Snot is the reason I’m going to Zurich in March. Wait. It’s more complicated than that. It’s because of snot that I made a really cool friend in Iceland. Her name is Nina, she’s really fun, and I’ve been invited to stay at her house in Switzerland. All because of snot. I’m not making this up. I didn’t use it to save anyone’s life, like MacGuyver or anything. Stop a dam leak. Glue a couple car parts together to get a child to the hospital. Before you completely write me off, there’s a story here (there’s always a story).
July, 2015, in the high country, Iceland. There are twenty-four of us. Of those, one older American chick (me) and twenty (arrogant, and I’m being polite here) German dressage riders all in their early twenties. We are riding Icelandic horses through the cold, dry, windy high country on a rather epic adventure at a very fast pace. We’ve got a herd of some fifty horses ahead of us, our group is broken into two, I am in the back. We’ve just had a quick break to change out our animals which are fresh, and we are moving along at the swift tolt (an Icelandic gait as fast as a gallop). The herd throws up quite a bit of black dust which we must ride directly into for hours. Unless the wind favors us. Today it doesn’t. Iceland is plagued at high altitude with a kind of nasty black fly which climbs into the horses’ ears and eyes and noses, and also into ours, so most of us wear fine mosquito netting around our heads which we tuck into our jackets. Mine is elasticized and slightly green. Very fine. After about five minutes you are completely unaware of its existence.
Twelve of our party had gotten the sniffles. So did I. I also grew up on a farm. I am an athlete. If I get a noseful, I have no compunction about getting rid of it. It’s called “farmering.” You see NFL players do it on the sideline. It’s gross. It’s also hugely efficient. When you are riding at speed, and you need to use both hands on both your reins, and can only spare half a second to clear your nose, this works. I don’t care about appearances, it works. About forty minutes into our three-hour ride towards lunch, I couldn’t breathe anymore. So I assumed the position, affixed index finger to my right nostril and blasted out a loogey. Right into the mosquito netting in front of my left cheek. Where it hung, and began to bounce. Ominously.
I was surrounded by many other (young, arrogant, German) riders who were utterly devoid of humor. So natch, I got a serious case of the giggles. I couldn’t stop my horse, we were tolting up and over all manner of difficult obstacles at serious speed. I had to pay very close attention to my ride. We were moving fast. So, unfortunately, was this massive lung oyster. Right down the mosquito netting towards the inside of my turtleneck. No way. Several riders came up next to me and peered at my face, where my throat rocket was collecting some of the considerable dust that filled the air. I waved them away and bit my tongue. Tears were rolling down my cheeks.
The loogey, easily the size of the District of Columbia (the analogy is apt), slid lower, getting ready to kayak into my undergarments. The more I bounced, the further it slid like an evil black slug. I was desperate. I had to make an EXECUTIVE DECISION. I slapped that gooey bastard flat on my cheek, where it mashed the netting and the dirt together into black jello. Now I had a flat slimey dirt loogey the size of Rhode Island nearly at my chin, but at least I had ceased its further progress. My turtleneck was saved. German riders peered at me, huffed their lofty disapproval. I was in hysterics. It was two hours before I could rescue some wet wipes out of my saddle bag and find a private spot to clean up and laugh out loud. My ribs hurt.
After leaving this group and promptly joining another eight days later – I had scheduled three rides back to back with Eldhestar- I found myself in the company of yet another large group of German riders. Not so young, and none dressage-trained. In other words, human. And lovely Nina, who was Swiss. On our first day, as we were heading out, I told them the traveling loogey story. Nina giggled so hard she nearly fell off her horse. We made instant friends. In fact the whole group and I had a superb time, as the first group of Germans had proven such rich fodder for stories about Women Who Can’t Laugh. She and I have stayed in touch, and shortly after our election, she invited me to come to Zurich. I’ve learned “snot” to take myself seriously. As a result I will be enjoying Zurich, and Nina’s friendship this March. It’s remarkable how a little goo becomes the glue to make new friendships.