TAHOE CITY, Calif. — It was a record-breaking summer. By the end of it, I woke up sore and tired, subsisted on ibuprofen, threw whatever was at hand at my belly to make it stop complaining, and wallowed in arguably the biggest perk of working in a family business on Tahoe: taking a break to jump in the lake.
On the Thursday of Burning Man, after working even longer an harder than usual, I went down for my dip. One of the Watersports guys said, “Hey man, wanna go wakeboarding? Boat’s out and waiting.”
As one who’s never been wakeboarding and who’s boating experience in the past decade-ish was one hilarious nocturnal outing with a mildly drunken group of wannabe hillbillies, the answer to a pro boat captain/wakeboard teacher offering to take you out while there are people to cover the register is an un-hesitant hells yeah!
I guess I could’ve guessed it would happen, but I was still surprised to see all the watersports, pier, and yard folks lined up to watch.
On the first attempt I got up as far as deciding which foot goes forward before losing it.
Second time I was up and had a good little go before I headed outside the wake and didn’t get back in so smoothly. Third time, after some great pointers, I was good all the way through a “U” turn — right up until I hit the wake.
“Can’t say I didn’t see that one coming!”
Next run went from Chambers to West Shore Cafe, around a U turn, through some big S turns that, back near Chambers, worked outside the wake and built enough confidence to try to catch air, which precipitated a tumbling display culminating in me capsizing with legs too jellied to flip back over.
The ride back was an absolute, daze of a bleepeating delight of a grin.
I didn’t even realize I didn’t feel bad about not clocking out until we were at the dock.
By the time I was back in the store, I realized I didn’t hate people and wasn’t dreading the next six-hour half of my shift.
It wasn’t until sitting down to write that I realized I hadn’t thought about work — store or church — for the longest period of conscious life all summer.
Yes, I bought the guys beer.
But what a reminder of the importance of checking out for a bit. And what we are enabled to do for others when we do.
Maybe I won’t overcome the guilt of sitting down for lunch while other people are working when I could make a wrap and keep moving, but I will be able to put on my zen mind, sit in the back corner of the cold, dark cooler and take a break.
And remember that while I haven’t the money to make a difference in the world at large, I can make a darn good sandwich, buy someone a beer, and smile while engaging, appreciating, and valuing absolutely any given individual who comes through, and any of those things might help them return to their lives in a better spot.
And what an honor and privilege to them and the world to be in a position to do so.
Thing is, that amount of wakeboarding, after this particular summer, meant a week of being unable to scratch my back, lift anything as burdensome as a pencil, lower myself onto or get up from a bed or chair (no mention of toilets), comb my hair, brush my teeth, or move in general without considerable aching, grinding, groaning effort.
And I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Russell Richardson, MM, MFA, St. Nick’s (Tahoe City) tuba player and publicist, visit www.stnicksepiscopal.org. St. Nicholas Episcopal Church and is free and open to all.