Chase Bank, United Airlines: “Go Elsewhere.”

Seemingly arbitrary rules, regulations, and fees often make for a “less than desirable” customer experience, but the major needs in our lives (money, travel, etc.) are brokered by a handful of powerful conglomerates, and they could care less how your experience is. I don’t like writing posts like this, but my recent travel experiences left me truly bereft, so I felt the need to share.

Early last month, I learned that a dear friend of mine had died (very prematurely), so I needed to fly from Portland, Oregon to Santa Barbara, California, with just over a week’s notice. I was fully aware the prices were going to be high, but eventually I was able to find tickets that worked for all parties involved (including my ride from the airport). The only problem was, I didn’t have the money at the time to afford the ticket. My situation is not unique, as nearly 69% of Americans have less than $1000 to their name.

I was, however, fortunate enough to borrow $450 from my parents. My dad deposited the check into my Chase bank account on Saturday morning. Saturday is not considered a work day for the bank (I wasn’t born yesterday), so I was aware the check would not clear until Monday, despite the fact he has been depositing checks into that exact same Chase branch for nearly 15 years now. I saw no way around the delay, so I had no choice but to wait until Monday morning to purchase my airplane tickets, forced to deal with higher rates and now a scattered assortment of different flights from different carriers, pieced together by Google Flights. Now I’m starting on Delta, switching to United, and on the way back, hopping over to Alaska Airlines, but I guess that’s what you deserve for trying to travel, right?

On Monday morning the flights were gone, and the only available tickets that were left were way more expensive now, so I had to borrow another $100 from my family. By Monday evening, the Saturday check still had not cleared fully. I had more than enough money to purchase the ticket, but my “Available Balance” was less than the price of my ticket. Accordingly, Chase declined the purchase request from Google.

So I called the Customer Service line at Chase Bank and explained my situation. I explained the situation. The customer service representative agreed that I had the money, but due to federal regulations the check would need time to clear. I asked why it wasn’t cleared on Monday morning, since it’s been sitting there since Saturday. We went back and forth about the funds. I asked him to think outside the box to make this purchase happen, because each second that I can’t purchase these tickets, they’ll get more expensive. Again, that’s playing the game.

“I’ve worked in Customer Service before, and I can assure you this is one of those situations where you ask your manager for help in making this happen for me…” I nearly begged the guy on the phone, to which he responded,
“Don’t you think if there was a way to do this, we would have done it by now?” He responded. Wow.

While there is a “hold” on checks, there isn’t a hold on cash… as long as you’re a “certified depositer,” otherwise they won’t accept it because it could potentially be money laundering. How do you become a Chase certified depositer? By having a Chase bank account. My dad is not a member of Chase, undoubtedly because of situations like this one.

I called the local branch of Chase bank and spoke to the Manager, inquiring on how to get my father as a certified depositer. Again, I reinforced the fact that my father has been depositing checks into that bank account for over a decade, but nevertheless, it was fruitless. He could not deposit cash into my account. That’s when I dove into my situation with the bank manager, hoping I’d pull on his heartstrings enough to make something happen… and he did.

“Are you using overdraft protection?” He asked me. I looked into it, and he was right, I was. This gave Chase bank to authority to decline purchases for amounts greater than I have in my account. By turning off the overdraft protection, I could charge for whatever price I wanted (up to a certain limit I think), but I run the risk of accruing an “overdraft charge.” I turned off the overdraft protection, and just like that, the payment went through.

“Great!” The manager said, “Hopefully you don’t get an overdraft fee.”
“If I get an overdraft fee, I promise you I will be calling back tomorrow and somebody’s gonna hear about it.”

I’m a stewer. If I’m wronged in some way, I’m gonna stew on it for a little while. Looking down at the misinformed negative balance showing on my Chase bank account, I called back the Customer Service line and asked to speak with the same customer service representative I spoke to earlier. You remember, the “don’t you think we would have done it by now?” guy. Yeah, that dickhead.

