Ian was shy. He was also smart, respectful, and dedicated, so it didn’t bother anyone that his social skills were lacking. We often went out of our way to make Ian feel comfortable, asking him questions or bringing up topics he might be interested in, but he always just mumbled his answers while looking at the floor or scratching his head.
One Monday, I was surprised to see an empty chair at Ian’s desk.
Another coworker, Danny, told me that Ian had taken a few days off.
Nice. I hoped maybe the awkward engineer had found an introverted partner and fallen in dorky, adorable love.
When Ian returned later that week, he was not the guy I’d previously known.
This new Ian had a mischievous look in his eye.
His shirt was buttoned wrong, and his typically tidy hair was sticking out in all directions. When the team piled into a conference room for our stand-up call, Ian announced what was up: he had gone to a music festival called Shambhala over the long weekend and it had Changed His Life.
For the uninitiated, Shambhala is a psychedelic festival in British Columbia that makes Woodstock look like a Kidz Bop concert.
Think electronic music, drugs, and more drugs.
Ian told us that Shambhala had “blessed him with enlightenment”. I remember those words because he repeated them for weeks afterward. You’d think his obsession with Shambhala would fade over time, but it only grew stronger. It got to the point where he never stopped talking about it. He told everyone he bumped into, mentioned it in every meeting, and shared stories in the company’s common area during lunch. The awkward, quiet Ian whom everyone had respected was replaced by an even more awkward, less quiet Ian whose verbal diarrhea about spiritual enlightenment was getting on everyone’s nerves.
A month later was the company’s annual camping trip.
Most of us saw this trip as a pleasant weekend of bonding with coworkers and hanging out with families since everyone was encouraged to bring their spouses and kids. Ian, I’d come to find out, had other plans.
When our group arrived at the campsite, we started setting up. Because there were 50 of us, there wasn’t much room between tents. We made it work, and soon everyone’s set-up looked perfect…everyone’s except one ramshackle tent on the outskirts of the site.
You guessed it. Ian’s.
He’d somehow assembled it lopsided, but, when asked, he said it didn’t matter. According to Ian, all that mattered was that he was “reunited with Gaia, Mother Earth.”
Apparently, he was hoping to relive his time at Shambhala.
But whatever. He was just being Ian. No harm, right?
Hours later, the festivities were in full swing.
Kids splashed in the lake, adults played volleyball, and others sat happily around picnic tables sipping strawberry lemonade and watching the sunset.
None of us were aware that Ian was alone in his wonky tent eating a fun-size bag of mushrooms.
You see where this is going, right?
Fast forward to 3am.
Everyone was asleep in their tents, including me.
Suddenly, I’m awakened by a roar.
It’s a bear, I thought. This is it. This is how I go.
But before I could grab my glasses, the roar turned into singing.
Sure enough, it was Ian. He was dancing around the campfire in nothing but his underwear, singing “Harder Better Faster” over and over and over again.
I spotted Danny running from his tent toward Ian with a blanket and watched him wrap it around Ian’s body, presumably to save the unhinged engineer from embarrassment. But Shroom Ian wasn’t having it. He took Danny’s blanket and threw it in the fire, then howled at the moon.
At this point, others were climbing out of their tents, too.
“Stop right there, Jelly Man!” Ian yelled at Danny, who was trying to approach him again. He bent over and picked up a handful of mud, smearing it under his eyes as he sang louder and louder.
Just then, an unmistakable voice boomed from a nearby tent.
It was Randall, our very tall, very intimidating CEO.
Ian didn’t shut up. He kept singing.
This set Randall off.
The CEO of our company climbed out of his tent in his pajamas. Ian spotted Randall and took off running. In a matter of seconds, it turned into a chase. Ian jumped over logs and weaved between tents, still shouting “Harder Better Faster” at the top of his lungs with Randall tailing him.
This went on for what felt like hours but was probably minutes.
By the time Randall caught Ian, everyone was awake, including the kids. Irate, Randall put Ian in Danny’s care, and Danny escorted the filthy engineer to his tent. At this point, the drugs were wearing off and Ian was able to pass out.
Well. The rest of the trip was bizarre. Ian sat alone in his lopsided tent throwing up and looking awful as he came down from his shroomy high. The rest of us tried to have fun and pretend like nothing had happened — mostly for the sake of the kids — but it was impossible.
When Monday morning came around, Ian’s desk was empty by the time everyone showed up for work. No surprise. I mean, a few campfire beers or vodka sodas with coworkers is one thing, but shrooming on a work trip? C’mon, man. Save that for Shambhala.