Some of us don’t have to be told to avoid cruise ships.
We don’t need to be advised to stay away from stadiums, subways, shopping malls, political rallies, airplanes, company picnics, drum circles or even the funerals of unpopular people. We have never heard of Purell and we do not spray our food with Lysol. Our “personal space” is roughly the size of Montana. We are faster than a speeding happy hour, more powerful than a mandatory committee meeting, able to ghost potential romantic partners in a single ghost. We can do a self-quarantine standing on our heads. We are the few, the proud, the perpetually socially distanced — the Introvert Writers of America.
We could have told you all along that human interaction was trouble. Why do you think we moved to the ADK to begin with, for the tent revivals? This is exactly why we freak out when we see more than three people on a mountain summit.
If everyone were a card carrying member of the IWA, the coronavirus would not stand a chance. It couldn’t have hopped from one human to another without cab fare. Six feet? That seems kind of hairy to us. Can we make it 15?
When we were teenagers, we even hated rock concerts with their excess of noise and human density (we can only report this now, because the social capital we accumulated as teenagers for going to see Aerosmith is no longer valid).
The IWA would only attend live sporting events out of a sense of duty. We remember the games less than we remember the horrid experience of walking up to the stadium amid throngs of people to whom we had not been introduced, including some who would actually BRUSH UP AGAINST US and then merrily bounce their way through the turnstiles, seemingly unaware of the atrocity that had just been perpetuated.
We typically do not like parties either, because people stand bruisingly close to us, and enthusiastically engage in spittle-drenched soliloquies about who’s their favorite actor in The Americans, what’s going to happen to the price of gasoline, or whom they saw last night at McDonald’s.
The ranks of the IWA do not need to be told not to shake hands. And hugging — when did that become a thing? We rarely even hugged our parents, and now every canned-herring salesman from Newport thinks that if you like Calvin and Hobbes too, then the bar of commonality required for full-frontal contact has been achieved.
Even more, the IWA remains suspicious of all groups, and largely adheres to the words of the late George Carlin, who said: “People are wonderful. I love individuals. I hate groups of people. I hate a group of people with a ‘common purpose.’ Cause pretty soon they have little hats. And armbands. And fight songs. And a list of people they’re going to visit at 3 a.m.”
So we observe with detached bemusement the hoopla over state and county directives to avoid crowded trailheads and to limit hiking groups to two close family members. Maybe, we would suggest, this is good advice to follow — not always of course, but sometimes — whether there is a pandemic bearing down on us or not. We in the IWA cannot tell you how many times we have slowed down at a trailhead only to hit the gas and fishtail on down the road in a spray of gravel when we see three or more cars in the lot.
Yet the government, with reason, needs to remind us that we’re not supposed to hike in gangs, like the Sharks and the Jets snapping their fingers on Ore Bed Brook Trail and singing about a rumble. Got it. But we have always kind of felt that the natural state, inundated with humanity, ceases to be the natural state.
The IWA take on hiking — that is, to avoid crowds like the, well, plague — has taught us that on all but the busiest weekends there is solitude to be found. On any given day, from Port Henry to Old Forge, do you know how many cars are parked at a majority of Adirondack trailheads? The correct answer would be, “less than one.”
Hikers today seem to like a challenge, so perhaps we can make some use of these troubled times by creating the Empty Parking Lot Challenge. These unloved trails may not have that dazzling, selfie-worthy moment, but they will certainly be rich in flowers, mushrooms, birds, ferns, salamanders streams, trees, rocks and roots, all of which are fascinating when time is taken to notice them. Not every hike need be a forced march to a summit.
It does not have to be thought of as social distancing. It is merely the choice of taking the trail less traveled. Because, as any IWA member can attest, that can make all the difference.