Turns out the guy on the other end of the phone could not transfer me back, but told me he was a Manager and was interested in hearing my concern. Very well, then. I started at the beginning, told him about the hold, the first customer service call, the local bank manager’s advice, and now I was trying to get to the bottom of why I was treated the way I was when I called asking for help. I told him that if I was have my money with a local credit union, for example, they would have more than happy to make those concessions for me the first time I asked.

“Then maybe you should go elsewhere,” the manager responded.

Wait… what?

“Put yourself in our shoes. Your dad writes that $450 check and then his bank goes back on it, now you’re out $450.” This was a legitimate argument that was made to me, claiming that Chase Bank (market cap $234.2 billion) needed to protect itself against depositing a $450 check. Not to mention all the money is insured!

“I’m out $450 and Chase Bank goes under, right?” I chipped back.
“Of course not,” he responded.
“Exactly.”

Instead of making that money available at the time of the deposit, and letting Chase Bank and my father’s credit union figure it out between themselves, I am forced to wait three days before that money clears. This is, of course, a Federal Regulation geared to protect banks and not serve consumer needs. This policy absolutely must change. Chase Bank may be actively lobbying those in the government about changes to federal policy, but I’d bet my bottom dollar this isn’t the issue. Whatever they are doing, do you think it is in the best interest of my subsection of 69% of Americans?

I made it to Southern California. The service was beautiful, and as is the silver lining in these types of situations, it was nice to connect with old friends again. I had planned to be in the area the following weekend for my mom’s 70th birthday, so I was somewhat forced into working remotely that week (again, because I was unable to afford two sets of airplane tickets). A forced long vacation, starting off sour and ending off sweet… or so I was hoping.

In scheduling my return flights home, the cheapest tickets I could get involved a 14.5 hour layover in Los Angeles International Airport. Now, for those of you following along at home, driving from Ojai to Portland would take somewhere around 17 hours (including pitstops for peeing and gas). I left Ojai at 12PM on Sunday, arrived at the Santa Barbara airport at 1, my flight to LAX took off at 2:33 and landed at 3:17 PM. My flight to Portland would leave the following morning, Monday, at 6 AM, landing in Portland at 8:45 AM. Had I driven from Ojai to Portland, I would have arrived 4 hours earlier than my flights, but exhausted as hell. But that’s traveling, right?

As soon as I landed at LAX, I marched straight to the Alaska gate for the next flight to Portland, OR, and asked to be put on Standby for this flight and all Portland-bound flights on Alaska. The woman at the desk sent me across the round terminal to another desk, where the clerk informed me that Alaska has a $25 change fee, but only on the same calendar day. Since my flight wasn’t until 6 AM tomorrow, I didn’t qualify for standby. I would have had to pay the full $125 change fee + the change in ticket.

I had all but given up on getting home to Portland on Sunday night, so I retreated to the bar and made conversation with the other travelers. I was, of course, on the longest layover, but everyone around me believe the Alaska deal was for 12 hours, not necessarily the same calendar day. So I decided to call Alaska and inquire.

Turns out, Alaska’s same-day $25 change fee is based on the calendar day, not 12 hours. The problem was obvious: I’m here for 14.5 hours, and I’m on the first flight out the following morning. There were literally no flights before mine, and three flights out before the end of the day. This is a deliberate squeeze. The other problem was, even if I wanted to change my flight, I had purchased the tickets through United, so I had to change it through them.

So I called United and explained my situation, how I purchased the tickets on Google, I’m on a 14.5 hour layover, and that I was willing to pay for the change in airfare to get on an earlier flight. They told me there was nothing they could do since the ticket I’m looking to change is from Alaska, so he got the Alaska customer service on the line and transferred me (then hung up). Alaska, to United, back to Alaska. Guess what the Alaska representative said? “There’s nothing we can do since you bought your ticket through United.” The moral of this story is… don’t buy your tickets using Google Flights.

