Pain Tolerance

A Book IV (2007) excerpt. At the time I was working with Richard at his Coral Gables, FL design firm/ad agency. I’d relocated across the country in August of ’06 for the job and had been working for just a few months when I talked Richard into trying a Mt. Whitney trip. The following summer with the Mt. Whitney trip just days away, Richard was, with apologies to our canine friends, sick as a dog. His approach to illness and injury at the time was decidedly different from mine.

Richard and I with Mt. Whitney in the background


In fact, Richard was overseas in China for most of July, overseeing a big printing job for a luxury cruise client. When he returned during the last week of July, he was extremely sick with a head cold and a cough that made him sound like Doc Holliday.

Even more than on my previous trips, I couldn’t wait for the day of the trip.  I found myself longing for the cold water of Lone Pine Creek, and to be surrounded by pine trees and mountains. After the flatness of Florida I would’ve settled for a modest hill. I was also looking forward to the un-Floridian weather I knew awaited me at the Whitney Portal: moderate and dry during the day and cold at night.

I was so anxious to go on the trip, that I’d had my gear and clothing organized and checklisted on my kitchen table for weeks. At work though, during the last week before the trip, I was alarmed that Richard’s chest and head hadn’t cleared. From my desk, I’d hear Richard in his office let loose some wall-shaking coughs that me cringe. Given my expertise in these matters, I was convinced that he had something that would only get better with antibiotics. More than anyone I’d ever met, I knew Richard had an ungodly ability to ignore pain and discomfort, but I still felt that if his condition didn’t improve before the hike, he’d have difficulties on Mt. Whitney and be more susceptible to the dangers of altitude sickness and possibly even pulmonary or cerebral edemas.

But then again, as a licensed hypochondriac, I’m at the opposite end of the pain-enduring spectrum from Richard. He could’ve literally coughed up one of his lungs onto the display screen of his iMac and he either would’ve shoved it back down into his chest or just looked at it as that much less weight he’d have to carry up the mountain. Me? I would’ve been on the phone calling ‘911’ or a mortician, both of which I had on my speed dial.

About victorvolta

I am a freelance photographer/writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. I grew up in the very suburban city of Santa Clara. Education: San Jose State University (class of '84) BA degree in Journalism with concentrations in Photojournalism and English. Favorite Foods: Ribeye steaks and Stan's Doughnuts (separate plates, usually). Favorite Drinks: Strong gourmet coffee and Trader Joe's Blood Orange Italian Soda (separate cups).
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