• In the middle of nowhere, at 5am in the morning, I was alone. Sitting upright in a camping chair that had been left behind next to the fire by some forgetful stranger, and wrapped head-to-toe in a sleeping bag loaned to me in pity, I had time to fully enumerate the flaws of the roommate who had left me in this predicament. Seven hours had passed since AAA gave me the discouraging assurance that my tow truck would arrive in 8 hours—about 6am. In contrast to the endless wait, I knew that the simple task of unlocking my car would only take all of 2 minutes to complete. I had no other options, however, and was forced to make due. I could feel my sanity slipping away.

    The weekend of July 4th 2009 was supposed to be a highlight of the best summer of my life. By then, I had lived with the rowdies for half a year—6 months spent with the most ridiculous characters that I ever had the honor of meeting.
    We had all had our share of memorable events—from running over mailboxes at midnight to rollerblading in grocery stores like so many elementary students. This weekend was to be our finest hour: a road trip of such depravity that the gas tanks were practically to be fueled by our own sweat mixed with enough liquor to drown every sensible brain cell we had.
    Since I was driving, I declared myself the steadfast captain of the trip. Different people showed up throughout the drive, but the key-players were Jake and two friends, Mark and Halle. There were 350 miles between us and our destination—one of the music festivals that was known actually known for its music rather than as being a place to find hard drugs. We had a late start, leaving at about 7pm. Of course, since all of us were law-abiding citizens, no alcohol was consumed while in car, we observed all posted speed-limits, and Jake most certainly did not eat a bag of psychedelic mushrooms that we had most certainly not grown in our closet. The trip was as uneventful as one could hope for.
    As long as the trip was, we ended up being grateful for our late start since we were able to roll past the admittance booth unnoticed by anyone of authority. After setting our camp by means of stopping alongside the first road that was out of sight of security, we fell asleep. By early afternoon, we had set to work doing what needed to make our abode comfortable: we put up a lean-to with a tarp and the car, consumed enough bowls and beers to thoroughly remove us of from minds, and Mark and Halle set out to find people to whom they could see the fake ecstasy pills they had brought unscrupulously and unabashedly. Before we left for the grounds, I took a Mexican blanket from my car and draped it around my shoulders. I was lord of the festival.
    As such, I was on point as we walked about the grounds. We disregarded most any sense of public order we had, and wandered in and out of the woods, mingling with the other festival-goers. As none of us were interested in paying $20 each for the privilege of buying overpriced carnival food, we snuck in instead—avoiding the watchful eyes of security. For the most part, we hung around the booth of Halle’s family-run shortcake and jellies shop, sampling freely from all of it.
    After some hours of this, I’d had my fill of the event, and was ready to go home, but rather at a loss on how to broach the subject with anyone. We had each gone our separate ways by then, some more out of the way than others. Jake found me wandering about the campgrounds and asked me for my car keys, which I gave to him. This proved to be, at least in my opinion, my first wholly unwise decision of the trip. He said he needed them to get his water bottle from my car which was parked a half-mile away from the official grounds. I didn’t have a clue that it would be the last time I saw him that day.
    The day passed, and I grew increasingly worn out. I called Jake again—still nothing. Every time I called his phone, it went straight to voicemail. I started to realize the severity of my situation. My car was the only warm place that was available to me; and I had given the keys to my prone-to-bad-ideas roommate.
    It was almost dark when I gave up on Jake. A membership with Triple-A includes three, complimentary road-side assistance calls a year—I decided to use one. The operator was as cheerful as can be expected from someone whose job is to put the judgment of an isolated night in the cold into verbal form. As I hung up, I felt myself crumble from noble, but cold, citizen, to a cold and cranky vagrant who, miles from any accommodations, took his first steps away from social acceptability.
    My descent was gradual. I donned my trusty blanket and headed for the fire-pit in the middle of the grounds. I walked around for a while, wrapped in my giver of warmth. I noticed a cell phone that appeared expensive. For no real reason, other than my own desire to bite back at the cold night in which I had to rough it, I slipped the phone under my blanket and into my pocket; then sat down on the first unoccupied chair I could find, desperate for sleep. In striking contrast to my own misdeed of omitting the “found” part of lost and found for concerning the phone, a local offered my freezing corpse a mummy-bag that they had available.
    The scene was, then, of me, stretched out in a much too small chair, completely consumed by a sleeping bag, while struggling to find some sleep. The whole time, I was cursing Jake for getting swept away by whatever it was he had abandoned me for.
    Shortly after setting up camp, I heard voices approaching. To be honest, even before they had mentioned anything definitive, I already knew who they were and what they were doing. Sure enough, the owner of the missing cell phone was on the hunt for her lost gizmo. I stayed quiet, hoping that they wouldn’t notice the green, slug-like figure that sat in plain sight of anyone within a hundred yards.
    “Hey, have you seen a phone around here?” she asked. “I must have dropped it somewhere around here.”
    All too quickly, I realized that I couldn’t pretend to be asleep for more than a moment.
    “No, sorry, I haven’t seen anything,” I lied.
    “Are you sure? I know it was around this area,” she continued, “Are you sure it’s not on your chair?”
    Now this was too much. Interrogating a stranger about one’s lost phone is one thing, but she was approaching the point of being offensive—not to mention the absurd nature of the idea. I feinted for a few seconds, pretending to look underneath me, as if unknowingly sitting on a cell phone was at all a common occurrence.
    “No, there’s nothing here,” I insisted. “Good luck, though! I hope you find it.”
    As she and her friend left, I heard him mention the many calls he’d made to the phone in vain. I mentally patted myself on the back for turning the phone off before they had arrived.
    Finally, after what seemed (and, incidentally, what was) hours, I managed to fall asleep. At around 5am, the cold became too much, even in the sleeping bag, and I woke up. I told myself that I didn’t want to risk missing the tow-truck; but, really, I wouldn’t have been able to fall asleep even if I had wanted to. I got up, donned my blanket around my shoulders again, and hiked the half mile to my car.
    I knew that I wouldn’t find any more comfort where I parked, so I walked slowly, never forgetting who had left me in this mess. By the time I approached my car, the truck was due in 40 minutes. I assumed a James Dean’esque position, leaning against my car and waited. When the truck arrived, for all of my discomfort, for all of my chilled bones, for all of my utter exhaustion from a night with no real sleep, I had to concede that, in spite of it all, he was 15 minutes early.
    Some hours later, warm, and full of mediocre food from a gas station, I set about finding Jake whose phone had magically come back to life. As I had figured, he had left the camp grounds with some strangers, spending the night some 5 miles down the road, where they had then left him that morning. Fittingly, I took my time in picking him up. However, before I did, I stopped by the single-room police station, and anonymously dropped off the phone, pointing out the phonebook full of numbers that would make finding the owner simple. The officer didn’t ask any questions, and I didn’t offer any answers. After I collected Jake, Mark, and Halle, the worst weekend of the greatest summer of my life came to an end.