At that point, I marched across the terminal to the United wing, and found a clerk. I explained my situation and how I was hoping to get on any flight to Portland that night. She informed me I could get on the last flight of the day, 11:45 PM, for $289 (including the $200 change fee), which is more than half of what my original round trip tickets cost. I explained was willing to pay for the difference in airfare but I could not possibly pay the change fee (again, 69% of America!) to get on a plane 6 hours earlier that was going to have empty seats anyway. I’m not trying to take advantage of the system here, I’m standing in LAX at a counter! This should have been a simple change, but United refused to budge or even try to make it work for me. “Sorry, maybe you should fly with someone else next time.”

Y tu, Brute?

As I mentioned earlier, I’m gifted with a caring, generous family. At that point, my brother sensed my SOS (or my angry tweets) and he offered to come get me from LAX at 10 PM at night to let me crash on his couch (in Sherman Oaks), only to turn around the following morning and get me to the airport by 5 AM. My brother’s a rockstar, and I owe him a ton… especially for this late-night rescue. I made it home then turned around and headed straight to work on Monday morning.

Chase Bank and United Airlines don’t need my business, they’ll be just fine without me. They’d be fine without your business, too. They cannot afford to lose the high-value clients, the businesses and the billionaires, that fill their coffers every month. Don’t get me wrong, these companies love their lower income customers too, because they’ll get some extra money out of you with a plethora of fees that all add up, and quite frankly, there’s nothing you can do about it.

I have options, and I’m in the process of transitioning away from these companies. I can find a local credit union that will accept the direct deposits from my work and won’t charge me monthly fees. In the future I can fly a smaller, customer-centric airline with less amenities and no checked bag fees. I can shop at local grocery stores and local businesses, because in the end, I want to feel as though the company understands my needs and will do what they can to help me.

CHE

 

The A-Z of My 2016

I thought a creative way to retrospect on this past year was to create an A-Z “mega post” of my year, briefly touching on my experiences from Austin, Texas to Yoga, some of my favorite songs, and a handful of my ambitions and personality quirks.

As a disclaimer, I’ve included affiliate links to some of my favorite products. No biggie!

tumblr_o2se7xsh0q1rt7qgbo1_500A: Austin, Texas. I visited Austin in February for a business trip to attend the Mother Earth News Fair. We spent a few days in Austin, kicking around to multiple coffee shops (including the Tom’s flagship coffee shop) and unique bars (like the “secret” bar behind the bookshelf in a hostel) in search of the perfect Manhattan. I didn’t get to spend enough time there, but Austin, “I love you so much.”

B: Bees. Over this past year, I have been a vocal advocate for pollinators and honey bees. Their role in the ecosystem as a keystone species is unparalleled and there’s no doubt their existence is in danger. If you are interested in getting involved with beekeeping (it’s really not that hard!) I recommend checking out the good work over at Bee Thinking.

screen-shot-2016-12-14-at-7-56-58-pmC: Card Games. I did a lot of “research” into card games this year, with a few of my favorites being Morels, One Hit Kill, and of course, Cards Against Humanity. Next year, Mystery Tin Games will be coming out with three games: Happy Hour!, a card version of the game “Hex,” and Robin Miller Presents Dinner’s Ready! Keep an eye out for Happy Hour! in February 2017! And if you haven’t already picked up Dinner’s Ready!, the healthy eating  card, you can get pick one up here! (Thank You!)

D: Mr. and Mrs. Graham Douds. This year one of my best friends in the world, Graham Douds, got married to his beautiful fiancé, Kate. As a member of the bridal party, we traveled to Cabo San Lucas for a bachelors weekend and later, in September, they were married at a beautiful ceremony in the Napa Valley. I couldn’t be happier to be part of their special day and seeing the way they love each other is nothing short of inspiring. Cheers!

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Mr. and Mrs. Graham Douds

E: EDM. Yeah, yeah, go ahead. I’ll admit it, I listened to more than a little EDM this year, and I can’t say that I’m ashamed. I truly believe that there is nothing more human than dancing. There’s no “right way” to dance, just move your body however you want. Whether it was dancing at the splash stage at What The Festival, in the front row at the Crystal Ballroom, or in my car  on traffic, I can’t help but dance and smile. I’m not saying it’s the greatest music ever created, all I’m saying is that you should try it sometime.

