Just Keep Paddling Even if It Kills You and You Get a UTI

Hello Readers.  Before we get started, let me flatter you so that you don’t notice the timestamp (I know how important my tardiness is to you).  Have I told you lately that I appreciate you for being here?  Because I appreciate you for being here.  I’ve been having so much fun with this blog and having y’all be a part of it is pretty cool.  We’re like a family.  I don’t know you, but we probably have something in common.  Or you know me too well and want to abandon ship, but can’t because we’re already bound together.  The point is, regardless of our interpersonal bond, you’re here, and I appreciate that.  It keeps me committed, and that’s why I’ve never been late to a posting.  Now, one of you may be thinking, “umm, what about today?”  But, well, the truth is that I’m in Texas, and the time zone is 25 hours behind.

Now, up until this point, everything I’ve written about has been a throwback to a few months ago, a year ago, or something of the like–set substantially in the past.  Today, however, in lieu of recent events, I’d like to talk about recent events.  And, for the first time ever, I’ll also be including some diagrams I put together over the past few weeks in Photoshop to aid in the telling of this story.

This past Saturday, my friend Elizabeth and I decided to go rafting on the lake.  If you’ve been reading for awhile (aka are one of my relatives), this wasn’t the first time we’d done this.  We went for my 20th birthday as well.  That was a fiasco of its own, but I won’t go into the details.  Anyway, the point is, we had learned from the last time that our inflatable raft was just two small for both of us to use at once, and that pool noodles and a broken boogie board don’t cut it in terms of extra flotation.  So we decided to be smarter this time around, and to learn from our mistakes, and got an inner tube from Wally World to attach to the back and expand the size of our fleet.  It was going to be something of a cheap plastic floating paradise.  I’m the smaller of the two of us and super generous and giving, so I agreed to go ahead and take the inner tube once we got there.

We reasoned that inflating the inner tube and the raft would be exceedingly difficult to do upon arrival, so, the responsible adults that we are, we got my mom to blow everything up before we left with a vacuum.  In addition to our flotation devices, we also brought a number of supplies and rations to aid us in our venture–water, sunblock, hats.  Few bodies we’d been needing to dump.  The usual.  Being prepared and staying safe on every leg of this journey was of the utmost importance.  Once we had gathered up our things, we loaded the car.  It’s not hard to describe how we packed it, but I don’t want to.  So guess what readers.  It’s time for our first diagram.  The car load looked something like this:


Safety is everything.  (Shoutout to Elizabeth for volunteering herself to be squashed by the luggage.)

Anyhow, when we got to the lake, the parking lot was swarming with vehicles, all with empty boat racks attached to the behind.  The last time we had gone there had been like two.  This was like a naval fleet.  How do you have confidence in your 5 foot inflatable raft idea–scratch that–your $4 Wal-Mart inner tube idea–when you are going up against a redneck boat army?  Well I guess I thought dividing your own forces was the answer, because that’s what I did.  Elizabeth was putting her on spray-on sunscreen right in front of my trunk unaware that the wind was blowing it into my car, so I was all, “Ayyooo dumbass get out the way dumb turd.”  For some reason people don’t like you calling them dumb or something so she got irritated.  I however, stayed focused, and busied myself putting together the paddle.  I discovered that no matter what pieces I used, the ends of it were crooked.  It was a nuisance, but not as bad as something really terrible like getting sunblock in your car.  (I kid, I kid.)  Besides, I had other things to take it off my mind, like our supplies and rations, of which the following came aboard: four water bottles, two juice boxes, a bag of pretzels, two apples, more sunblock, and a bag of Twizzlers.  We doubled-bagged them and carted everything to the waters edge.

As we waded in, I knew we had to be careful about where we were to launch so as to best avoid boats, rocks, and breaking the “no swimming by the docks” rule.  I picked out a few different spots, but we couldn’t agree on any of them, so I ended up hijacking the raft and paddling away, avoiding boats and rocks, while she unethically broke the rules by angrily swimming after me.  She kept squacking, “you said you were going to take the tube! You are really f***ing pissing me off, Melanie Lech!”  This was true, and I probably shouldn’t have stolen the raft, but it was also true that Elizabeth couldn’t paddle, so I squacked back explaining that all she had to do was use the tube until we got away from the docks, and then we’d switch.  I knew she saw my reason after I explained it, but it didn’t stop her from coming after me like some sort of vengeaful sea kracken and fighting to climb aboard (who can blame her?).  After clawing at the sides and struggling to get in for a while she stopped and said, “oh,” then stood up in what turned out to be waist-deep water.  It was classic.


