Tag Archives: customers with questions

Bear Bells

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Photo of Grizzly BearThe Mercantile where I worked sold bear bells. Folks who’ve never hiked in bear country may have never seen these large jingle bells that attach to a backpack or a belt. They jingle as the hiker moves and are meant to warn bears of the human’s approach. In theory, the foreign sound tells a bear that a hiker is approaching so the bear can amble off and avoid a confrontation it probably doesn’t want any more than the human does.

Some experts don’t believe bear bells work. Some sources say hikers are better of talking or singing or clapping their hands when moving through ursine territory. However, since the store I worked in sold bear bells, I tried not to discourage customers from buying them. When customers straight out asked me if the things really worked, I told them I’d never used one (truth) and different people have different ideas about their effectiveness (also truth).  I mentioned clapping and singing and talking as bear deterrents too.

The company that manufactures the bear bells takes precautions to cover their corporate ass. Upon the cardboard the bells are attached to for display are printed the words “Alerts bears of your presence and sometimes sounds can cause bears to run and hide.” I love the word “sometimes” in that statement.  I can imagine the company lawyer saying, Add “sometimes” in there so we don’t get sued if a bear doesn’t run and hide when it hears the bell.

Each bell came in a little black mesh bag. A magnet is sewn into the bottom of the mesh bag. When the owner of the bell doesn’t want it jingle jangling, the magnet is placed at the bottom of the bell so the little metal ball inside that otherwise bounces around in there and makes noise is held in place and the bell is silenced.

One day a couple of young women in bikini tops and short shorts were browsing in the Mercantile. One of them saw the display of bear bells and decided to examine them carefully. She picked up one of the bells and gave it a little shake. The magnet must have been in the perfect position to hold the inner metal ball in place because the bell made not a sound. She held the bell up and said, Does this make a sound only bears can hear?

I suppose it’s a reasonable question if one encounters one’s first bear bell and it produces no noise.

Image courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-grizzly-bear-1328414/.

Cold?

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A lot of people who came up the mountain for the first time didn’t know what to expect.

What’s the weather going to do? people asked me.

I wanted to say, If I could predict the weather accurately, I would be a millionaire, and I wouldn’t have to work here.

Instead, I would say brightly, It’s the mountains! Anything could happen! That was pretty much the truth too.

Sometimes people asked me if we were going to get rain.

If we’re lucky! I’d say with a big smile on my face. California was a dry place during the four seasons I worked there. We were lucky if it rained. However, people on camping trips usually fail to feel fortunate when they are rained on.

In late June of my fourth season on the mountain, a man and a woman walked into the Mercantile where I was working. They appeared to be in their early 40s. I think they were on a day trip, checking out the area with the thought of maybe coming back to camp at some later date. They ended up buying two walking sticks, and the guy treated himself to what the tag described as a “twill safari hat.”

Does it get cold up here at night? the fellow asked me.

I paused before I spoke and considered my answer. It does get cold there in the winter, but I figured this guy was probably asking about summer temperatures. I wondered what he considered cold. I wondered if what I consider cold is the same as what he considers cold.

After several silent seconds, I said, What do you mean by cold?

He said, 60, 65 degrees. Selective Focus Photography of Person Holding the Adventure Begins Mug

I almost burst out laughing. Really? Sixty-five degrees is cold?

I realize I like my nighttime temperatures lower than many people do. I like my nighttime lows in the 30s so I can sleep snuggled under my down comforter, but I realize most people (especially most people from Southern California) don’t necessarily feel that way. If this guy had defined cold as 30 degrees or 48 or even 55, I would have understood where he was coming from even if I didn’t personally agree. Sixty-five though—maybe that’s cool, but cold? Isn’t 65 degree what most people consider the perfect temperature?

If this man defined 65 degrees as cold, there was only one answer to give: Yes, it gets cold up here at night. It’s not unusual for the temperature to drop to 60 or 65 degrees overnight.

The guy seemed immensely disappointed. I guess I’d dashed his hopes for a comfortable night’s sleep on the mountain.

I wish I had thought to ask how hot was too hot for him. Maybe he was one of those people who just really dig the heat.

Image courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/selective-focus-photography-of-person-holding-the-adventure-begins-mug-891252/.