Growing up as a family of six, we did a lot of things together, but some things were harder to do completely together than others. White Water Rafting, for example, was a problem to do completely together, since only four people could fit into a raft, leaving two people the odd men out.
While four lucky Fonases got to be together in one raft, two leftover Fonases had to be in their own Leftover Boat, paired off with two strangers. If the two strangers were two hot guys, this would have worked out well for the Leftovers. However, the two strangers were never two hot guys, so it never went very well for the Leftovers.
Leslie, the oldest, could just whip out her birthright and automatically claim her seat in the Important Boat with our parents, but as the second oldest middle child, I was the Leftover Constant, which left the two littler ones, Jodi and Corey, to switch off as one of the Leftover Variables. This time, it was Jodi’s turn to be the Leftover Variable, so there we were in our Leftover Boat: me, Jodi and two of the strangest strangers we’d ever met, a man named Craig, and his wife Diane.
Craig reeked of milquetoast and bad decisions, and had obviously had sand kicked in his face by Charles Atlas one too many times. When he finally found someone who was worse off than he was – Diane, a meek, buck-toothed librarian – he married her.
(“Little Ditty, about Craig and Diane …” sang Jodi, who was always making up her own words to songs to fit the situation. “Something something something about a li-brar-i-an.”)
For all the help Diane was in getting the raft down the river, I’m not even sure why she bothered carrying a paddle. Every once in awhile, she’d half-heartedly poke it into the water, but mostly, her entire purpose on the trip seemed to be keeping herself and her husband well covered in sunscreen. She slathered every exposed area of their lily-white bodies with waterproof 75 SPF ultra-maximum-strength sun block, the kind that leaves a ghostly white film that your skin never really absorbs. Safe beneath a further-protective baseball cap, she’d re-slather the both of them every 15 minutes, or whenever one of them “accidentally” got splashed, whichever happened first.
As a family, we were more inclined to use straight baby oil than anything with SPF in it, so to us, Diane’s overzealous use of sunscreen was a character flaw which indicated a deep fear of life, and halfway through the trip, when the suncreen, which was like a fifth passenger, fell out of the raft, Jodi and I gleefully watched it float away, without saying a word. “Bye, sunscreen!” we silently waved. We were a little less gleeful, however, when Denny, the hot river guide that we both had a crush on, went gliding off after it in his kayak, returning it to the only raft in the party consisting of two white sunscreen-covered ghosts (“Hey, thanks,” said Craig. “How’d you know it was ours?”).
Diane, however, was not the problem. The real problem was Craig.
At the beginning of the trip, you’re all supposed to vote and decide who’s going to be the person in charge, the one person responsible for barking out all the orders – the Raft Captain. Over in the Functional Fonas Raft of Four, the matter of who was going to be Raft Captain didn’t even need to be discussed: it was hands down my dad, who knew how to perfectly navigate a raft down the river. Everyone in the boat had complete confidence in his ability to do so.
Over in the Leftover Raft, however, things were about to take a turn for the worse. Craig, as the only male in the group, had just appointed himself the Raft Captain.
(“Little ditty, about Craig and Diane,” sang Jodi. “Something something something about Raft Cap-i-tain.”)
Although Craig had never been white water rafting before, he’d once watched “Deliverance” on the late show, and that is what qualified him for the role. “I slept through half of it,” he said, “But how hard can it be?” Plus, he was the only guy, which was what really qualified him for the role. At this point in time, we had no real reason to dislike Craig, other than the fact that he was annoying, so we laughed, ha ha ha.
“He’s got an awful purty mowf, doane he?” I quoted, which went over Craig’s head since he’d slept through half the movie, but at that point we were all still friends. Although Jodi and I had both been down the river a couple of times before, we were used to having a guy be in charge, and that was how we preferred it, so if Craig wanted to be the Captain, fine. As long as he was competent and could do his job, neither of us had any real problems with Craig being the Raft Captain.
