The Risk of Death on Vacation

on October 15 | in Anxiety, Family, Humor | by | with No Comments

When my wife, two kids, and I arrived in North Carolina we were the last to arrive, late at night.  My other siblings’ families and my parents had already gotten there and were hanging out.  We didn’t see anyone until the next day.  They had already had a mostly full day the day before at the pool and one campsite, while we were still traveling.  So we wake up late cause we were exhausted and everyone is to meet at the pool at 11am.  We get there at noon.  McCarty Family Reunion 2011 begins.

I realize we’re in the woods where bees are easy to come by.  I never used to be allergic to bees.  I worked in Florida doing landscaping back in 2003 and got stung quite often by bees and bitten by ants.  Then one time in Canada where I live now I was stung on the hand and eventually had a hard time breathing.  So now I need to carry an epipen.  I forgot to get one before the trip, and although the likelihood of me actually getting stung is quite low, I wasn’t ready to die yet.

So as I am already behind, I spend most of the first day trying to get a prescription phoned in to the nearest pharmacy which is 30 minutes away.  We only really have 4 full days at this place and I’m wasting time running around trying to find a needle I can jam in my leg IF I get stung.  Not knowing if you need a prescription or not, my father and I drive to that pharmacy to find out that  you in fact need one.  Clinic nearby is closed.

My sister-in-law has a doctor friend who’s willing to phone it in, but is wary since I’m not her patient.  The next morning I wake up late again cause we were up late and we’re still adjusting to the time difference.  My family wants to go white water rafting and I’m still stuck on trying to find a stupid epipen.  I get a late start and get to the pharmacy.  I’m running so late that I’m not going to make the caravan to leave for white water rafting in time.  Part of me was okay with that cause I wanted to relax instead of being so harried which i’d been for 3 days now (we traveled for two days).

It’s lunchtime and I’m driving back to the resort with this stupid epipen.  I’m enjoying the drive in my dad’s well-handling Subaru on the Tail of the Dragon when all of a sudden I pass the two cars with my family members in them going white water rafting.  The other part of me was bummed that I’d miss hanging out with them and going, so I turn around and drive fast to catch back up with them.  We’d been told prior that the pharmacy and rafting were in two different directions so when I caught up to the caravan everyone was surprised, as was I when they passed.

So I’m still playing catch up.  We get to the rafting place and I don’t have a bathing suit, I only have flip flops, which supposedly they tape to your feet, I don’t have my contacts in, and I haven’t eaten any lunch.  I didn’t know what to do with my glasses.  It was going to be a pretty boring rafting trip if I couldn’t even see it.  I didn’t know how crazy the rapids would be and how often we’d be falling in.  Do I just wear my shorts and try and not get wet?  “Hey, how wet do you get doing this?”  I ask.  I’ve never been. No answer.

When I got out of the car, my sister had brought some sandwiches and grapes.  I ate a couple sandwiches and some grapes which was good because there’s no way I would have made it.  Luckily, my nephew had an extra bathing suit and when we signed in they told us I could rent these goofy water shoes for 5 bucks so I did that.  I still feel so far behind everyone and extremely unprepared.  This is so dumb I think to myself, why didn’t I just go back?  But I”m here and I want to spend time with my family and now I have a suit, some food, and weird shoes.

But what about my glasses.  I was going to check out their store to find a thing to tie on my glasses.  When I was renting the shoes I thought to ask if they had anything to rent for glasses.  They handed me a piece of string.  Like, not some cool looking Croakies, just a plain ole white string.  “What do you want me to do with that?”  “Tie it on your glasses.”  Okay, whatever.

I run back to the car, change into the swimsuit and wet suit shoes that go to my shins, and find another sandwich in my sister’s car.  I run back to where everyone is starting to already walk with the rafting guide to learn how to not die.  I catch up with them but have to pee.  Now I go running around trying to find a bathroom while he starts explaining to them how to wear a life vest.  I pee and return, grab a life vest and tie the silly string on my glasses wondering what the hell it’s going to do when a huge rapid engulfs me and pulls me in.  At least I have these shoes.

Now the guide takes us into another area where we are all sitting down to learn the techniques and jargon of not dying.  When he explained the life vest, while I was gone, he obviously said something about them needing to be tight cause all of us are moaning and groaning that these stupid vests are puncturing our stomachs.  He continues to proceed with a talk and demonstration of ways to sit on the raft, and what to do if you fall in.  The more he talks, the more anxious I get.  I had given him my epipen which I had spent a day getting and while he’s talking it’s sticking out of his chest pocket.  The more he talks the more it sounds like we are definitely falling in at some point and there are lots of ways to possibly drown.  I should have told him I have anxiety issues as well cause now I’m thinking about how I’m going to bail on this whole thing.  I so should have just kept going home, pretending to never see the caravan.  What have I gotten myself into?  Who’s idea was it to do this anyway?

