The Committment Conundrum in Three Vignettes

1: No

As we headed out on our bike ridewe were suddenly accompanied by an uninvited dog. We got off and tried to shoo him home, but he didn’t move. I clearly did not want a tag along dog – we were headed out on a long ride, around a lake and between two mountains, basically to the middle of nowhere. What if he pooped out or got lost – what obligation did I have to bring him home safely? But at the same time, I did not want to spend time taking him back to the garage where we had gotten our tires inflated and find the owner. But the dog looked fit, and I was pretty sure that he was Thor,a dog that was always running free in this backwoods community. I turned to Thor and said, “You can join us, but I want you to know that You are On Your Own – YoYo.” Off we went, and Thor loped happily alongsideof us with an easy and confident stride that looked like it could go onforever.

We had a peaceful picnic at the secluded mountain lake and treated Thor to leftover sandwich bits. I was not looking forward to the long ride home – the road was very rutted with multiple ups and down. But Thor was delighted to be on the move again. As we jolted down a rocky ridge, Thor suddenly took off into the brush and disappeared. It was decision time. Here we were about 8 miles from home with a missing dog in thewilderness, and even if this dog was savvy, I couldn’t imagine that he could find his way home alone. What effort should we make to find Thor? Any effort was an unpleasant thought, since it would require thrashing around dense and buggy underbrush. Then again, it might be better to make a token effort now, so we could absolve ourselves of any responsibility if we returned empty handed.  If we didn’t have any commitment to the dog, did we have any commitment to the owner? A strong friendship with the owner should transfer a commitment to the dog, and even though I was pretty sure that the owner was Gary, the garage mechanic, that was not enough of a friendship. We stopped and had a brief conference and decided to YoYo Thor – we went ahead without him.

When we got home, I sent Nick over the garage with the unpleasant task of informing Gary that Thor was missing. We had carefully scripted the conversation to imply that the dog had really lost itself through no fault of our own, and although that we would be able to provide the directions to the vicinity where he took off, we would not be part of any search party. As Nick went through his spiel, Garylooked up, shrugged his shoulders, and pointed behind his desk and said “he showed up about half hour ago.” There was Thor resting peacefully – he looked up as if to say, “You dumbasses had to bike all the way around the lake. I took the shortcut between the lake and the mountain and beat you home no problem.”

2. Yes

A group of 5 of us were heading down Mt. Homer to Mountain Lake. There was no trail, and the terrain was occasionally steep, so we spread out as we picked our way down. As usual, I lagged behind and then lost sight of them. However, we all intuitively knew that we would regroup once we reached the trail along theshore. But when I reached the lake, there was no sign of the other four and there was no response to my yelling and whistling. I could only conclude that they had gone ahead without me.  But when I reached the picnic table along the beach there was still no sign of them.  I was steaming.  How could they have left me behind? I trudged on home alone, becoming more livid and bereft with each step.  Abandoned on the side of the mountain.

Meanwhile, back along the trail, the other group became increasingly concerned when I did not show up. None of us had realized that I had somehow gone down a different ravine than they did and actually emerged ahead of them on the shoreline trail. They started yelling, but the blustery wind dissipated both their cries and my whistles. Their unspoken conclusion was that I must have fallen, and was lying up there somewhere in an unconscious heap with blood trickling out my nose, or more ominously, my ear.

Ned Houston, who was experienced in wilderness rescue, was first to give voice to these troubling thoughts and make them an uncomfortable reality – “I think that we better organize a search party,” he said. He quickly coordinated the 4 of them into a grid, going up and down the mountain 25 yards apart and constantly calling back and forth to each other. Nick said that by the time they called the search off, he had climbed Mount Homer two more times. Eventually, Ned sent Serin, their swiftest runner, to either gather forces for a more extensive body search, or see if I had inexplicably gotten ahead of them. In the meantime, as I walked home, my steaming had segued to fuming as I plotted how to most dramatically communicate my anger. When we finally reunited about half way home, my fury quickly evaporated and I was touched to realize that they were totally committed to finding my potentially lifeless body.