(It may be worth mentioning that we have the sort of relationship where these levels of immaturity, from both of us, are commonplace–we’ve known each other for a looong time.)  The comedic relief allowed us to reason with one another.  In the names of speed and safety, I would be able to take the raft out to deeper waters quickly and without resistance, as desired, so long as I honored Elizabeths requests by also taking the tube with me (that really was one of her requests) and guarding all of the flip flops.  I was headed for a particular spot in the water–the ultimate safezone in my expert opinion, but Elizabeth was still mad at me as we went along for making her swim after me (reasonable) without some kind of a flotation device to help her out like, oh, I don’t know, say, an inner tube (smh-able). Even amidst accusations, however, I couldn’t help but laugh because it was pretty funny.

Once we made it to the destination point on open waters, as promised, I forfeited my hold of the raft.  In doing so, I also relinquished my duty to guard the food and the flip-flops.  Thus, my last mission before I could relax was simply to secure the tube to the raft.  We didn’t have any rope so I used a plastic bag and made a big fuss until I had secured it.  After that, we were in the clear to just relax and enjoy the water.  In traditional 20-something fashion, Elizabeth wanted to enjoy the lake by laying down and listening to some music,  so she pulled her phone out of a waterproof pouch that she had stuffed into her cleavage and, in accordance with the bright sunshine and vivacity of the lake, we listened to some depressing Lana del Rey.  Then we busted out the Twizzlers, which ended up being pretty much the only culinary option since the pretzels had become dead weight.  Opening the bag would risk inundating it with lake water, which ensured the death and eternal ruin of the whole thing.  The apple juices too, were of concern, because they absorbed everything around them.  We really had no use for most everything in that raft, actually.  But the Twizzlers, we’d eat.

Even though we were in the clear to relax, it was quite windy, so I knew that I still had to watch out for drifting.  But every time I looked back at the ever-distancing dock, instead of acting upon the part of me that thought, “well, we’re getting pretty far away; we should probably start heading back now,” I just thought “eh,” and flopped back down to play in my tube.  And, as a result, I was unaware of the fact that we were drifting like the bag of winds from The Spongebob SquarePants Movie (the first one, not the second insult to the great Sponge himself) was guiding us.  To give you an idea of how far out we got, I’ve attached the following record of our trajectory.


(Dock not to scale.)

(Nothing to scale, really.)

I will liken this moment to the arrival of 11:03 pm when a 3 page paper you haven’t started is due at midnight.  Or the last scroll through FaceBook at 6am when your eyes feel like they’re about to bleed or up and disintegrate out of your face from exhaustion.  Just like when you finally buckle down to write or curb your addiction to the internet to get some sleep, we recognized that avoiding responsibility was no longer an option, and that it was time for us to turn around.  So I gave Elizabeth a heads-up and told her what we had to do.  She agreed it was the right choice.  To make it easier on both of us, we decided to stay in our respective devices.

The tube had deflated a lot while we were out there, so it wilted perfectly for me to sit in it like an armchair, which, as it turns out, is a great shape for booking it backwards wherever you want to go.  I was really enjoying not feeling like a lard, so I got to business.  I probably should have waited for Elizabeth, but I didn’t.  I wasn’t too worried about her keeping up.  After all, when I had first set off, she appeared to be in good shape.  But the things that I saw every other time I looked back were…not so good.  She took the oar apart and was using the rectangular paddle pieces from each end as flippers while laying down.  I think that maybe it was because she was laying down that she didn’t realize she was going in circles.  It was really hilarious.  By the time she gave up, I was already about halfway back to the initial spot.  She started waving me back, but I was in no mood to expel energy retracing my steps because she had given up.  So we argued across the lake.  “Just keep going!” I’d say.  “I can’t! UuuGH, the Twizzlers got wet!”  We went back and forth at random increments, getting increasingly more irritated with one another, when she yelled that she was going to ask for a tow.  I cursed under my breath.  There was no way that we were admitting defeat to do that.  If it came to that, I would be going back to the raft after all, to kill her.  However, there weren’t any boats around at the time, so there wasn’t any rush.  I stubbornly bobbed waiting for Elizabeth, and she stubbornly bobbed waiting for me, and we both drifted back in the direction from whence we’d come.

