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The Cliffs of Insanity MAG
So you want to hear about the Cliffs of Insanity.
This is not an exciting story about fatal circumstances and daring escapes. Seriously. The major setting of this story is my own personal alternate universe of idiocy. And, I don't mean that in a cool way.
Let's just get on with it.
So, I got dragged up to Bodega Bay over the summer, because my mother loves Bodega Bay and me, and the logical conclusion was to force my attendance at this beachy Californian metropolis. Bodega Bay is so fun. You can sit on the beach and get really cold, or go for walks and get really cold, or hang out around a campfire and get really cold, or go in the ocean and die of hypothermia – it's a veritable smorgasbord of excitement.
I spent three days doing this, quietly suffering through the existential terror that is a life without wireless Internet, while my mother enjoyed getting away from it all. On the fourth day, we had this conversation.
“Don't you just love Bodega Bay?” she asked me at breakfast.
“I'm cold,” I said, bestowing upon the word its necessary 18 syllables.
“You know where we should go today?”
“Somewhere with central heating?”
“The Cliffs of Insanity! It's a walk, oh, 20 miles away. Should we do that?”
“Is it cold?”
“I love the birds up there.”
“Mom, I think I'm going to join a Canadian biker gang.”
“And the cliffs! They're so high. It's beautiful.”
We're a close-knit family, we are.
So, we ended up witnessing the glory that is the Cliffs of Insanity. In order to be privy to such glory, however, you must first weather the world's most sadistic path ever. It twists around trees. It twists around ponds. It twists around rocks. It twists around pebbles. It twists to avoid cliffs. It twists to follow cliffs. It twists in the middle of perfectly flat, empty expanses. Why? Because screw you, that's why.
I survived my ride up Why I Hate Nature, Exhibit A and into the joyous parking lot of the Cliffs of Insanity. Around me I could see many cliffs, as well as many rotting, cracked, precipitous little staircases made of uneven hunks of wood hammered into the side of rock. Apparently, the first thing people think when they look at steep granite drops covered in so much fog you can't even see your feet, let alone the bottom of the cliff, is I want to climb that.
“Oh, wow,” said my mother as she got out of the car. “Let's climb it!”
This is why I weep for humanity.
My mother made it about five steps down the staircase before she realized I wasn't following. She turned and saw me looking down at it warily. “What's wrong?”
I sighed. “Mom, I fall down regular stairs, like, weekly. The only thing I'm going to accomplish trusting my coordination to this wood that died before the dinosaurs is pain and heartbreak. And death. Lots of death.”
“Oh, you'll be fine.”
“Mom. No. I'm going to die.”
My mother has lived with me through 15 years and 10 bike accidents, so convincing her that this was a terrible idea wasn't the most difficult thing in the world. She agreed to ride solo on a walk through the majestic world of the Cliffs of Insanity while I sat at the top and contemplated the mysteries of “Angry Birds.”
And so I sat at the top of the stairs and didn't do anything and was perfectly safe, and we drove home an hour later on the Road That Makes Roller Coasters Look Calm and Non-Throw-Up-Inducing, and this whole thing was more of a frustrated rant than a story.
But that would require me to have some level of judgment and intelligence, and we can't have that.
I was able to contemplate the mysteries of “Angry Birds” for about 20 seconds before I got bored. It turns out that virtually lobbing birds into various objects is not the most captivating activity the world has devised, no matter how much fury is encompassed in the act. So I decided to take a walk. Around the parking lot. On the top of a giant cliff.
Sometimes I wish I could prove I have a deadly enemy beaming terrible ideas into my head. It's the only explanation for my thought processes.
However surprisingly, walking around a parking lot containing eight parking spaces and one car is not the world's most exciting activity either, so I decided to go down the flat looking, distinctly non-dangerous path that wandered off to the side.
Remember, it's not me that's stupid. It's my evil, mind-controlling, as-yet-anonymous arch-nemesis.
So, I walked down the path, admiring the gorgeous scenery five feet away from my face and the varied blanket of fog beyond that. I walked for five, maybe ten, minutes, aimlessly walking for the sake of walking and not staring at the boring game I'd stared at for three straight days.
At some point, the path led to a flat, perfectly round circle of grass. How I managed to notice this or why I decided to care can't be answered with anything more plausible than “Stupid Ideas Hypnosis.” And so I walked. And the fog thickened. And I kept walking. And someone texted me. And I pulled out my phone. But I never did answer that text, because that was the moment the world decided to magically make a hole appear in front of me.
Yeah. I walked into a hole.
I am so blind and stupid that I failed to see a six-foot-deep hole right in front of me.