The problem was that Craig didn’t know how to do his job. As the Raft Captain, Craig could not quite grasp the simple scientific principles of movement and mere common sense required to navigate a rubber raft safely down a river. Forget the fact that most of the work is done by the current; he just didn’t get the concept, leading us to the inevitable conclusion that he must’ve fallen asleep at the most critical juncture in Deliverance that might have made everything clear to him. Every direction he gave us was wrong, and with all the things he kept telling us to do, you’d have thought the purpose of a Raft Captain was to see how many times he could pitch each one of us out of the raft, or how many times he could get our raft hung up on a rock.
The more I became aware of his incompetence, the more I came to dislike him. “Paddle Left,” he’d shout like Bluebeard Reincarnate, and we’d paddle left and end up spinning around, hitting a rock and getting stuck in a rapid. Some of the rapids were pretty scary and we kept ending up in bad situations, which was not winning us any style points with Denny, the hot river guide we were trying to impress.
“What the heck is he doing?” I’d say to Jodi, who would shrug her shoulders and roll her eyes, not really wanting to get into it. I didn’t really want to get into it either, but I just couldn’t take it any longer. If someone is either not going to take control, or is going to take the wrong control, I have no choice but to jump in and fix the situation. I don’t LIKE having to do that, but it has to be done. So I simply started yelling out the correct orders, which – even if I didn’t know what they were, and I did – all I had to do was listen to what Craig was saying, and then yell out the opposite.
Suffice to say, Craig did not appreciate the rebellion of his crew, and by the end of the trip, we were both ready to kill each other. Right before the last rapid, when he started giving us insanely wrong directions that never in a thousand years would’ve gotten us to where we wanted to go, I finally decided to confront him directly. It was the last rapid. What could he do to me?
“Craig, are you trying to get us all killed?” I said. “What you’re telling us to do doesn’t even make sense if you think about it.”
At this point, Craig jumps from his position in the back of the raft and lunges … lunges! (although I can’t say I blame him) … at me, looming right in my face. He screams, “WELL THEN YOU BE THE CAPTAIN! You obviously have a problem with my directions, so why don’t YOU do it?”
I said, “Craig, sit down! I don’t WANT to be the captain, but you leave me no choice! I have a problem with your directions because they’re wrong!” I then launch into a crash course in common sense and raft navigation.
He doesn’t, however, sit down, and he continues to scream in my face. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see that Denny the hot river guide, who I’m hoping will ask me out at the end of the trip, is in hearing distance, and I don’t want him thinking I’m a feminist shrew who has to be in control all the time, so when Craig again screams, “YOU be captain if you have problems with my directions,” I decide that I need to end this screaming fight as fast as I can. I kind of stand up a little bit so it looks like I’m going to go after him and in my most threatening voice, I say, “I’m going to GIVE you a problem if you DON’T. SIT. DOWN!”
Later on, Jodi said that she wished he hadn’t sat down after I threatened him because she wanted to see what kind problem I was going to give him, but fortunately for all of us, Craig. Sat. Down.
I might think this is all funny now, but I didn’t think it was funny then. Jodi, on the other hand, thought it was hysterical, and decided that it was now safe to jump in with all of her pent up feelings of disgust at his leadership. To make matters worse for poor Craig, Diane also took the opportunity to jump right in and agree with us, which made Craig even angrier. Beneath ten layers of sunscreen, his face was purple. If he’d lost control of his meek little wife, he’d lost control of his world. He had nothing left in life.
When we finally get to shore after the last rapid, Craig is so mad that he doesn’t even help us get that big heavy raft out of the water. He goes storming off into the woods, leaving Diane, Jodi and I to do the dirty work. And when he boards the bus that takes everyone back to their cars and sees that the entire Fonas Family is already on it, grinning at him expectantly, he drags his poor little librarian off the bus as fast as he can and heads to the safety of another bus, where nobody, he hopes, will know who he is.