3. Probably Not

I was having a picnic with the Berry’s at Mountain Lake. We had driven upthere, but I wanted to walk home, and the most logical route was up and over Fortress Mountain. They decided that they were going to drive around the Fortress and climb it from the gentler side and we would meet at the rocky outcropping that was about 2/3rds the way up their side. Just then, their son Sam and two of his friends showed up and liked the sound of my route. “Is it all right if we join you?” Sam asked. I said sure and off we went. They quickly got ahead of me and were deep in conversation when they made a curious choice to take the right hand fork in the trail, while I knew that the more direct route was to the left. I could have called ahead to them to let them know what I was doing, but I did not. It all came down to how I interpreted the phrase, “is it alright if we join you?” I decided that the boys were simply asking permission to share the same trail space in case I was intending a solo, contemplative hike. I concluded that the phrase “is it alright” did not signify that there was any expectation that we would hike as a cohesive whole. Besides, given my slower pace, I thought they would catch up tome once they realized their mistake. I veered off on my own.

However, there was no sign ofthem as I headed up the Fortress. I began to think that they were concerned about my absence and were mulling over their responsibility to loop back and find me. Although I felt a bit guilty about their potential consternation, the only thing that I could do at this point was press ahead to the Fortress and wait for them there. I crested Fortress Mountain and came downthe other side to the rock outcropping, and surpisingly there they were. Sam had realized his mistake, but had made the unusual decision to walk around the mountain on a buggy road and then climb the Fortress from the other side instead of backtracking a wee bit to follow me. This was a scenario that I never anticipated. Sam came over and apologized that we had gotten separated. I had arrived shortly after them, but I wondered if the looming dilemma was how long should he wait there for me and also what would he do if Idid not show? I knew that Sam was well aware that the trail that I was on was steep and rocky enough to vex even the most nimble mountain goat, and certainly one with my quavering sense of balance.

Surely he could envision a slightmisstep sending me tumbling down the rocks. impaled by a shard wedged in the gnarled roots, followed by that telltale trickle of dried blood coming out my ear. What was his interpretation of the phrase “do you mind if wejoin you?” What type of commitment/panic button did it imply? There was no timeto delve into these tricky questions as we packed up quickly and all headed safely down the mountain.

The next day I found myself sitting next to Sam at a cocktail party so I ventured forth. “Sam, when I wasn’t at the Fortress when you arrived did you think something might have gone wrong?  Was your concept that we were hiking as a unit, or were independent?”

Although Sam was in law school, he was not yet in the habit of overthinking things to the same extent I was, at least not on vacation anyway. He said, “I hadn’t really thought along thoselines.”

I pressed further, “How long would you have waited for me before you left the Fortress?” I had clearly put him on the spot and he squirmed. He said, “It is hard to put a number on that type of thing.”

Though he tried so hard to be tactful, I had my answer, I had been Thor’d, YoYo’d – left to my own devices, a far cry from the attentive search and rescue of Mount Homer.  While at first taken aback, I decided to embrace my Thor-ness and accept the compliment. Like Thor, I know all these trails intimately, I am reliable, durable and can always find my way home, and as I complete my 60th year, I do not need to be rescued.

The missing words in the following  poem are anagrams (i.e. share the same letters, like spot, post, andstop). The number of asterisks indicates the number of letters, and one of the missing words will rhyme with either the previous or following line. Your jobis to solve the missing words based on the above rules and the context of the poem.  Scroll down for answers.

When is it time to push the panic button and call a red *****?

Are you so inept that someone should assume you are lost or even hurt?

If it gets ***** and *****, and you’re still a no-show,

Who has the responsibility to determine your status quo?

Don’t worry if no one is concerned – it may not be as bad as it may seem

Just ***** your opinion, accept the compliment and the boost to your self esteem.









Answers;  alert, later, alter

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