As we waited in this stalemate, I began to liken our circumstances to a real survival situation, as anyone who has ever watched National Geographic or really any dramatic TV program does.  I thought about the classic storyline where working toward a common goal in crises helps people to overcome their problems.  Looking back at that raft, and recognizing that all of my efforts had gone to waste, I vowed that this would never happen.  Survive or die, my newfound grudge would stand.

A few minutes had passed when a boat and a jet-ski came into view.  They were headed back to the dock, like we should have been.  The boat took a farther route but the jet-ski was headed towards me.  I thought it was like, you know, a joke between friends where you go towards them then veer off just to be funny.  After all, there was a whole lake to choose from in terms of direction.  Why else would you head directly toward the only person bobbing there?  So I readied myself to play along and laugh when it veered.  Except it didn’t veer.  It just kept getting closer and closer until finally I was like “…there’s a person here!” and the jet-ski dramatically swerved to the side and skimmed past me.  I laid on my tube, blinked a few times and thought flatly, “I almost got run over by a jet-ski.”

I don’t even think I had one endorphin.  I was so weary of going back to the raft that my body didn’t even produce any adrenaline.  I was actually more open to physically dying than enacting the rescue mission.  Anyway, so the jet-skier came back around and was like, “holy crap, you scared the shit out of me!  This is kinda dangerous, you being out here, huh?”  I narrowed my eyes.  Or maybe you weren’t looking hard enough.  To see my black inner tube.  Or…black swimsuit.  Or…dark…hair…  Alone in the open water…  …I had unintentionally camouflaged with the lake.  I thought back to the hat that I had left behind with the pretzels and juice boxes as dead weight in the raft.  It was white.  That’s not a lake color.  That’s safe.  I should have been wearing that dang hat.  Just left it in the raft, well why did I even bring it?  I looked back toward the raft and saw that Elizabeth was waving her arms and flagging down a boat, and my pride-blood boiled.

I yelled out to the boaters that I was coming for her and it was fine.  It was my turn to be the kracken.  Getting help from these people would mean that all of my friends were right about how this raft was a bad idea.  And it was not a bad idea.  I WOULD NOT LET IT BE A BAD IDEA.  The people in the boat seemed to be good with what I had said, but Elizabeth was closer and kept feeding them different information–propaganda and lies, so they started trying to help her.  I booked it over there like an Olympic backwards inner tube lake swimmer to stop the madness.  “It’s fine!” I said.  “Thanks, but we’re good!”  Elizabeth turned to me.  “There’s nothing wrong with asking for help,” she said.  “Get out of the raft,” I growled.  I held down the side as she got out then climbed in myself.  It had taken on so much water that it was like a bathtub.  And the water was pink, almost opaque, with darker little chunks every here and there and red, slimy wormy things in it.  “The Twizzlers melted,” she said.  Yes, the raft was full of Twizzler water, and I had just submerged my nether regions in it.  Do you know what happens when you put sugary things up your business?  Yeah, ME NEITHER, AND I DIDN’T WANT TO FIND OUT.  (Update: UTI.  Lots of burning.)  I fished out my white hat, which had been only slightly pinked, and put it on my head like Captain Jack Sparrow, then braved into the tub water to access the remaining plastic bag to try and bail the ship.  There were holes in the bottom though, so it wasn’t very effective, but oh, how I tried.

I knew I needed to curb my anger, but the worry of tiring out when I could not afford to do so had manifested itself in that form and was in no hurry to leave, so I tried to channel the frustration into paddling.  I explained my Olympic method to Elizabeth so that she could use the tube the way I had and follow, but she couldn’t figure it out, and was pissed at me for being pissy.  So then I told her to just grab onto the raft and I’d pull.  Turns out telling someone to do that is like dropping an anchor.  But after a few minutes of moving absolutely nowhere, I was like, that’s it, and I told her to get in the raft.  “Okay…hold all the stuff so I can get in,” she said.  I reluctantly obliged, piling every dang thing from the raft into my lap.  I situated myself Indian-style so I had somewhere to put my legs, and described my plan.  “Okay, so I’ll paddle, and what you need to do is lay down and stick your feet over the back and kick them like a motor,” I said.  She too obliged, and then, crammed together like a pathetic human speedboat, we set off.


