The Couch Surf

             There’s lots of surfing going on. Traditional surfers ride the waves of the Pacific and snowboarders surf the earth. In Lake Dillon, they wind surf on boards with sails. At rock concerts, the audience does a crowd surfing thing that’s actually a lot of fun. Each day, I surf the web for news and channel surf the TV to numb the senses. And then there’s couch surfing. Most forms of surfing can be thrilling and couch surfing is no exception. When it’s good, couch surfing means no rent, no utilities, and no responsibility. But couch surfing can also lead to wipeouts that test your body and soul.

            While I’m in my room writing the usual gibberish, a friend of mine lays on my couch. He’s been couch surfing since his roommate got a promotion and moved out of their condo leaving him to tackle a monumental $1,400 monthly rent all alone. He started looking for another place. When he finds another place conducive to his lifestyle, he’ll have to pay the first month’s rent, a security deposit (which usually equals the rent amount), a utilities deposit, a promise to leave all spare coins in the couch and agree to make no adjustments to the 1970s motif of the place.

            You know Colorado resorts are known as world class ski areas. But Colorado Resort towns are also the world’s most active region for couch surfers. It’s not always financial reasons that push a person into the wild world of couch surfing. When you suspect the cops are watching your house, a hasty visit to the couch surfing circuit is one way to throw them off your trail. Seven years ago, my girlfriend kicked me out of the house. That put me on the circuit. Ten years before that, I started the circuit because I’m a flake; oblivious of what I want to do when I grow up. The novelty of couch surfing wears off when you have a wipeout.  That happens when an ex-girlfriend or wife comes over to “talk” with the surfer. Worse is when the cops learn what couch the surfer is on and break down the door. I swear: they’ll run through your place in a pursuit of the surfer as he tries to escape.

            A couch surfing wipe out can scare the hell out of you. It isn’t all about free rent, laziness, or irresponsibility. It requires skilled salesmanship and fast feet. Couch surfing is an imposition on others, and good couch surfing karma comes to those with something to give in return—or at least recognition of the debt. Once on the couch surfing circuit, you can’t leave. Our creed, “Use a couch or let your couch be used”, is an obligation to provide your couch to your buds, no matter the predicament.

            Two years ago, financial setbacks forced me to return to the circuit. A friend of mine, Joel, lived about 45 minutes from where I worked in Summit County. Joel had stayed on my couch a few years earlier and I needed to "call-in" the favor until my financial situation straightened out. This would be an experts-only couch surf as Joel lived with his girlfriend, Liz. Liz agreed to let Joel repay his debt, and I was happy to find a nice couch in a nice house. My surfing was a little rusty at first, and it took me time to get up to speed. Waking up early, cleaning the house, doing the dishes or cooking dinner lightens the intrusion, but you must forgo habits like lying around in your underwear, emitting loud noises from body orifices, and leaving beers on the coffee table.

            Joel and I had a blast while I surfed with them. Liz tried to stay at our pace, but she couldn’t. We all had fun and I worked hard to surf well, but nothing could prepare me for the wipeout I was about to encounter.

            One Saturday morning, I lay watching TV. Joel and Liz went up to the bar to have Saturday morning Bloody Marys. I was half asleep on the couch (of course), when they came home. I heard Joel raise his voice as the door opened “That was the stupidest fuckin' question in the whole fuckin' world!”

            “Why do you have to be such an asshole?” Liz yelled back. Suddenly, Joel was on one side of the couch and Liz on the other, and I was in the middle of a couple’s fight. I’d rather have my fingernails pulled out with pliers. I lay still as a dead man while they exchanged spiked verbage – an argument over starting a car, as I recall. I kept my eyes closed, but they knew I wasn’t asleep. (Actually, the neighbors were probably looking out the windows.)

            “Well… can go fuck yourself,” Liz said as she headed out the door, slamming it behind her. I remained still, both eyes closed, my hands holding the couch as waves of fear flew past me. Joel sat in a chair next to me inhaling his cigarette. He finally broke his silence and asked “Why do you think she got so mad?”

            I opened my eyes. Thought. “Maybe it was when you said that was the stupidest fuckin' question in the whole fuckin' world,” I replied.

            Joel called around and found Liz at a friend’s house and apologized.

     Liz came home and apologized to me right away, and then laughed at how horrified I looked during their skirmish. I can only imagine. The scars from that wipeout remind me that couch surfing is a young man’s sport, and these days I’m best at the surfee side more than the surfer side.


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