It was my first summer living in the Bay area. Aside from my brother and his family who had moved out this way before me, I really didn’t know anyone since I started my new job as a marketing manager and writer a few months earlier for a Silicon Valley firm.
“You need to get out, meet people, date,” my brother said after dinner one night. “There’s so much to do.”
I got the feeling that I was overstaying my welcome by coming over every weekend for dinner, but he was right. There was lots to do in the area, but my social life was lacking for someone to enjoy all those things. Even though I loved my work and did it well, I just didn’t quite fit in socially. I could write about the apps and services my company provided and make them all sound so necessary and appealing to everyone from the Wall Street executive to the high school kid in Topeka. However, I just couldn’t get into the conversations about how to create the next big ideas at our unofficial after-hours staff meetings that took place at a craft brew pub we frequented after work. I didn’t speak code.
I heard that lots of people headed out to the coast to get away on the weekends, and I had kept coming across ads for a writers’ retreat at a resort between Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay. Now this was the kind of place I could get away and have fun with some like-minded people. Plus, I was missing the smell of pines and the feel of the wind and the sun on my skin from the time I spent at my family’s vacation condo when I lived in Michigan. Surely, I could book a room in the lodge, take the classes, and have some time to explore the beaches and the trails.
Wrong. The lodge was totally booked as were the cabins and the tent cabins. I didn’t have an RV, so my only option was to bring my own tent. The only thing was I had to buy one — and the gear to live outdoors for a couple of days. It couldn’t be that rough. I only needed the tent to sleep. There were comfort stations that had heated slate floors and saunas. It would be a comfortable adventure. “Glamping” was one word that described the accommodations in the one of the reviews I read about the place.
When I got there, I completely underestimated how posh getting out in the outdoors would be. The little pup tent I picked up at Target was an embarrassment compared to the setup in the spot next to me — a six-person tent with zip-up screen windows and a covered entrance. It was too late to change my accommodations to a bed and breakfast 10 miles down the road. Besides, what I spent on my camping gear was about as much as I would have spent on more comfortable digs if they were available in the first place.
I pulled the tent pieces out of the box, looked at them, and wondered. How am I going to sleep in that? The instructions read as if they were written in a foreign language. Actually, they almost were. They were written in broken English with formally awkward verbs, and not all of them were in the correct tense.
Over my shoulder, I saw a man who was amused with my befuddlement. He just stood there and chuckled under his breath, and let it come out completely when he saw that I did not appreciate being his source of humor.
“Here, let me help you with that,” he said as he walked over.
“That’s OK, really,” I said, rolling my eyes.
I was sure he wouldn’t have offered if he didn’t see that I caught him getting his giggles at my expense. I’d figure this out eventually. I was a smart woman.
He picked up the metal supports and snapped and connected them together as quickly as 1-2-3. He unrolled the tent fabric and instructed me to follow his lead from the other end. Of course, I fumbled as I twisted instead of straighten the tarp.
“No, no … the other right,” he said with a chuckle as I tried to follow along.
His mockery didn’t help in alleviating any embarrassment of my ineptness, even if he was a genuine help. It also didn’t help that he was also incredibly handsome — tall and lean with a solid physique that towered over me by a …