F: Freelance. This year was my first official foray into freelancing on the website UpWork. Forbes believes that 50% of Americans will be freelancing in 2020, many outside of their day jobs. If you’ve ever been paid to do a job for somebody, i.e. your day job, that skill can now be made available to anyone on the planet. And you’d be amazed what people are looking to outsource. This year I mostly focused on writing jobs, including blogs and screenplay adaptations. In 2017, freelancing will take on a much bigger role in my life, including hiring some of my own freelance help.

G: Groceries (Fred Meyer). OMG. Have you ever been to a Fred Meyer? Holy shit. I mean, these places are amazing. It’s like a Safeway, Best Buy, and Target had a love child and while arguing over paternity they decided to name it the innocuous “Fred Meyer.” That’s Oh yeah, did I mention they offer gasoline, too? Whatever you’re looking for, chances are they’ve got it. It’s a one stop shop. Thanks for the hookup, Fred G. Meyer!

H- Hawthorne. For a majority of 2015 I lived and worked in the Hawthorne neighborhood in Southeast Portland. Despite the fact we were paying INSANE RENT for our apartment that was the size of an open matchbox, Hawthorne is an interesting neighborhood. Over the course of one block you can find a tattoo parlor, vintage clothing shop, get your haircut in an airstream trailer, fill your growler with kombucha, pick up some vinyl records, and get your bicycle tuned while getting an artisan coffee and a donut. While there’s no doubt the Hawthorne is the result of gentrification (as I was reminded often by complete strangers when they saw my California license plates), it’s still a fun neighborhood to check out when you’re in Portland.

15327450_10211139875630103_1152892381576227980_nI – Intimacy. For the first time in the last 7 years, I’m not dating anyone. It’s not easy to be broken up with and asked to move out. It’s even harder to continue living together while the divide becomes more and more apparent. Love isn’t for the weak or the scared. Love is for the daring, the risky, and those who desire to give more of themselves than they’d ever expect to receive from another human being. Loving with your entire heart is dangerous, but ultimately an important growing experience, just like the pain of the inevitable heartbreak when you lose it. I’m not bitter or angry, I just miss my best friend. But I recently saw this meme, and despite the spelling errors (maybe intentional), it made me feel a little bit better.

tumblr_o97jzb8ntm1rt7qgbo1_500J: Justice. I can’t say I got the justice I felt that I deserved, but I had more interactions with the police and the judicial system this year than I have (in total) since I left the legal field. I received a couple tickets, almost got my car towed, appeared in traffic court to defend myself (and lost), and recently attended a hearing to appeal my unemployment case. Needless to say, it’s better to stay under the radar than on it. Putting that behind me in 2017.

K: Kiiara – Gold. One of my favorite songs from 2016, Gold is a super-glitchy, sexy jam that sets the mood whenever you turn it on. The song just drips with seduction. If you stand in front of the mirror and turn this song, I promise you’re gonna feel yourself. It tastes like money when I speak.

tumblr_ohmj0i86rw1rt7qgbo1_500L: Louis the Child. Another one of my surprise favorites this year, I saw Louis the Child perform twice, once at What The Festival and in early December in Portland. These two kids, literally 19 years old, are dancing their way into their fans hearts. Admittedly, most of the people in the crowd were freshly-legal, scantily-clad girls straight rolling (awkward), but these kids are somebody to keep an eye on. My favorite song is probably their most popular track, It’s Strange.

M: Magnetic North. Since moving to Portland, I’ve reconnected with my high school buddy Walker Cahall (Waltronic), a graphic artist and printer. This year he became the manager of his creative space, Magnetic North. It’s an awesome space with desks, screen printing machines (for paper and fabric), CNC machines, and paints galore. They hold events every month, inviting the community inside to see how the magic happens and pick up some amazing art! If you get the chance to stop in, do it, and tell Walker I sent you.

