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Some of life’s surreal encounters

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

We rented a canoe and set off for an hour paddling on Town Lake in Austin.
I wanted to rent a kayak because you can lean back comfortably and paddle, but Sharon, my partner in this outing (and also my wife) thought that the kayak was too low to the water and would tip over easier.
Not that it would have been such a bad thing, since it was 100 degrees. Taking a dip in the cool lake would have been refreshing, although complicated somewhat, because I had my wallet and cellphone with me.
I could have held the phone above the water, though, and the wallet would have dried out, so either way, what’s wrong with a little dip in the lake? Anyway, we rented the canoe, which was actually less stable, but a few inches higher above the waterline than the kayak.
We’re not canoeing or kayaking people, but when we go to Austin, we sometimes go canoeing on the lake. We made it past a couple of bridges and then into the open lake, from where we were treated to the magnificent Austin skyline.
Also in the distance, we could see the Congress Street bridge, which was stacked bumper to bumper with cars during rush hour (or whenever someone slows down a little).
From the middle of the quiet, peaceful lake, we witnessed this incredible traffic jam on a Thursday afternoon. I just wanted to stay in hat canoe until all the cars disappeared, which would have been never. The sight of a giant traffic jam, as observed from a tranquil lake was – surreal.
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A few years ago I was having dinner with my daughter 827 feet above ground in the Dunaturm (Danube Tower) in Vienna. We wanted to go up to the observatory anyway, since we were tourists and hit all the obvious attractions.
The tower was finished in 1964, so it had withstood all the storms and wind gusts during that time. I wasn’t too worried about eating dinner up there. What were the odds that something bad would happen while we were there?
As I helped myself to chicken strips, french fries and wine (which was surreal enough), I looked out over the Vienna skyline from this rotating restaurant in the air. Then I needed to use the restroom.
The Austrians are obsessed about cleanliness, so the men’s room was, of course, immaculate. The urinals were lined up on the outer wall, with a window in front of each one. I took care of my business while enjoying a panoramic view of one of the most beautiful European capitals.
That was very – surreal.
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I woke up in a hotel room at the foot of Pikes Peak in Colorado one morning a few years ago, looked out the window and saw that the top of the peak was covered in snow. This was in the middle of September, when the temperature here was hitting 100+ each day. We had one of those hot spells.
The snowcap was invisible earlier because of rain. But on that bright sunny morning, it was right there in front of us, an early snowfall, which was a surreal site all by itself.
We drove up to the top that afternoon. As we got closer to the peak, the weather deteriorated. It reminded me of an ugly cold winter day in the northeast. But as we made it to the top, the clouds cleared periodically, and we could see the beautiful scenery - while standing in knee-deep snow. It was 85 degrees at the bottom of the peak and below freezing at the top at the time. We loved it. I made snowballs and took a lot of pictures to commemorate this incredible event – snow in September, 1,114 feet above sea level. Then we went inside the gift shop and got some hot coffee and cocoa, because snow is cold, even in September. After an hour or so, we had enough of it.
That was definitely – surreal.