The return journey was a true testament to our abilities.  Every time I put the paddle to one side, I had to put all of my muscles into multiple strokes at a time.  1…2…3…4…5–too much!  Four wasn’t enough to straighten out, but five sent us diving into the opposite direction.  Plus we had to keep readjusting because Elizabeth’s neck would slide down to an almost 90 degree angle with her body, bless her heart.  Getting re-situated was a lot like those team building exercises where you have to link arms and stand up together back-to-back.  When passing boats came into view, it was all the more important that we worked efficiently so that we wouldn’t look like we were in need of help, and they wouldn’t try to help.  But, I mean, you’ve seen the drawing.  At that point, we were poster children for needing help.  My legs were squashed and really uncomfortable, so we stopped for a moment to tend to this new readjustment.  “This freaking Twizzler water is getting all up in my business,” I said.  In an effort to get more comfortable, I popped my legs out and straddled them out either side of the front of the raft.  “Yeah, mine too. I think that’s the kind of thing that causes yeast infections,” Elizabeth said.  I looked down at my legs and realized how stupid my physical actions had been even while consciously discussing this very issue.  I hadn’t improved my seating position, I had given the Twizzler water easier access.  I think it was somewhere around here that we just up and stopped being mad at each other and became friends again.  The survival bonding premise is true.  With clean slates, we got back to paddling and kicking.

Our technique was much more effective than the previous ones but still quite slow.  I kept paddling and paddling and paddling but it felt like we were moving 3 feet a minute.  My arms were getting really, really tired.  So tired, in fact, that I found myself reconsidering my stance on assistance.  So when a boater came by and called out, “Need a tow?!”  I gave Elizabeth the go-ahead.  “Yes!” she said.  Then he looked to me, and I swallowed my pride and called back, “Haha…maybe!”  “Well, okay then!  Good luck!” the boater replied.  “Wait…what?!” I said.  And then he started to sail away  “Yes!” Elizabeth called out.  “We said yes!  Help!!”  But it was too late.  The boater was out of earshot, and we were out of a free ride.

However, it was not all for naught, for the energy and laughter brought to us by this encounter renewed our spirits, and we pressed on.  Finally, we got back to the docking area.  We were both proud, and a little amazed, and, arms and legs aside, not even worn out.  We had completed the toughest part of our journey.  When one of the lanes was finally safe for our use, we paddled towards complete victory.  A boat had recently come in and been tied while the person went to get their car, so we had a set window to maneuver around them.  Elizabeth got out so I could get the raft really close and empty it before getting out.  I was almost where I wanted to be when the truck arrived to back in its boat rack.  But he was not to be an enemy.  “You’re fine!” the driver said.  “Oh, good, thanks!” we said.  I was almost to shore.  It was almost over.  I put on my flip flops so I wouldn’t get cut on the rocks, then climbed out of the raft.  It was within my first three steps that one of my sandals got sucked into a puddle of mud never to be seen again.  Something always happens at the end, doesn’t it?  Flipping the Twizzler water out was immensely satisfying, albeit a little concerning to the nearby boaters.  Nevertheless, after that, we finally climbed to the shore.  The green color of the raft melted onto Elizabeth’s shoulders and stained them green, and then that got onto my car seat, but other than that, we left our rafting venture not only in good health, but also well-exercised, tanned, and not pissed off at each other.  We were victorious.

        1279         1268         1267         074

(Elizabeth didn’t want to be in the pictures this year so here is me twice, then a picture of our gear at the end, then a picture from last year for better conceptualization.)

The moral of the story: don’t fight against each other when you’re slowly dying in a children’s pool toy.  Fight with each other, as a team.  And stop going to McDonald’s so you can buy better water sports equipment.  And don’t be afraid to ask your doctor how to deal with a UTI.

And that is the end.  Look out for one of my friend Amy’s stories next week (it’s her birthday today, happy birthday Aimington!), it’s sure to delight.  And thanks for reading, skillets!


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