N: National Felons League. This has been the sixth year of our Fantasy Football League, The National Felons League. I was the commissioner for the first five years (not earning a penny for the first four years), but this past season I handed off the responsibilities. Perhaps it was the best decision I’ve made, because this season I got to the championships, but came up short. 2nd place! Cash money, please!

tumblr_o3ywr3TaZN1rt7qgbo1_500O: The Obamas. Write the President. Seriously, do it. Whichever President you prefer, the outgoing or incoming, go ahead and write him a letter. It only costs $0.47 of postage to tell the President of United States of America whatever you want. That’s it! Earlier this year, I sent a copy of my healthy cooking card game Dinner’s Ready! to First Lady Michelle Obama, and I received a letter back! Also, as part of my previous job, I sent a letter (and awesome t-shirts) to President Obama to thank him for his Presidential actions to protect pollinators, and he sent us back a great note back! I’ll have these forever! Thanks, Obama!

P: Pacific Northwest. As a Southern California boy living in the Pacific Northwest, it takes a little getting used to the seasonality. The winters aren’t the same crisp clear skies, but rather a constant state of overcast with short spells of daily rain showers. Since I moved here in fall of 2015, we’ve had a couple of snowstorms, too! Snow days! The truth is, as somebody who frequently stays inside to create things, I don’t mind being an indoor cat for a few months during the coldest part of the year. Aside from the weather, the PNW has some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country. Miles of beautiful hikes with waterfalls, pools, and breathtaking views! Come visit!

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Q: Quixotic. Lately I’ve come to embrace the fact that I may hold some quixotic views about my role in the world I live in. I am eternally optimistic that we can achieve the idealized world we all aspire for while desperately holding onto shreds of what we actually have. Perhaps my over-idealism stems from an unrealistic confidence that if I continue to work hard, and treat people well, the world will reciprocate in the form of success and happiness. I’m not exactly “tilting at windmills,” but I do find myself occasionally lashing out with aggression towards figures from my past as if attempting to “right the wrong,” an act that is foolishly impractical in the pursuit of progress. Next year, I’m letting it go.

tumblr_nwzlm6lyrk1rt7qgbo1_500R: Rabbit. No, I’m not talking about these creepy shrunken heads I found at Paxton Gate, I’m talking about my sweet ass white, 2009 VW Rabbit with 2.5 Liters. This car has been my saving grace, from road tripping the 16 hours from Ojai to Portland, carrying Dinner’s Ready! boxes to the Belmont Street fair, or napping in the back evading a domestic-squabble, my Rabbit and I are thick as thieves. For Christmas, I got her some new windshield wipers and a new rearview mirror. In exchange, we made it the 16 hours back to Portland safely. Thanks, babe!

S: Bernie Sanders. I attended my first political rally this year for Bernie Sanders. I have always been into politics, but this was my first rally. My boss had given me the morning off so I could go to the rally, and it was a magical experience. While the major news networks were busy showing an empty stage waiting for Donald Trump, they were missing out on the tens of thousands that came out to see Bernie Sanders at rally after rally. The only reason why the mainstream media even mentioned this particular rally was because of the famous “Birdie Sanders” moment. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.

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T: Ookay – ThiefAnother one of my favorite jams this year, I’ve probably played this song over 100 times, jamming out hard with air-saxophone. With a mixture of dance beats, digitized vocals, and a little jazz influence, this song makes you smile for all the right reasons. If you want to have even more reasons to smile at this song, you really should watch the videoI guess I’m just a selfish ghost.

U: Unemployment. I won’t get into the details of my unemployment again, I’ve done that already, but I will take a moment to address a perhaps unspoken downside of unemployment. When you’re forced to pay attention to every penny you spend in fear you won’t make rent or your credit card payments, you will psychologically (and physically) withdraw from the world around you, in fear that you will be roped into a situation where you have to spend money. You have a social life that is slowly diminished to cheap beer in your buddy’s living room, or even worse, drinking tea alone at home, starving. I’ve made the choice to emotionally leave the unemployment struggle behind me in 2016, so I’ll be back to my jovial and outwardly social former-self.

