The couple walked up to the front door of the Mercantile just as I was about to close it. It was five o’clock–closing time–and I was ready to do my end-of-the-day paperwork and go back to my camp for dinner and relaxation.
Are you the camp host? the woman asked me when we met on either side of the screen door.
Oh no! I said, but the woman launched right into their campground woes anyway.
They had reserved site #4, but the walk from where they had to park their car to down to the camping area was too long.
We’re both 65, the woman told me, and apparently she believed their age determined that they couldn’t walk very far.
I explained that since I wasn’t the camp host, I couldn’t authorize a change in campsites. I told them the campground’s regular hosts were having a day off, but the relief host would come around some time that evening to fill out their permit.
The woman wanted to know what time the camp host would be there. I told her the host didn’t have a set schedule, but he usually patrolled the campground between 4:30 and 6:30 in the evening. She was anxious to gett their tent up before dark, which is a valid concern. I told her again she’d have to talk to the camp host about changing sites, since there was nothing I could do to help. I even told the couple how to find the campground (only two miles away) where the relief host was stationed and said they could go there and find the host if they wanted to talk to him right away.
I thought I’d handled their concerns to the best of my ability, but then they started asking about the Mercantile. Was it closed? (Yes.) Could they just take a peek inside. (Sure.)
They’d come back to the Mercantile in the morning, they said; I told them it opened at 9am.
I thought they’d be on their way then, either to find the relief camp host or to pitch their tent, but then the fellow asked me if we were having problems with our plumbing.
What? I asked. I was very confused, as the campground had no plumbing.
He’d seen all the gallon jugs on the ground near the 300 gallon water tank on the host site. Javier and Sandra the camp hosts kept gallon jugs of water there for campers to use to put out their campfires.
There’s no running water in this campground, I said cautiously. This lack of water was the kind of thing some campers got very angry about.
No running water? he echoed in surprise.
No, I confirmed. There’s no running water in this campground.
They didn’t know. The reservation website didn’t say. I was pretty sure the reservation website did say. The fellow was holding a handful of printouts from the reservation website, so I asked to see them. After shuffling through them and skimming the information contained therein, I’ll be damned if I could find anything about the campground’s lack of water. It didn’t really matter anyway. Even if I could prove to the couple that they should have brought water, knowing they’d messed up wasn’t going to magically provide the water they needed.
We have water in the store, I said as I ushered them in.
I could tell the fellow was angry, so I suggested he complain to the reservation service for not specifying on their website that the campground was dry. Then I dug out a comment card to go to the president of the company I worked for so the camper could lodge a complaint from that end too. The fellow seemed to calm down once I offered him a clear route of complaint.
The woman, on the other hand, had worked herself into a state of consternation over how many gallons of water they should buy.
Should we get one or two? she kept asking her husband. She calculated several times how much water they would need before they’d go somewhere to get wash water out of a hose.
We have to cook dinner tonight. Pasta. And breakfast tomorrow. And we have to wash the dishes, she stated several times. Do we need both of these? she asked her husband more than once, gesturing to the two one-gallon jugs she’d placed on the counter.
The fellow obviously didn’t care if they bought one gallon of water or two. I just wanted the woman to make a decision so I could collect payment, and they could leave me to close up shop for the day. Finally they decided to take both gallons, and I sent them on their way.
The next day I found out from the relief camp host that the couple had decided to stay on the campsite they’d reserved after all. The camp host had given them a gallon of water from beside the 300 gallon water tank so they could wash their dishes. He was absolutely not supposed to give that water to campers, but I didn’t say anything about it. The deed had been done; I’m sure the water had already been used to wash supper and breakfast dishes. Besides, I wasn’t the boss. It wasn’t my job to tell someone the rules about water from the tank.