Jeff Vrabel: Man vs. wild
I suppose it's not very often that you put yourself in the path of a classic Hollywood-ready death on purpose, but it happens sometimes, and with good cause; I mean, it's not like those bottles of wine are going to walk through the woods to your cabin in the dark by themselves.
I was out camping recently with friends and my son in the woods of western North Carolina, a geographical tongue-twister and an area that, it is safe to say, will not be in the running for its own NFL franchise any time soon. Let me first report the good news: Despite my initial concerns, the weekend was satisfyingly free of bear attacks. (Listen, my childhood was not one that involved a lot of Scout-worthy hunting, tracking and animal-knifing; for a while when I heard "camping" equated basically to "almost certain death at the hands of marauding bears," and that is not something you get over very easily, no matter how often your parents abandon you in the woods overnight.)
But that said, ours was not a location that AT&T has spent a lot of time addressing regarding its iPhone coverage — though if such a place exists, someone please e-mail me about it — due to its extreme remoteness. In order to access our campground we exited the main highway, then wound up, down, over, through and on the edge of mountain roads that seem to have been laid out by someone in a hurry to get home, or to the bar, or to the hospital for the criminally insane, then turned off those onto smaller roads, then turned off those smaller roads onto tiny dirt roads, then off those tiny dirt roads into terrain that would have given pause to the Amish, paths on which the end was announced by something like a scattered pile of railroad ties. From where we stopped, I was told that obtaining milk required a 45-minute time investment; this would not, obviously, be a place where regular hilarious Twittering was going to be much of an option.
But that's, as you might suspect, one of the best parts about the weekend. Forcible detachment from the grid, I am starting to suspect, should be required by federal law, enforced by armed goons and enforced also by monkeys owned and operated by the armed goons. (Side benefit: The armed-goon-monkey-creating instructional camp will bring hundreds of jobs to wherever we train armed goon-monkeys, I'm thinking Kentucky, but I'm open to suggestion.) I'm certainly not in the Abandon All Technology camp — trust me, there was a lively pang of joy when my iPhone bloinged back to life on the drive home — but for a while there, the idea of being unable to indulge what's now a burned-in need to see what's happening in one of my 5 Scrabble games was a pretty welcome one.
At least this was the case the first evening. Let me ask a hypothetical here: Have you ever walked through a quarter-mile of pitch-black woods, listening to nothing but abject silence broken only by the mysterious and terrifying rustling of leaves, the occasional dropping of things through the trees and the distant, terrified screams that your mind makes up because you're walking through a pitch-black forest armed only with a flashlight and the knowledge that if you do encounter trouble, you'll be forced to rely on your instincts, your wits and your well-honed ability to scream like a 6-year-old girl? Because all I could think of was this: How many horror movies am I enacting the beginning of right now? Because I suspect it was like a million. Like there's me, wandering alone in a town with no name, skip-diddling out the front door of one cabin chirping, "OK guys, good night, I'll just be down in the other cabin, see you in the morning, since I'm probably not going to be sliced to ribbons by an unhinged murderer in a clown mask or anything!" And scene. Luckily, as you may have suspected by my not currently being all that dead, I did manage to survive the easy, uneventful walk to my cabin.
Jeff Vrabel has seen too many horror movies. He can be reached at jeffvrabel.com or followed at twitter.com/jeffvrabel.