V: Voodoo Doughnuts. If there is one thing Portland does well, it’s donuts. And you can find a different kind of donut in every neighborhood. Small ones. Sugary ones. All kinds of crazy donuts. The craziest doughnuts are downtown at Voodoo Doughnuts. You’ve heard of it, you’ve seen it, it’s worth the hype, even if purely on a creative, culinary level. Delicious!

tumblr_o96gazYUv01rt7qgbo1_500.jpgW: What The Festival. This was by far one of my favorite music festivals that I’ve been to, and it was also my first experience volunteering at a festival. Despite the torrential downpours on Friday, eventually the sun came out, which made me love and appreciate the experience all that much more. If I had my ‘druthers, I’d love to go again this year. Want to tag along? Pre-sale tickets go on sale next week!

X: Xbox One. My parents gave me an Xbox One last year for Christmas, and it’s definitely one of the best things I had this year. Honestly, I don’t play very many games, but there’s a few I like; Rainbow Six Siege and Fallout 4 were at the top of my list this year, but even more importantly, I’m hooked up with HBOGO and Netflix through the Xbox One wifi. BAM! Never before have I had such a massive amount of content at my fingertips, and I can only imagine it’s going to get bigger (and better) next year. I think it’s probably in my best interest to implement some television watching parameters for myself next year, or else I am going to be an (even more) unproductive slob, but it’s super cool!

Y: Yoga. I was never big into yoga. I was successful at acrobatics when I trained at Circus Center, but I was never a fan of all the mysticism that is commonly associated with yoga. This year, however, my significant other took classes to become a Corepower Yoga instructor, and I was a frequent student for her homework training. I even did some partner Acro Yoga (thanks, Master Lu Yi!). Surprisingly… I kinda like yoga. Near the end of the teacher training sessions, I finally got the hang of the different poses and my body felt really good, almost longing for more physical activity. It was obvious I had not been physically active over the last year, that’s gonna change in 2017.

IMG_4825.jpgZ: ZZZZ (a.k.a. Sleep). Sleep is fucking important! I know it might seem like an easy (and likely) entry for “z” but in all honesty, I really try my best to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night. This means, most nights, I’m asleep by 10:30 and up at 6 AM… sometimes 6:30 AM. I occasionally pulled late nights writing or socializing, but for the most part, I was in early because this year I learned a good lesson about myself and my work. I’m a morning person. I get my best work done in the stillness of the morning, before the rest of the world is awake. In 2017, I’m stepping that up the early morning work even more.

What about you? What are the A-Zs of your life in the year 2016? What lessons are you carrying forward into 2017? Let me know!

Thank You from MysteryTin.com! We’ll see you in 2017!

——-

Did you like this post? Check out some of our other popular posts!
How to Run a Successful Crowdsourcing Campaign is a fantastic overview of the nuts and bolts in running a crowdsourcing campaign.
Starting a Podcast (Network) for Under $200 on WordPress is the play-by-play I used in setting up the show MAD Potential (with Ben Mehl) on the Mystery Tin Podcast Network.
Find Your Funk, Save the World Once you found your purpose, there’s nothing you can’t do.

#GivingTuesday: Lahaina Arts Association

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There’s nothing more important than cultivating creativity, especially in the form of art. I was more than thrilled to see my dear friend Erin Brothers had moved (back) to Hawaii and become Executive Director of the Maui-based Lahaina Arts Associationrecently voted “2016 Best Community Nonprofit” by the Maui Times. How cool! They offer FREE arts education to children in Lahaina and all over the island.

I’m honored to be helping the LAA with their annual campaign this year, so I wanted to share this blog post with my community a little bit and share with you about the Lahaina Arts Association in hopes you’ll consider donating on this #GivingTuesday.

LAA Annual Campaign Kicks Off on “Giving Tuesday”

Voted “2016 Best Community Nonprofit,” the Lahaina Arts Association’s Annual Campaign kicks off on Tuesday, November 26, a “holiday” known as “Giving Tuesday.” Giving Tuesday focuses on online giving to non-profit organizations amidst the post-Thanksgiving commercial rush of “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday.” Online contributions will allow the LAA to continue to host weekly after-school art classes around Maui county, as well as supports in-school arts programs for Hana School and Kaunakakai School on Molokai.

