbor. Then I saw in the paper that someone was selling a pair of 13-foot fiberglass ones with all accessories for $400. They would normally cost $800 apiece used, or $1600 new. I could hear “Miracle Music” from 50s religious movies ringing in my ears…ah-AAAAAA!
I called Mary and we went to the guy’s house to see the kayaks. They were very long and narrow and shallow. I could pick one up by myself. They were perfect for the kind of water we have around here. Since I didn’t have a roof rack, and we paid in cash, he was nice enough to deliver them to our house. I felt very smart for acting quickly, for recognizing a great deal. I did not know there was a cloud of stupid already forming over my house.
We planned to take them out over the Labor Day holiday. I own a small car, but it has a square roof, and it’s lower than Mary’s so I wouldn’t have to lift the kayaks as high. I went to buy a rack. I’m embarrassed to admit the price. Let’s just say it was considerably more than the kayaks. I began to feel a little less smart.
I drove home and spread out the boxes on the driveway. The 20-page instructions had 194 steps for assembly and installation of the racks. There were precise measurements required for the spacing of the bars, and dozens of small, oddly shaped components with arcane names like “lock housings” and “T-bolts”. I felt as if I had to become a mechanical engineer in one day to put this thing together. DOH!
After the first couple of hours in the hot sun, I was thirsty and my nose was burning. Instead of stopping for sunscreen or water, I pushed on. When I got tired of slogging through all the written steps, I tried to cut corners by just looking at the illustrations. I scratched the paint above one of my doors, then realized there were vinyl pads I had forgotten to put on to protect the paint. I over-loosened one of the tightening screws, and a locking nut fell inside a side clamp, which took me 10 minutes to fish out and reset in place. Duhrrrr!
At about four hours into the process, I realized it would take two people pushing simultaneously on opposite sides to latch down the bars to the car roof. Mary wasn’t strong enough. I began going door-to-door to borrow a neighbor, but the first several I tried were away enjoying their holiday. I finally ran into the lady next door, and she came over and helped me complete step #194. I was sunburned and dehydrated and my muscles were aching, but by God I had assembled the roof rack! I took some pain pills and called it a day.
I slept in on Labor Day, but at least we were going to finally go out on the water. I gathered the equipment: water bottles, life vests, dry bag etc. Then I remembered I hadn’t inflated the float bags that go inside the kayaks. I didn’t have a bicycle pump. I had to inflate them with my lungs, and my lungs aren’t so fabulous. That took a half-hour of hard blowing, after which I was light-headed and needed a nap.
I got back up an hour later, still sunburned, sore-muscled, and light-headed from blowing and went to put the kayaks on the roof of the car. I got the first one on fine. At that moment the stupid cloud parted slightly, and I noticed there would be too little space for me to get the second one up on top of the first one and still have clearance to drive out of the carport. Our driveway has a pretty steep angle. It would be difficult to put the kayaks on outside of the carport without them sliding off. Make that impossible if I was the only one lifting. And I was.
By this time I was frustrated. I had a pair of perfect kayaks, and a rack, and I couldn’t get them on to go to the water four blocks away! Mary can paddle, but she can’t lift for long, so we couldn’t walk them down. In a state of slow burn and high stupid, I thought of a plan B. I would put down the passenger and back seat, open the hatch back and stick the kayaks IN the car, thus negating entirely the need for a rack which I had paid more for than the kayaks and spent an entire afternoon installing. I slid them in sideways, next to each other. I pushed in the second one a bit too enthusiastically – and (*PINGSKLICKK!*) put a crack the size of my hand in my front windshield.
It was at that precise moment that the cloud of stupid that had enveloped me migrated a half-mile South, toward Beckett’s Point. Three young boys, 11-12 years old, were on the beach. They decided it would be a good idea to light bottle rockets using WD-40, against a bluff covered with wind-blown, sun-browned grass. The fire raced up the hill toward the houses atop the bluff. Ninety firefighters rushed to the scene. By that time Mary and I were out on the water, blissfully unaware. The kayaks were fast and stable, everything I had hoped for.
When we got home there were worried phone messages from my brother in Seattle, who had seen the fire footage on TV. The story had been mis-reported, inflating the size of the fire tenfold (more stupid clouds?) and the news had scared the bejeezus out of my whole family. It is true that if the fire crews had not been so diligent and skillful, we might have returned to find our neighborhood evacuated. Now there’s a public debate going on over whether the kids or their parents should have to pay the $100k cost of fighting the fire.
The new windshield will cost me another $400. I had better learn to watch out for those stupid clouds.