It was the 4th of July, and while the parking lot was busy, it wasn’t the circus it had been the day before. We’d gotten to the point in the morning where my co-worker and I tell drivers to find a place to park, then pay us the parking fee on their way to the trail. We don’t want drivers to pay us, then demand their money back when they can’t find a parking spot.
The woman was driving a big pickup truck. She seemed to be alone, which was unusual, but not unheard of. (Most people come with friends or family, but some folks walk the trail alone.)
When I told the woman to park before she paid me, she acted as if I were doing her a huge personal favor. I was glad she was appreciative, but I wasn’t doing anything special for her; I treated her just like I’d treat anyone who rolled into the parking lot when I was unsure if there were a space for a new vehicle.
It wasn’t long before she was standing in front of me to pay her parking fee.
Oh, you found a spot to park? was the unimaginative greeting I used on her (and probably 30 other people that day) when she presented herself to pay.
Yes! she said and pointed over to her truck, which was easily visible from where I stood. She started gushing about how great her parking spot was, on the pavement and everything.
She took her money out of a soft suede wallet with fringe. As I got her change, she said, So what’s that meadow over there?
The back edge of the parking lot is bordered by a meadow. I know three things about the meadow:
a) it exists
b) a picnic table is located there
c) cars can’t park in it
My first impulse to her question was to say It’s a meadow. I figured that was a little too smart-ass because obviously she knew it was a meadow. But honestly, I couldn’t think of a single interesting thing to say about it. I managed to stammer that I thought it was part of the meadow joining the campground and the parking lot.
When I told the woman she didn’t have to put the day pass in her vehicle, she said, I think I’m going to check out that meadow!
Great! I said, I don’t really understand people who get excited about a bunch of grass, but to each his/her own. My attitude was Enjoy the meadow, ma’am.
None of the behavior I’ve described earned the lady a description of “creepy.” She was a little odd, acted a bit too familiar, but was well within the social norms of my comfort zone. It was her behavior as she was leaving the parking lot that I found creepy.
Every other week, I got to Babylon on my day off. I usually spend the night in Babylon, then head up the mountain late the second day. However, the post office where I pick up my mail is only open from 8am to noon, which limits my time in town on my second day off. Plus it’s so damn hot in the valley, which makes sleeping in the van quite uncomfortable. So I’d been scouting out places in the forest not far from my post office where I could spend the night in the cool mountain air.
I asked my co-worker who lives in the area year round if he could recommend any places that fit the description of what I was looking for. When he described a place he thought would work, I was delighted to realize it was a place I’d been looking at from the highway and wondering about. Apparently there was a creek behind where I’d seen campers parked and even pools of water back there. Score!
So back to the creepy lady…
Before she left the parking lot, she stopped her big pickup truck near where I was sitting and said, I heard you talking about BlahBlah Creek.
I was so surprised, I didn’t even know what to say. I’d had no idea that woman was anywhere in the area while my co-worker and I were discussing the creek. He and I had not been shouting. We’d been speaking in normal conversational tones. How had that woman heard us talking about the creek? Where had she been standing to eavesdrop on us? And how weird that she was admitting to me she’d been listening in, as if her behavior weren’t invasive and socially unacceptable.
I stood there thinking What the fuck?!?
She continued to chatter as if we were old friends.
I’ve never been down that road, she said, which confused me further, as I wondered how she knew about the creek if she’d never been down the road it is on. (My co-worker explained when I related this story to him, there is also a BlahBlah Creek Road, which is nowhere near the camping spot the creepy lady heard us discussing.)
What are you going to do there? she asked.
Hang out, I said. Avoid my boss. (I was planning on going there on my day off, after all.)
Then the creepy woman smiled sweetly and said, You should probably bring your head net, implying mosquitoes were going to eat me up.
I slept near BlahBlah Creek the next night and spent part of the following day there. I didn’t see a single mosquito, and more importantly, I didn’t see the creepy lady. Hopefully she forgot all about me, but if not, at least she was looking for me in the wrong place.
I took all of the photos in this post.