Monday, August 9, 2010

I Should Have Quit While I Was Ahead

     I should have heeded the bad omen Friday night: on the Metrolink train my laptop lapsed into the Blue Screen of Death. Only got up at 04:30 a.m. on Saturday, armed with Tom Benson's cell phone number. Brilliant plan: Yeah, yeah, I'll get there hours after the rest of the birders at the Salton Sea have located all the good birds, and glean their information.

     Arrived at the Mecca Arco station at 07:00 a.m., and only bought 3 gallons--the plan being that having to stop for gas on the drive home will give me a chance to stop at Starbucks, drink coffee, and cool off. After buying a tuna sub at Subway, carefully placed my wallet, Blackberry, and car keys on the roof of the Jeep. Had the following conversation with myself:

     "Dude, don't put your things up there, you'll forget them."

     "Dude, that's not possible. I put the keys on TOP of the wallet on purpose. Can't drive off without the keys, and that will force me to grab everything. No problem, Dude!"

      Got in the Jeep, and drove off with the wallet and Blackberry on the roof.

       Got to Wister Unit, where I enjoyed the Lesser Nighthawks, White-winged Doves, Verdins, Gambel's Quail, and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers. Didn't see the Barn Owl. Headed for the Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge HQ. Got there, didn't see any Abert's Towhees, headed off for Red Hill Marina, where I saw some Yellow-footed Gulls, and lots of pelicans. The water level in this whole region has retreated dramatically.

     Standing there, missing my wife and kids, I decided to call home. Where's my cell phone? Oh My God. I have to go back to Mecca. Ran across a fisherman and local resident named Ronnie, who let me use his cell phone to call my wife, and asked her to call the Arco Station. Ron stood by, sipping beer from a can the size of an 88 mm mortar round. Couple minutes later the wife calls back, and says the guy at the Arco station says "Nobody turned them in, and if one of the locals found your wallet & phone, they're enjoying them, now." Images of somebody running home with my wallet and buying donkey porno with my American Express card float through my head. I look at the gas needle: I have no money, no cell phone, and EXACTLY enough gas to drive home to Claremont, if I drive 55 mph with no air conditioning.

     Said goodbye to Ronnie and his kids (they caught 3 catfish in the short time I spent with them), and drove east on Schrimpf Road, where I saw several Stilt Sandpipers, one in breeding plumage, and a Solitary Sandpiper in the ditch further east on Schrimpf. Drove back to Mecca doing 55, annoying everybody on the highway. A hundred yards before I got to the Arco station, I saw it: my wallet, and all of its contents were spread out along the highway. Parked the car, and found EVERYTHING. The AmEx card, the credit union Visa Card, the USC Master Card, my health insurance card, CPR card, library card, and everything else were lying there, waiting for me to collect them. Tire marks from hundreds of cars all over the cards and wallet, which now looks like a Doberman spent an hour chewing on it.

     Never found the Blackberry. Walked over to the Arco, and saw two old guys get out of an SUV, and head for the door. I could tell they're birders, and walked up to them. At first they were startled by the manic stranger walking up to them, but then they recognized The Uniform: my tan shorts with cargo pockets, camouflage t-shirt, 5 o'clock shadow, and bags under the eyes. The look in their eyes said, "Oh, he's one of us!"

     It was Chet McGaugh. He let me use his cell phone to tell the wife the 50% good news (my boss' boss is gonna kill me: this is the 2nd USC cell phone I have lost in the desert). After another hour of walking/driving up and down the highway, gave up on the Blackberry, and headed for Highway 10.

     Hey, I'm already in the desert. Might as well stop by Morongo, and pick up Rufous Hummingbird for a year bird. There were none. Lots of Black chins, and Anna's. Nothing else. Got back into the Jeep, and headed home. While driving, I noticed that they were starting the news on NPR at 6:17 p.m., which I thought odd. Checked the Jeep's dashboard clock, and it disagreed with my Seiko Orange Monster--a manly dive watch with a screw-down crown and high visibility in the dark. Oh man, how much is it gonna cost to fix the watch?

     Ten minutes later, I noticed a "dragonfly" perched inside the Jeep, hanging from the ceiling, all the way in the back. I decided that when I got home, I'd open the hatchback, and shoo him out. No problem. Dragonflies don't bite people; they eat insects! Ten minutes later--keep in mind, I'm wearing shorts, and driving 80 mph--this big, gray, vicious insect landed on my inner thigh, and bent his abdomen, pointing his piercer at my femoral artery, I realized that (1) this is the "dragonfly" from the back of my car, and (2) I don't know what that is, but it ain't no dragonfly!

     So I did the only sensible thing you can do at a time like this: I let go of the steering wheel, waved my hands frantically, and emitted the sound of Frankenstein's monster having an orgasm. The Jeep veered first to the left, then to the right. Luckily, the drivers around me reacted in time.  The murderous invertebrate flew up, and found refuge in the corner between the dashboard, and the windshield.   Since the front license plate broke off months ago, I have been driving around with it on the dashboard--so I grabbed it, and started stabbing at the bloodthirsty fiend, screaming, "Die, motherfucker!  Die!"  Spineless bastard cowered in the corner, refusing to come out and fight.  Now I had time to study him for the restof the drive home, and realized that he was only a Robber Fly. Well, why did he pose like a mosquito on steroids?

     Got home, and confirmed that the Jeep was right: my Seiko needs to go to the shop. Ugh. Walked the dog, took an awsome shower, laid down with the kids in their room, for an early night.

     The wife walks in and says, "Oh, I wanted to ask you about this hummingbird that came to the feeders, today. It was like a male Allen's but it was all rufousy."  (Her Palinism, not mine)

     I ask a trick question, "What about the green on his back?"

     "No, no green. I'm telling you: he was red ALL OVER."

Somebody shoot me.

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