We recently went camping. By we, I mean my family. They hate me. By camping, I mean staying in a cabin, near the woods. In the outdoors. Near a lake. Or a pond. It has water. The whole thing gives me Friday the 13th flashbacks.
I am not a camper. I have nothing against camping, but my idea of roughing it is settling for a Holiday Inn without cable TV and an indoor pool. If they don’t have an in-house restaurant—and you actually have to drive somewhere else to eat—that’s a hardship as well. Downright barbaric, if you ask me, which of course, you did not.
And to make this blessed event even more wonderful than you might imagine (if you have a really poor imagination,) the temperature was below freezing. In addition to having rather poor judgment in vacation choices (a warm sandy spot would have been nice) we apparently have poor timing. We chose the coldest weekend of the fall to make our little outing. Oh, joy. Rapture. I have a brain—and it has frozen solid and failed to get me out of this situation.
Okay—the cabin is heated. But there’s like no TV. No radio. No whirlpool hot tub. We are miles—well, at least a mile—from civilization. I have a cell phone—but no service. No one can hear me now, as I scream like a little girl. There is a cabin next door, but I saw the campers, and they are anything but civilized. I swear the guy looks like Jeffrey Dahmer. It can’t be him because he’s, like, dead. But it could be his twin. The others, well, they kind of resemble supper I suppose. But I digress.
The kids want to roast marshmallows and make s’mores. What can it hurt? We have a good dental plan.
My wife reminds me that I have no dental plan. I don’t even have a dental plan B. I don’t have a dental clue. Very well, then, I’ll stop digressing now.
I brought firewood. Kindling. Newspaper. Lighter fluid. A lighter. I’m not a Boy Scout, but boy was I prepared. But the lighter failed—it was out of butane. I did have matches—a back-up plan! At this point, it beats no dental plan hands down.
Have you ever tried to start a fire miles away from civilization in freezing temperatures? It is not as easy as it sounds.
Sure, Frosty can make a fearsome fire on a glacier to keep Karen warm. Drop a cigarette in your local tenement, and the whole block is up in smoke before you can ask, “dude where’s my car?” Try to burn leaves on a windy day without catching your neighbor’s house on fire. Twice. But I dare you to make a simple campfire with wood, paper, lighter fluid, and a match.
My daughter informed me that she learned how to make a fire in Girl Scouts—using candle wax and dryer lint. She’s quite the little McGyver. Unfortunately, she failed to carry some dryer lint and candles with her. My son offered some lint from his pocket. I had a pretty good wad of belly button lint. But alas, without the wax, I still couldn’t get the fire going. (I thought about picking my ear for wax . . .) Desperate times call for desperate measures. But I had already done that last night . . . from the comfort of my home!
Sure, I’d wad up the paper and soak the wood in lighter fluid. It would light like fireworks on the Fourth. For a brief second, we had heat. But half a minute later, all I had were some cold logs and paper ashes. I wadded and lit. Wadded and kindled. I prayed. Lighter fluid I sprayed, which was probably not the smartest thing to do, but desperate times call for desperation. I burnt my fingers—no easy task since they were nearly frozen solid and I could barely move them. I had gloves, but they went up in flames way faster than the stupid logs.
“Try blowing on it. I think it needs some air”
I’m not sure who said that. I should have killed them. Or sent them next door to Mr. Dahmer’s cabin.
Blow on it. My derriere. I huffed and I puffed. I coughed. I couldn’t make fire but I could easily make smoke. My lungs detest smoke. Cavemen with barely opposable thumbs and no matches could make fire better than I.
I’m pretty sure with one match, I could have burned my house down. In fact, I probably wouldn’t even need a match—I could just do some electrical wiring. But with an entire pack of matches, all I could manage was some smoke. And you would think, where there’s smoke . . .well, think again. Where there’s smoke, there’s a guy trying to melt a marshmallow, but his tears keep putting the spark out.
I ran out of paper. The kids started gathering dry leaves to throw on my fireless inferno. It kept them occupied and made them forget about the frozen marshmallows. The movement also kept them warm.
It’s just not as easy as flicking the switch on the gas fireplace at home. Which reminds me . . . why did we leave home in the first place?