“Get up off your butt and stop sleeping! I’m tired of doing nothing.” In such dulcet tones did I receive the proclamation of She Who Must Be Obeyed*. (*from Rumpole of the Bailey by John Mortimer.)
I, in turn, responded in my most Rumpolean manner by stating: “Huh? What? But, my dear, I am not ‘doing nothing.’ I am, in fact, emulating the habits of my good friend the Koala Bear.” Koala Bears sleep, on average, 22 hours a day and spend the remaining time eating Eucalyptus leaves. I create something similar by putting Eucalyptus leaves in my drinks.
“Emulating Koala Bears. Nonsense. We are going to do something by visiting the National Parks.”
“Oh wonderful. Uh, wait… by National Parks, you mean outdoors and hikes and uh, more hikes.”
“Yes, exactly. Now get up because we are on our way.”
Thus began our trip to some of the more storied National Parks of the western United States – Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion, and the Petrified Forest. Despite the exacting toll on my feet and the interruption of my Koala Bear studies, it was a very pleasant trip and allowed me to observe some unnatural wonders among the wonders of our National Parks.
The first is the use of the walking stick. It seems that nowadays no visit to a National Park is complete without the use of one. My own unscientific observations have concluded that there are only three categories of people who use walking sticks:
1. Dudes who look cool with walking sticks.
2. People with disabilities or injuries who need the aid of a walking stick.
3. Everyone else.
Only categories 1 and 2 should use walking sticks. Unfortunately, category 3 predominates in National Parks. Actually, the device should be called a carrying stick because most users are carrying rather using their walking sticks. I think that the organizers of National Park tours highly recommend a walking stick as de rigueur for the upcoming visit and then just happen to have them available at highly inflated prices.
Those who actually use walking sticks use modern ones in tandem like ski poles and have determined that their use entitles them to the right of way on any park path. Failure to yield will result in being pushed aside or poked with the sharp ends of the stick. I have reserved a new ring in hell for category 3 users of walking sticks.
My other observation is the occurrence of the ubiquitous selfie and selfie stick. Most of the people who take selfies are instant candidates for a Darwin Award. For the uninitiated, Darwin Awards are given to those individuals who improve the human gene pool by eliminating themselves from it. A double Darwin Award was given in 2014 to two men in Kenya who were capturing selfies with a wild elephant when they were trampled to death by the irate pachyderm who proceeded to bury the corpses with brush. The two men were actually touching the elephant’s face while taking the photos.
Similar Darwin Award candidates inhabit our National Parks. The idea is to get a picture of yourself overlooking as close as possible a treacherous chasm, cliff, overhang or precipitous drop. While endangering themselves, and often unsuspecting visitors nearby, the selfie taker fails to understand some basic rules of photography. First, you are taking up most of the picture so no one really sees the natural wonder to which you are adding yourself. Second, most selfie pictures can be composed at a safe distance from the dangerous perch or drop off with the same result and no requirement to jeopardize yourself. But where is the fun in being practical? Most selfie takers get an “A” for enthusiasm and an “F” for practicality.
Thankfully, the Darwin gene pool remained unaltered, my sore feet recovered, and I was able to return to my study of Koala Bear sleeping habits.