Thursday, July 28, 2011

Chapter 124: A Field Guide to Annoying

The bro: the aggressively macho, juvenile male who never graduated from wearing sports jerseys and cargo shorts, crew cuts, and Oakley's, and can never shut up about that awesome he got hammered once, even though that happens with startling regularity. Weaknesses include Lite beers, receding hairlines, and Derek Jeter.

The douche: similar to the above, except he disguises his inherent bro-ness with pink polo shirts, Ray Ban's, and pointedly casual flip-flops. Weaknesses include wine spritzers, shopping, and underage women. Kidding! And frequent repetitive stress injuries in the wrist and elbow. From playing tennis. Kidding again! From masturbation.

The hipster douche: Look down. Look up. Is it wearing orange sneakers, wooden clogs, or rubber galoshes? A doofy, anachronistic hat? Now take in the whole picture, if you can stomach it. Is it wearing too-tight jeans, a purple leotard, and/or a rumpled t-shirt from the seventies? Congrats, you've found yourself a hipster. Weaknesses include cheap German lagers brewed inexplicably in Wisconsin, irony, and the ever amorphous "authentic," whatever that is.

The cynic: He could be anyone. He could be sitting right next to you. He could be one of your best friends, or most-trusted colleagues. Identifying characteristics include apathy, sarcasm, and an inexplicably bitterness towards everyone and everything. Weaknesses include anything anyone puts in front of him, and a general lack of self-esteem. Pity this man.

Lawyers: a subsect of the "douche," only better dressed. Do not confuse any perceived friendliness as genuine interest and engage them in conversation. You will be billed for your kindness, and will later regret your naiveté. Weaknesses of the lawyer include a near-debilitating level of smugness which opens them up to sudden attacks. Also, the exposed area of the neck just below their jaw. Their armor is weakest there.

Politicians: These are lawyers just wrapped in a protective layer of bureaucracy. Weaknesses: Fire. Dismemberment. Sunlight. No, wait, that's vampires. I meant to say "hookers" and "shady real-estate deals." And fire.

Al QaedaSort of a combination of all the above. Aggressive and violence prone like the bro, fiercely dogmatic like the hipster, full of irrepressible hatred like the cynic. Can be identified by the prominence of box cutters, dynamite, and automatic weapons amongst their personal effects. And by a pronounced affection for pornography. Weaknesses include ammonium nitrate, latent feelings of empathy (but don't count on it), and falafel. Who doesn't like falafel?

The southbounder: The absolute worst of all. So evil, evil resents the association. Weaknesses include a false sense of superiority, the phrase "You're never going to make it," and mortality.


Veggie and I ran up the hill in the rain. I had caught up with her earlier, at the Thistle Hill Shelter, when I'd sought cover during an earlier afternoon squall. It had blown over quickly, a pale prelude of things to come.

Now, the branches above me creaked and cracked in a mere sixty mile-per-hour breeze. The sky was a malevolent black, green, or purple, frequently illuminated by skittering strands of lightning. Leaves twirled and rustled around my feet, whipped and twisted into eddies by the furious wind. It was, quite frankly, terrifying.

We'd heard a weather report earlier, when we'd stopped in at a deli in West Hartford, VT. A severe thunderstorm warning was in effect. We were to expect hail stones the size of golf balls, and maybe even a tornado. Fortunately, I knew we were far ahead of the trailing group of fellow NOBO's I'd left behind at the Wintturi Shelter. Hypothetically, if we hurried, we coule make it to the ironically named Happy Hill Shelter before the storm hit, and have the whole place to ourselves. At least, that was the plan.

Through diminutive in stature, Veggie was actually an incredibly accomplished hiker. I'm no speed demon myself, but I was continually impressed by her ability to keep up. Or, okay, fine: I may have actually been lagging behind. That is, until the innocuous forks of lightning overhead started morphing into menacing steak knives, and threatened to come down on my head.

There are few motivating factors quite like the fear of imminent death. That, and an urgent desire to change out of my now-soiled underwear. I passed Veggie like she was standing still, her eyes turned fearfully upward as her hair stuck out for some reason in random directions. Whatever.

Luckily, we were only about a mile from the shelter. Despite never having run better than an eight minute mile in any of our fitness tests in high school—and despite carrying a 40 lb. backpack—I think I reached the shelter in three minutes flat. Take that, Roger Bannister.

Laughing maniacally, I triumphantly ran up under the shelter eaves just as the sky opened up.

"Take that nature!" I shouted, shaking my fists at the sky. "Is that the best you got? I freakin' turned you around and made you my--"

At which point I happened to turn to see eight sets of eyeballs bulging at me from the depths of the shelter. Gaping mouths. The slightest hint of drool. The vague feeling of vacuous stupidity. The quiet echoes of several broken conversations dispersing, drifting off into the atmosphere.


They begrudgingly made room for me in the dankest, darkest corner, near a window where errant raindrops could splatter in. Thanks a lot. I quietly stewed in a growing homicidal rage until Veggie arrived to diffuse the situation.

"Oh, you'll definitely find trail magic on your way into town tomorrow," someone was telling me.

"Is that so?" I asked absentmindedly, skeptical.

"Oh, yeah!" another agreed. "In front of every house on the way in."


"Iced tea."

"Fresh fruit."


"Hundred-dollar bills."

"The streets are practically paved with them!"

"Sounds like a hard hike," I observed dryly.

"No, easiest four miles ever," someone scoffed.

What? "What?" I asked, incredulous. "You came from Hanover?"

"Yeah," came all. They looked to each other, nodded thoughtfully.

Veggie gripped my arm, restraining me. I looked down. My hands were balled into fists.

"Yeah," someone repeated. "We've been here since noon!"

"Didn't want to get rained on, after all."

"That'd just be stupid."

And then I turned and walked back out into the hail and rain, hoping to get struck by lightning. Or maybe I just read a Star Wars novel I found until crying myself to sleep. Whatever.

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