Ask A River God: Egotistical or Humorous?

Aug 5, 2013

Ask A River God: Egotistical or Humorous?

Dear O.A.R.S.,

I don’t know, “river god” (even with a small “g”) seems a bit pretentious to me. This isn’t to say that the customer doesn’t have questions, etc. that need a friendly response. I just found the whole “ask a river god” marketing really sort of egotistical.

~Rivergirl1, Former Rafting Guide

 

Dear Rivergirl1:

In terms of the moniker “river god”—it’s a joke. If I truly believed that goobah, I’d be really worried about my already questionable sanity.

I have found our tribe to be, as I noted in a recent story; “A bunch of talented misfits.” The guides who love adoration are soon disabused of that notion after they meet the countless former river clients who can remember every detail of their rafting trip, but can’t seem to recall the guide’s names. But I have never met someone without ego. River guides always seem to have a little to spare (yes, even the quiet ones). To do what we do, to hold other’s lives in our feeble hands whilst guiding fragile crafts and souls through maelstroms that might cause a rather terrifying and difficult swim, maybe even on rare occasion injury or worse, requires a certain sense of self-assurance.

Grand Canyon rafting

Quiet or gregarious, whether you muscle or finesse the moves, outlaw or angel, I’ve met a lot of river rats over the years, and they all have rather strong egos, including the ones that most hotly dispute it. This is not a bad thing. In fact, I think it’s perfect and right to embrace being the scorpion rather than try and squash it. It’s a part of whatever that unique thing is that allows us to make consequential choices on the fly and go with them with confidence. Often wrong, never in doubt. Like the Samurai warrior; a Zen-like focus comes to the lucky ones without calling, after which we stumble on back to our everyday confusion. Am I worthy? Let the true River Gods, the spirit-ones living within the spray and sand and hot air, be the judge of that.

But really, it’s a joke. Poking fun at serious subjects is a trait I developed during my youth, when faced with cancer, and then a little deal called French Polio (both a tad scarier than, say, flipping in Lava). Being a punmiester, being willing to “take the Mickey” out of myself, is sort of why they considered me for this little gig in the first place. I don’t know many guides who have been at it for decades who haven’t heard a smirking client put that “river god” play on words to use…usually right after we’ve just tripped over the bow line for the millionth time, or rowed Lava Falls and flipped. Just after we’ve burned the brownies (again), or maybe caught that must-make micro-eddy above the Class VI waterfall. I don’t take it seriously. Most of my colleagues, novice and old-timer alike, don’t take it seriously. The few who do, I’ve noted, are amongst the biggest of the big, saltiest of the salt, largest of the large.

Like with my little health battles, I find it easier to poke fun at it than to pretend that it doesn’t exist. Most of my pards know that I, the guy who ruins the pancakes one out of every three times, who trips while carrying the pee bucket and splashes it all over myself at least once a season, and who has so little shame as to post videos of my own flips while wearing the jester’s foolish smile…

Well, you get the message.

It’s a joke. It happens that on occasion someone wants to punch me for a joke they don’t appreciate. When we meet at some riverside beach, I’ll allow you a freebie, right in the kisser. Then let’s move on downstream together towards the tongue of the next serenely scary rapid, covering each other’s butts and giggling like mad at the upstream wind.

Cheers,
River God

 

Got a burning question about rafting trips? Then it’s time to Ask A River God. Send us your questions, and we’ll put our guides and staff to the test!

 

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Jeffe Aronson
Jeffe Aronson rows dories in the Grand Canyon, and rafts in Alaska, Idaho, and other far-flung rivers. He loves nature at her wildest, when she is most beautiful. His evocative descriptions of untamed places and the constant tension and nearness of death has gripped travelers and readers alike for the duration of Jeffe's 37 years as a river guide and story teller. Jeffe has published several stories on Amazon, each a chapter of: “Onwards Wayward Boatmen”—a riveting collection of adventure narratives and personal stories. You may subscribe to his blog: “I Can’t Make This Shit Up” at his website: River-God.com.