Perfect Sincerity and Vulnerability
Every Biodesign trip ventured into the uncharted and unpredictable wilderness of the teenage mind. In the class of ’81, one of the girls wanted to invite her dad (VB) along as a chaperone on the Yosemite Trip. We always needed chaperones, but her dad posed some scary potential issues. He was the superintendent of our school district which meant that he was my boss. The Biodesign concept was relatively young, highly controversial and I had some very vocal critics, all of which made me feel very vulnerable. Interestingly, the class surprised me by agreeing that he should be invited, so what else could I do?
By the middle of the second day he had blended in so well that I forgot that my boss was watching my every move (almost). That evening things would change drastically. We arrived at the base of Half Dome and it started to snow lightly. Ascending the rock would be impossible so we made camp in a nice open area. We fixed dinner and were snuggled in tents and warm sleeping bags by 8:00 PM. About 9:00 PM a group of half-drunk, half-stoned backpackers arrived and began pitching their tents right next to ours. After setting up was complete they partied on. There were four guys and one girl and their language was loud, vulgar and laced with obscenities. I had heard guys in locker rooms use crude language, but the girl was spewing out anatomical descriptions that would have embarrassed a truck driver. She could actually complete sentences consisting entirely of crude expletives. They appeared to be abhorrent animals that we were trapped next to. Our kids were amazingly tolerant, however, around 2:00 AM, one of them yelled, “Can you please quiet down, we are trying to sleep.” The response was raucous laughter and more obscenities. One of them slurred, “Maybe I’ll light a fuel bottle on fire and toss it into the little f—ers tent and see what happens. More laughter. The weight of the responsibility was almost overwhelming. I tried to relax and get some much-needed sleep, but wondering what VB was thinking made it almost impossible. Around 4:00 AM the last neighbor either passed out or fell asleep. The next morning we fixed a quick breakfast. The snow had stopped and beautiful sunshine replaced the horror of the previous night (almost). We would be able to ascend The Dome, if only for a couple hours. The partiers arose and greeted us kindly, as if nothing had happened. At one point VB came over and said, “You handled an awful situation very well.” I appreciated his words but was not convinced.
After a very long hike back to our Valley base camp, we arrived late and were greeted by a sudden storm. Water came down in torrents and I told the hikers to grab the first available tent and unpack. Thankfully the storm passed and we were able to prepare dinner. The next morning we struck our tents, packed the cars and headed for home. We stopped in Oakdale for a hamburger when it hit me! I asked my VB what he thought about the previous night’s sleeping arrangements. “What do you mean?” He casually asked. I blurted out, “I mean that girls and guys were sleeping in the same tents!” “Humm,” he said with a smile, “They treated each other like brothers and sisters so well that it just didn’t occur to me.” We both laughed, even though I knew that back home, critics would say, “Have you heard the latest? He let boys and girls sleep in the same tents. That is shameful!”