The Circumstances We Find Ourselves In

I have always enjoyed a certain type of person and situation. I’m not sure what to call that type of person and situation. Overused as it is, “random” is the best word I can think of to describe this person/situation. This situation is unpredictable, not typical to your everyday life, and is usually funny, in retrospect at least. I hope to share a few of these stories in future posts, since my father in law and grandpa attract them like chum does sharks; and I seem to be a bit of a magnet for them myself. Lately I have been thinking of one of those random situations I found myself in on my mission.

I was in an area once, we’ll call it Slogsville. This was a very difficult three months for me. The first problem was our apartment. It was in the middle of nowhere, by a field that must have been some sort of construction material dump zone, because it had a bunch of huge pieces of broken concrete piled in it. Our carpet was long orange shag, and we didn’t have a working vacuum. And the story told by the carpet was that there hadn’t been a working vacuum in more than a year. I think it eventually occurred to us to borrow a vacuum once, but that was pretty late in the game. This was at a time in my life where I wasn’t one bit picky about my living conditions (do you know how many times I thought to wash my sheets in college? Less than 1.), but even I was aware of the shortcomings of this place.

Another problem was that my companion had bad migraines that forced us to stay in maybe two of the three months we were together. He would lie in our closed bedroom in the dark all day and needed absolute quiet (I felt really bad about his migraines, but he was a pretty crotchety guy even on his good days). Those three months were hell. I was very strict about the rule prohibiting any literature or media beside scriptures and General Authority writings, and you can only fill so many hours of the day with that. The rest of my time was spent doing pull ups with a weight tied around my waist by a tie, hitting dandelions with a tiny golf club, feeding and talking to a stray Cocker Spaniel (Charlie) that came around every couple days, making eggs for a homeless women who stopped by a few times, and diverting the rain water in the gutter with mounds of sand. Have you seen the movie Papillion? Think of Steve McQueen going nuts in solitary confinement, but throw in an occasional homeless woman and a cocker spaniel, and you’ll get the idea. I really think I started to go a little insane there.

While I was in Slogsville our mission had a General Authority visit. These visits usually inspired a new policy or two which were based on the General Authority’s instruction.

One of the policies implemented this time was a set of things the whole mission would do during what was called Wilford Woodruff Week. Wilford Woodruff was a bold and tireless missionary, so this week that entailed certain extensive efforts was named after him. I can’t remember all the details of Wilford Woodruff Week, but the main thrust of it was that we would be out working more than we usually did; leaving earlier in the morning, getting home later at night, and not being home at all in between, even for the usual meal breaks. Also, during WWW it seems like we were on foot the whole time, instead of our usual bikes. And it was cold and raining a lot of the week.

When my co-bloggers later heard about Wilford Woodruff Week, they laughed in my earnest face and referred to it as “Foreign Mission Week.” This was clearly insensitive, but one can expect that sort of thing from them.

So toward the end of WWW I was exhausted (we hadn’t been forced to take any migraine days that week.) We went to have dinner with a gentleman in our ward. He (we’ll call him Jason) was a bachelor in his forties who rarely came to church. Jason was a little mentally handicapped, but was functional enough that he lived on his own in an apartment, which was out on a country road. We didn’t know him before this and I was very touched that he was providing dinner for us. So we got to his apartment and ate the pork chops he had fried up for us. Afterward he wanted to play some music for us. He had a bunch of 20-30 year old cassette tapes of a local evangelical couple singing old-time gospel songs, and they really meant a lot to him. So we sat on the couch listening to this couple croon about the Rapture and so on. My companion and I rested our heads against the top of the couch and were soon fighting the suction on our eyelids. I apologized to Jason, telling him the music was wonderful and relaxing and it had been a grueling week. Jason was very understanding and said in a soothing, high, southern-accented voice “It’s ok to sleep, elders. Even the Lord hisself had to sleep on the boat during that storm.” With that he got up and turned off the lights and went into his bedroom. Of course this was all very surreal, and of course I felt weird about it, but I’m telling you I was so, so tired, and it was very cold outside and warm inside. I would just cat nap for 5 or 10 minutes.

A loud noise woke me up an hour or so later. I was instantly washed over by one of the most depressed, guilty feelings I’ve ever had in my life. It was dark outside and inside. To my left, my companion was dead asleep on the couch. I stood up to locate our host, who was nowhere to be found. Then I realized what the loud noise that had woken me up had been. I followed it to its source. Jason was snoring like a chainsaw, out cold on his little mattress in his bedroom. My goodness. How did I ever end up here, asleep on a rainy evening on the couch of a hospitable, mentally-challenged man on a country road in North Carolina?

But that’s the great thing about life. Stuff like that just happens.

