Little David the shepherd boy went out to fight Goliath.
Little David the shepherd boy went out to fight the giant in his land.
— Camp song
I am one second into an alternate universe, a fictive existence dissolved in metaphor. I am racing electrons. A million years of human evolution have delivered us into a virtual future.
The story is I’m chasing after campsites. A team of two hundred fingers is doing the running, with adrenalin enough to kill a wooly mammoth.
On my computer screen, I’ve clicked on my first target, the Portola group site at El Capitan state park.
Instantly the screen says, Unavailable.
Nothing to do. Navigate to my second target. Maybe someone else had better luck.
Grunts and clicks from the team on the phone.
“Damn,” Jennifer says.
The screen shows my second target. Click.
Not going well. Time to focus on the alternates.
“Damn,” someone else says.
I’m improvising now. I navigate to a block of sites. Every one says unavailable.
Click on “next page.” All unavailable. Except one.
Maybe this isn’t so bad. Maybe the sites are unavailable because some people on our team got them. But I won’t know that until the tally.
“Stay focused,” I say into the phone. “We have another minute. Everyone keep trying. Then go to the Survey Monkey page and report in.”
“Got one!” says LuAnn, my rock star.
“I’ve got one too,” says Jennifer. “No! It’s gone! Damn!”
Each site holds eight people. We need nineteen sites to accommodate the 150 campers who signed up. Survey Monkey tabulates its results instantly.
When I get to the tally page, a miracle. Nine sites! Someone is doing something right. Half way there.
Refresh. Twelve sites!
But what if twelve is all we get? We’d have to cancel them all and go for Frog Creek, our backup campground. Except the cancellation fees will kill us financially.
What to do?
In for a penny, in for a pound. I type a message to the group:
Purchase all reserved sites. Then log into the conference call.
Buy everything you land on. Just like Monopoly.
I take a last look at the survey results. Fourteen sites.
Voices on the phone. The rest of the team are logging in.
“Okay,” I say. “I’m going to call roll. Answer with the number of sites you got.”
I go down my list of names, keeping a hashmark tally.
Thirteen sites. Fourteen. Fifteen.
Not enough. Not enough. All this and not enough.
“Did anyone get a group site?” I say.
Not much chance of that. I know from experience the Portola group site was impossible, gone the first second. Snatched by one of the probably hundreds in the state who had targeted it.
“I got de Anza,” a voice says.
“You got de Anza?” I say. “Who said that?”
“Sam, you paid for it? You have the receipt?”
“Yes,” says Sam.
De Anza is the equivalent of four sites.
“Wolf,” someone says. “Do we have enough?”
I count again. Not everyone has called in, but with de Anza we’re up to nineteen sites. We need nineteen. We have nineteen. Say it again.
I can’t read my monitor. My eyes have gone blurry for some reason. I will myself to speak the words:
We’re going to El Capitan.
I AM GOING TO WRITE
We get twenty-four sites, when everyone reports. I end up returning a couple, but the cost is not enough to break us.
In the week that follows, there are bills to pay, checks to deposit, spreadsheets to conjure. Emails to write, the camp website to update, latecomers who want in. There is my life on hold, now to be picked up again.
I am going to write this story down, I resolve. From first to last, as post-traumatic therapy.
I have a telephone conversation with one of the rangers to clear up some questions about the park.
“How many in your party,” she says.
“About a hundred and fifty,” I say.
“You’re bringing a group of 150 to El Capitan on Memorial Day weekend?” she says.
She doesn’t believe me.
PARENT TEACHER MEETING
A weekday night. Another parent teacher meeting at Fern Hill. Barely a month since the last meeting, when I became the assistant organizer for the camping trip. It seems years.
“I want to acknowledge Wolf,” Don says to the group. “For an incredible job.”
Applause. There is never applause at a parent meeting.
“Everyone on the team stand up,” I say.
“How are you?” Don says afterward.
“I’m not sure,” I say. “I mean no disrespect, but I think I know how David felt when he slew Goliath.”
This is the day the Lord hath made.
We’re going to El Capitan. We’re going to El Capitan.
This is the last in a series of, unbelievably, seven posts. Here are the first six:
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Image Credit: Osmar Schindler, “David und Goliat”
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