The Ride Up
I'd never met the woman driving me, a Moldovan yoga instructor named Irina, also on the way to her first retreat. Only after asking me if I think 7 hours was too long to wait in line for "the guru Amma's magical hugs" and if I know about "the power of the number 108" does Irina reveal that she'd worked as a computer programmer at investment banks for 14 years before quitting 3 months ago to pursue yoga full time. Irina lets me select the music for the trip from her large Case Logic, but all the CDs are mantra collections...
In the back seat is George, a small bald man, one of the developers who built the presentation software "Presenter" that Microsoft bought and eventually turned into Powerpoint. He lives by himself, will fix your Mac remotely for a fee, eats high quality meats once in awhile, and rarely leaves his home.
This will be George’s 20th retreat! He served food and did dishes during the first ever “prison retreat” in Huntsville, Alabama. George asks me if I know who the teacher would be, and when I say “Bob Cannon,” he acts pretty squirrely and upset
Though George is initially happy to play spiritual expert and field our nervous questions, he and Irina begin to clash when it becomes clear that Irina is 100% ignorant of all the retreat memes – the daily schedule, the rules, etc. As George explains each new element to her, she gasps ("no TV? wawawawat!?!?!?") and says something that exasperates poor George.
Irina: Are we allowed to go out to our car at least to use the phone?
George: No. You can’t use your phone at all, and the parking lot is outside the boundaries of the course.
Irina: But how will I text my friends!?
George: For these 10 days, you just don't text your friends, that's the point of the no phone rule.
Irina: But I am a strong believer in the positive energy created by human connection! If I'm not sending out love to my friends, they will lose too, don't you think? I think I will go to the car anyway. I don't care. Ha ha!
George: I beg you, for your own benefit, to just try to obey the rules. Believe me, a few days in, you'll be so focused on yourself you'll have zero interest in your phone.
Irina: We'll see about that! George, do you have a girlfriend?
George: I've tried dating...a lot, different women but...
Irina: I know a Russian girl for you. She's not smart, very sweet, young. Just got out of very abusive relationship.
George: I'm happy alone, really. I like to be unencumbered. Plus I'm on this spiritual path, and I definitely don't want kids...
Irina: Hmm, she definitely does want kids. I will give her your email.
I call Jeremy (who was at the law library) to come meet up. Jeremy asks why I was doing this and I told him I wanted to see what's on the other side of boredom. Happiness, I say, if it can be found at all, can only exist on the other side of an ocean of misery. We shrug, who knows.
We drove for a while longer, and eventually (you guessed it) we arrived
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