“This program is fantastic!” One parent declares, “Our kids do not have art offered as part of their ‘regular’ school so this is the only way to expose them to the arts.” Art scholarships, no cost art education, art materials and supplies, and student exhibitions are handful of the benefits the Lahaina Arts association offers to the keiki of Maui.

The Lahaina Arts Association relies on grants and arts funding to provide FREE programs. Unfortunately, this funding may become unavailable in the future, so individual donations are needed more than ever. All donations to LAA, online or in-person, are tax-deductible.

“The Annual Campaign is the most important fundraiser of the year,” says Erin Brothers, Executive Director of the Lahaina Arts Association. “It allows the LAA to budget out spending for local art programs in the new year, as well as gauge the organization’s ability to further expand into new opportunities for local Maui artists.” It is through the generosity of our community that LAA can provide these crucial programs to children who otherwise may not have access to the arts.

Donate to the LAA’s Annual Campaign Today!

Go Camping in the Rain

There’s nothing quite like camping the rain…

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It was raining before we even left Portland. We’d been planning this camping trip for a while now, having been postponed a handful of times this summer. Time was running out to go camping. A little rain wasn’t going to stop us from getting our “nature time.”

We pulled into the campsite and immediately go to work setting up the tent and canopy. The ground was wet and there was a trickle of smoke from the remains of the last campers. We decided it was best to put the canopy over the fire pit to start drying it out for a fire later. I wandered off to collect wood for the fire. I had a feeling we were going to need a lot of them. The best way to find firewood at these kinds of camping sites is not to go into the woods, just go next door. I found a trash can full of nearly dry wood for the fire.

Once everything was set up, the weather lightened up to a slight drizzle, so we went for a walk in the direction of the pools. We didn’t know how far away they were exactly, but we knew we were walking in the general direction and they would be hard to miss. At one point, we veered off the path and headed down the water. We walked by a family campsite, where they yelled “ya’ll want some liquid sunshine?”

We walked over to the campsite, seeking refuge under their canopy.

“Do you know how far are we from Opal Creek?” We asked them.

“Probably 15 miles.” One of them responded. “You want a beer?”

Sure. Why not.

This was a beautiful moment. It took us wandering around in a forest in the rain to encounter to be reminded that we’re all in this together. Walking around in the rain sucks. It sucks a little less if you’ve got a slight buzz on. Seek shelter and share a moment with us. We talked about the weather, getting into camp late, what we studied in school, and when we’re heading home. Chances are, in any other place than that moment, I would have said nothing to these people. I’ve grown a little bit. Thanks, nature! We finished our drinks, said our goodbyes and good lucks.

We headed back to camp, jumped in the car, and found a closer trail head to the Opal Creek Pool on the other side of the river. We’d do it tomorrow. It was time to head home and build a fire. Building a fire in the rain, with wet wood and sticks, is a challenge. It’s absolutely doable, but it’s a feat worth putting yourself through. Enjoy the struggle, because the satisfaction of sitting around a warm campfire when it’s raining is a beautiful thing. You created the fire that’s giving off warmth. You’ve contributed. You succeeded. Be proud and char that weenie.

The rain didn’t give up all night, beating ceaselessly against our tent as we cuddled up in our sleeping bags. Who knows how much sleep we actually got. But when we peaked our heads out of the tent in the morning, the rain had stopped. Again, I got to making the fire and again, it was a struggle. Finally, it caught and we agreed to burn all the wood I collected. Pure satisfaction. And sure enough, the rain picked up again, but we didn’t care. After lunch we packed up the campsite and drove to the trail head. Even in the rain, the hike to the Opal Creek Pool is beautiful. It’s just over 3 miles to the pools, with a walk through the Jawbone Flats creek near the end. It’s a great hike. Beautiful.

I’ve been on a lot of hikes. Short hikes. Extended day trips. Sunny hikes and rainy hikes. Growing up in Southern California during a drought, I always had an odd perspective on rain. I know the Earth needed it, but when it finally did rain, we stayed indoors out of it’s reach. Is that a negative connection? Maybe. But hiking in the rain makes you more cognizant of the little things. You’re thankful for shelter. You’re thankful for the reliability of your car. You’re thankful for the food you eat. Even the air tastes and feels better when you breathe it in. This is a slice of an inglorious life in the middle of mother nature, far away from the comforts of your everyday life. Camping inspires you to grow through appreciation.