Now, while I have managed to build up some falling-pain-avoiding techniques from my intense and consistent practice, none of them really apply when falling into gigantic holes. That hurts. I tried to explain all the ways I hurt myself doing this, but the attempt reads as a pointlessly massive and convoluted aggregation of agony and not anything worthy of a succinct and sagacious narrative such as this.
After ten minutes, I managed to stand up in my hole, the top of which was a good eight inches above my head. Because I was not born with T-rex arms, my first plan was to reach up, just barely fit my arms over the top of my hole, jump around a lot, scrape up the side of my hole failing to find a foothold, and quickly discover that I have pretty much no upper body strength.
That was my Plan A.
My Plan B was to call my mother, because when you're the kind of person who walks into giant holes, you really shouldn't try to do anything without seeking the counsel of people. Unfortunately, my mother failed to answer. So I decided to call my friend. What followed was … unfortunate.
“Mer-Meredith? Why are you calling me?”
“Well, I fell into a giant hole-”
“You did what now?”
“I fell into a giant hole.”
“You … fell? Into a hole? What? How? Why? Are you okay?”
“Well, I was walking, and someone texted me, so I checked my phone and failed to notice the giant hole.”
“You mean to tell me you walked into a hole?”
“Not really voluntarily … I just sort of didn't see it.”
“How do you not see a giant hole?”
“I was looking at my phone.”
“But a phone is tiny, and a giant hole is … wait. How big is this hole? Are you stuck in the hole? Is that why you're calling me? Because you want me to tell you how to get out?”
This is my reputation now. The girl who calls people and asks how to escape from giant holes.
“How exactly do you expect me to help you?”
“Can you look it up on the Internet or something?”
Such is the fate of Generation Y. We text to the point of falling into holes, and then we can't get out of them without the Internet.
“You want me to Google how to climb out of a giant hole?”
“Do you know how to get out of a giant hole?”
“No. And judging by my search results, neither does anyone else. Would you like to know why? Because people don't do this. Have you tried climbing out?”
“Yeah, but I can't get more than my hands above the top, and I'm weak, so ….”
“Is there a rock to step on?”
“No … oh, I know! I can dig out some of the dirt, and step on that!”
“Yes. Now do that, and I'll do homework, and we'll reconvene on Monday.”
This is Emily's way of saying Stop bothering me with your weird problems.
So, I turned off my phone and reassessed my environment. I had no digging paraphernalia, but I did have shoes and a low tolerance for manual labor, so I started kicking at the wall. To my surprise, the dirt clods fell
out very easily. Finally something was going my way!
Note: If you are ever in a situation where the walls are very easy to destroy, this is not a sign that something is going your way. No, this is bad and stop doing it.
You know where this is going.
But because I was born with the propensity to fall into giant holes, I did not know where this was going. I regarded my rapidly increasing pile of dirt as a success. I happily began to congratulate myself and proving that intelligence is more important than coordination, that problem-solving is a skill that transcends all others.
And then a gigantic wall of dirt fell on me.
Let me make one thing clear: I have had a lot of accidents in my life. I have run into trees, poles, cars, people, walls. I have been run over by cars and trees. I have fallen out of trees. I have walked off cliffs and into people and walls and trees. I have put myself through a lot of pain, broken bones, sprained joints, dislocated shoulders, twisted just about everything, scraped myself up so many times it doesn't even hurt anymore.
Yet this was the most painful day in my memory.
Having a gigantic wall of dirt fall on you is not like having a wall or mirror or tree fall on you. Big dirt clods hit me in the head and feet and shoulders. Small dirt clods worked their way into my clothes. Tiny rocks jabbed and poked and scratched and ground themselves into my skin. And then there was the dust. Endless dust that loved me like a lifelong stalker, wanting nothing more than to be absorbed into my mouth and nose and lungs and eyes and whatever else it could find.
I was breathing dust for about three weeks afterward.
Even though I had gone with just about the dumbest and most unsustainable plan, it was still technically successful. The 70 thousand pounds of dirt trying to suffocate me did a nice job stacking up on the bottom of my hole, and I managed to turn my six-foot-deep hole into a four-foot one and climb out. I'm short, weak, and uncoordinated, so it took me a while, but still, I lived!
I was about three seconds removed from my giant dirty prison when I heard a strange sound. A ringing sound. The dirt in the hole was shifting slightly, like something was moving underneath it.
Oh my god, there's a monster at the bottom of my hole.
I stared at it for a second, then slowly checked my pockets. Empty.
I had left my phone in the hole.
But I did learn something that day. A powerful lesson about the role of technology, the need to disconnect from constant communication and simply enjoy my surroundings. To engage with real people and the real world.
I also learned that I'm going to find a way to hurt myself no matter what I do, but I think I've learned that one about 20 thousand times, so we'll leave it out of this narrative.