After this guy talks and demonstrates, scaring the shit out of all of us – at least me anyway, we then watch a brief movie.  Did I mention that my young nieces who are like around 10 came?  Did I mention that there was two other groups of young people?  There was a young heavy set girl about 15 years old in front of me and I could tell she was scared so I wasn’t alone.  When I first walked in and saw that there were a bunch of other people with our group I said to myself, “how big is this raft?”  I thought we were all getting on some huge raft together.  Anyway, back to this video.  After he brings me close to a panic attack I now have to watch this cartoony guy drown cause he put his feet down after falling out of the raft, got his foot caught in the rocks, and the rapids pushed him under.  Seriously?  This is what we’re doing.  I just wanted to come relax in North Carolina and now I went from rushing around to get a needle so I wouldn’t possibly die of a bee sting to the first chance I have to chill out  and I’m getting on a raft where I am most likely going to get thrown out by monstrous rapids and drown cause I’ll try and stand up.

“Toes and nose to the surface.”  This is swimmers position if you fall out.  He said it many times.  I’m thinking, “for them to do all this, and for him to repeat this so many times, there must be people who don’t do this and die.”  Toes and nose to the surface, okay, got it.  If I fall out of the raft my feet are going to be so far above the surface I’ll look like some sort of synchronized swimmer.

What has happened to me?  I’m 34 years old, and here I am sitting with mostly kids under 18, I have goofy shoes on and a string to hold my glasses, and I’m scared.  When did I become such a pussy?  I dont’ know, but it happened.  I’m thinking how nice it would be to sit on the porch of our cabin and read a book.  Where’s my sense of adventure?  Where’s the athletic and exploring child I used to be?  Gone.  Killed by my anxious imagination.

Oh, and I could also get into my anxious fear of having to shit while on the raft and what I would do then, but I’ll leave that out.

So now we all get on a school bus with our paddles and take a ride to drop-in.  We split up the groups and I’m happy to know I’m with the younger girls and a guide.  Phew!  My niece Olivia says, “I realized this probably isn’t that dangerous if they made the helmets optional.”  Hmmmm, good point, hadn’t thought of that.  What if I should have worn a helmet?  With my feet so high in the air after I fall out, it certainly leaves my head vulnerable to plunging under and smashing against a rock.  I hate helmets.

We get to the drop in and there are port-a-pottys there for any last minute drop offs.  I don’t necessarily have to shit but am wondering if I should try.

We finally get in the boats and eventually start down the river.  After a couple runs through some very small rapids, I realize this couldn’t be any less dangerous than they made it out to be.  The river isn’t fast and the rapids are not bad.  It was only a class 1 or 2 I think.  Which means grammas and granpas.  Seriously, my 70 year old parents who were back at the cabins could have come on this thing.  All that fear they drove into me and we spent 80 percent of the time floating on calm waters.  Even so, my foot was lodged where they told us to just in case things got a little exciting.  Our guide wanted to do some weird tricks a couple times where we’d spin off a rock.  “You mean we’re going to hit a rock on purpose?”  I didn’t say anything for fear that my nieces would think less of me but I thought it was a horrible idea.  He did it well though.  Did I mention that his name was Canyon and he was headed to Harvard in the fall.

So I made it through the rapids and actually enjoyed myself.  I didn’t get stung, I didn’t fall out, and I didn’t have to shit.

I couldn’t wait to get home and do nothing.

Did I also mention that everyone else who didn’t come was worried all day about what happened to me since I was supposed to return back after missing the caravan?  I wasn’t the only one afraid of my death.

Here are some photos to go along with the story:

This is the group of people.  My family is in the second to last row.  Note all the young people.  Also note I thought all those people might end up in the same raft.

That’s a great shot of the string holding on my glasses.  Also, check out that look on my face – it’s sort of a smile disguising fear.

There’s our guide Canyon.  I was a little afraid he wouldn’t be able to pull anyone in that fell out.

There’s me in all my white water rafting glory.  I’m not sure there’s a dorkier picture of me out there but it’s extremely fitting given all my lack of cojones.


This is a hilarious story told by my brother-in-law, a high school literature teacher and phenomenal storyteller, while sitting around a campfire at our reunion this past summer. 

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