It’s only when things are not ideal, when you’re camping in the rain, do you realize how truly fortunate you are to just “be.” Get outside. Go into nature. Go get wet.

CHE

 

The Person I’m Pretending To Be

“You are what you pretend to be.” – Kurt Vonnegut

tumblr_nzok6g7MX41rt7qgbo1_500At this point in my life, I’m doing a serious amount of introspection. At 30 years old, I feel like I’m caught in the first of my life’s major crossroads; there’s the person I currently am at 30 years old, the person I thought I would be at 30 years old, and the person I want to be after 30. For whatever reason, some people my age have given up on becoming the person they wanted to be and have been forced to settle into the existence of the person they’ve become. I fully recognize those two perspectives of myself are vastly different, but rather than dwell on those differences (and personal failures), I’m still mainly focused on the third road: becoming the person I want to be.

Some established businessmen (like Mark Cuban) may refer to me as a “want-repreneur.” While I was initially offended by this title (think “poser” of businessmen) I eventually realized that while somewhat patronizing, it’s also a truthful badge of honor about where I am in the process. I am, by every definition, a “want-repreneur,” mostly because I don’t believe my purpose on this planet is to help somebody else actualize their dreams while my own lay dormant. I want to be in control of my own destiny, and ultimately, that means being in charge of my financial gain and work situation. In the meantime, I have to make the best of my need for a consistent paycheck, so I work a day job.

The person I want to be will travel the world and experience different cultures. While the experiences of traveling are hard to “fake,” the desire, motivation, and information I can collect about all the places I want to go, and live, are more easily available then they’ve ever been before. I may not be able to go to Bali later this month, but in the meantime, I can do research into the local communities, see pictures and videos of people visiting Bali, learn about the local cuisine, and pick up tips on places to stay in order to make the traveling experience truly unique. When I get to wherever I want to be, I want it to feel like home. That’s the life I want. I won’t lie to you about where I’ve been (New Zealand!), but I also won’t lie about how badly I want to go to the exotic places I haven’t been yet. (I wanna go to Chile really bad!)

Then there’s money. I’m definitely living paycheck-to-check, but that doesn’t stop me from occasionally picking up a round of drinks. My true desire is to be affluent to a point of actualized creativity. I think there’s an important line to draw here when it comes to “how rich do you want to be?” I don’t want to be rich enough to have 12 sports cars, rather I want to be rich enough to buy all the pieces, and the personal time, to build my own sports car. I don’t want to eat out at restaurants every night, I want to cook at home with the freshest, best ingredients! I don’t want to be rich enough to put people down, I want to be rich enough to pick people up. I don’t want to be rich enough to have priceless art on my walls, I want to be rich enough to make art whenever the inspiration strikes me. That’s priceless. The type of affluence I am striving for is the freedom to create art without boundaries or limitations, until then, I’m having hot ramen for lunch.

But what about happiness? I truly believe sometimes “pretending” is super important when it comes to happiness. If you let every little speed bump knock you around, you would never drive your car. If you let every little conflict, every difference of opinion, every squabble redirect the entire course of your day (and happiness), you will never ever be happy. But if you “pretend” you’re happy, even when you’re not, the low-points won’t seem all that low. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating that you turn into an over-positive psychopath or something, but positivity breeds positivity. Give yourself some perspective and realize all the good in your life. That should make you happy… just a little bit?

So, until that time when I am where I want to be, I will have to follow Vonnegut’s wisdom and just pretend. This post may have pulled back my curtain a little bit, but honestly, I don’t mind. Outside of this post, however, in the real world’s meetings and social gatherings, I will continue to do what I have to do to be perceived as the successful entrepreneur, traveler, intellectual, and financially flush guy to live a great life and create the spur-of-the-moment art as I please. In maintaining that facade of control, the right opportunity may one day present itself to me.

That day, I won’t be pretending… I’ll just be me.

CHE