Hi, I’m Doug, he said, extending his hand.
We were at the trail’s parking lot. It was early—still morning—and the lot was mostly empty.
I was confused. Who was this guy introducing himself to me? Why did he want to shake my hand? The Big Boss Man hadn’t warned me of a visit from a company or Forest Service bigwig.
Doug had thick, well-maintained dark hair. His face was shaven, and he looked wholesome in a nondescript way. He wasn’t ugly or exceptionally handsome, but he had good teeth in a big smile. He was dressed in what I think of as “golf course casual”—khakis and a knit shirt with a collar. He was maybe a little older than I am—early 50s, probably.
I reached out my hand to meet his, and we shook. I told him my name.
Are you the docent? I asked. It was the only reason I could image for him to not only introduce himself to me but to also offer his hand.
The what? he asked, startled.
The docent, I repeated, even though I was pretty sure he’d heard me, just had no idea what in the hell I was talking about.
He gave his head a little shake and asked, What’s that?
How to explain “docent,” I wondered.
I thought maybe you’d go out on the trail and answer questions, I said.
This notion made him chuckle. No, he couldn’t answer any questions, he said. He’d just come to see the trees.
You introduced yourself, I tried to explain, but let my sentence trail off. Never before had a visitor walked up with a handshake and an introduction, so he’d really confused me. I didn’t want to offend him though. He’s only done something confusing, not anything weird or creepy.
You were sitting her alone, he shrugged. I thought I should introduce myself.
I was beginning to think Doug was an extrovert. I suspect only an extrovert would walk up to a stranger sitting along and offer a handshake and an introduction. It seemed so natural to him. He didn’t seem to be experiencing any anxiety or inner turmoil. He saw me sitting alone, so he stuck out his hand and told me his name.
Where are you visiting from? I asked him. It was my standard make-chitchat-with-tourists question.
He’d come from Las Vegas, he said. He’d woken up at 2am, he said, and couldn’t get back to sleep, so he’d decided to go on a road trip.
His mother lived in Yosemite, he went on. He was going to go there soon, he said, to help her get ready. He had to get the boat ready.
Is this even possible? Do old ladies life in Yosemite? Is there a lake in Yosemite were old ladies and other people boat? I didn’t ask any questions. I was beginning to wonder if Doug’s extrovert personality was perhaps enhanced by some chemical. (Caffeine? Cocaine? Methamphetamine? Who knows?) Insomnia; impromptu road trip; babbling about boat, mother, lake, and Yosemite; talking to strangers could be signs of drug use or an exuberant personality—or an exuberant personality on drugs.
He didn’t really seem high—no twitching or jerking or obvious paranoia—and I didn’t really care if he was, but I was ready to get back to my book. (I am not an extrovert.) I steered the conversation to the trees and the trail, and Doug decided he was ready for the walk for which he’d traveled through the dark desert night. He crossed the street, and I never saw him again.