What’s your random story?

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11 Responses to The Circumstances We Find Ourselves In

  1. Ryan says:

    Oh man. Oh man. I am trying to control the laughter. That is so awesome. What a great story. I was afraid you were going to wake up and find that the noise was Jason cutting your companion up with his chainsaw. How awesome that the soothing duets of the evangelical couple lulled you to slumber on Jason’s couch in the dim twilight. It all sounds so scenic. Great story, Kook.

    And I’m just wondering if you’d have any muscle relaxers that day? Because that does seem to make a difference for you on the sleepiness issue.

  2. Davis says:

    That, for me, was one of the hardest things about being on a mission: encountering so many strange and funny people and situations and often not having someone you could share and enjoy it with.

    “The Lord hisself.” Funny.

  3. Davis says:

    And by the way, I can’t imagine what it must have been like to go without bikes. There’s asceticism, and then there’s sadism.

  4. Danica says:

    So great – excited for more “random” stories to come.

  5. Braden says:

    Kook, that was a great post. I love that he just told you not to feel bad and went and took a nap. There have been a lot of times in my church work where that might have been the best thing for all involved!

  6. Ben Pratt says:

    The second-largest Neogothic cathedral in South America is in the tiny city of Santa Cruz do Sul in the southernmost state of Brazil. One day about ten years ago a bunch of LDS missionaries walked in. We asked the cleaning lady if we could sing in there. She said that would be fine. You haven’t heard the hymns until you’ve heard them in full harmony inside a gigantic cathedral.

    As we sang, another pair of elders was inviting people on the square to come inside to listen to the music, and he said they were just bowled over by what they heard.

    At some point, Elder McD somehow knocked over the rather elegant chair near us, such that it hurt my leg. Shortly, the priest arrived. It turned out that the cleaning woman was mistaken. It was totally not fine for LDS missionaries to sing hymns of the restoration in the city’s principal catholic cathedral.

    This isn’t my random story; it’s actually the priest’s. Can you imagine going to work only to find a group of mostly-foreign interns from your most active competitor standing on your desk?

  7. Laynestoyevski says:

    Good stuff Christian. You killed me with the “Jesus hisself.” One of the best missionary stories ever.

  8. Christian says:

    Ben, that is a dang funny story. That was one of the priest’s most random days ever. Imagine being a temple president and walking into your temple to find a few monks in there singing, because some cleaning lady mistakenly told them that was ok.

  9. Ben Pratt says:

    LOL I know, right?

  10. Eliza says:

    Funny post christian, I’m sure you have a treasure trove of these stories. I think my only one is that I was heading home from Salt lake just around 10:00, I drove by Lagoon and noticed two girls about my age (19-20ish) giving the thumbs up hitch-hiking sign. I was totally going to pass them by as I have never thought it wise to pick up hitch hikers, but then I started worrying about them that Lagoon didn’t necessarily attract super classy people and that it was starting to get really late and I didn’t want them to be chopped up into tiny pieces by an axe murderer, so I picked them up. Turns out they were Lagoon employees and had missed the bus and guess where they were from? Czechoslovakia! and even better wanted to be taken up to Ogden! I hesitated at the distance but I had already picked them up so I drove all the way up to ogden where they were living in Weber’s dorms through some foreign exchange program. So funny I was dying at the weirdness of it all. It was pretty awkward too since they hardly spoke english. After safely dropping them off I went and visited Grandma and Grandpa Bell who were night owls , and we had a great ol time. Now if that’s not a random night, I don’t know what is.

  11. Norm says:

    That’s a great hitch hiker story, Eliza. Here’s mine:

    Driving home from Provo one weekend I picked up an older gentleman just before the onramp heading south on I-15. I felt bad because he was so old and I gave him a ride all the way to Salt Lake. He was looking for a job there. During the drive he said if he ever returned to his home country of Ireland they would arrest him immediately and then he did something I will never forget. He held up his hands and stared at them dramatically and said, almost on the verge of tears, “I have more blood on these hands than anyone will ever know.” I had to ask. He said in Ireland he sold guns to terrorist.

    On another occasion I picked up a younger guy who was probably in his twenties or early thirties. I picked him up on a lone road way out by the Great Salt Lake. I guess I felt bad because he was out by himself in the middle of nowhere. He said he lived nearby but didn’t have a car that worked and was walking to the nearest gas station to get something to drink. I was curious and so when I dropped him off at the gas station I offered to give him a ride back home. He accepted. When he came back out of the gas station he had himself a 32 oz of Dr. Pepper and a bag of chips. I drove him back home and wished him well.

    Yep. You read that right. He was walking 6 miles round trip to get a Dr. Pepper and Doritos.

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