Tag Archives: parking lot

So Proud!

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My apologies for two posts in one day, but my book Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods is now live and available for purchase in the Kindle Store. I couldn’t be prouder!

Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods
Click on the image of the book’s cover to go to Amazon to find out more or to purchase. (If you shop on Amazon using this or any other of my other other affiliate links, I receive an advertising fee.)

If electronic books aren’t your style, don’t worry! The paper version will be available soon.

Thanks to everyone who’s helped make this book happen…

More About the Man Who Died

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On my last Saturday on the mountain, I was working at the parking lot when Mr. Jack, one of the sheriff’s department volunteers, pulled in. Mr. Jack is about eighty years old, has totally white hair, and likes to talk…a lot. I don’t exactly cultivate friendships with cops (even volunteer cops), but I try to stay on friendly terms with Mr. Jack.

We chatted for a few minutes about it being the end of the season before I asked him if he had heard anything else about the dead man I’d found in a pickup truck the week before. (Read about that experience here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/10/11/something-terrible/.) At first he said no, but then he said something, something, suicide.

I said something aloud, maybe oh, no! or maybe even damn!

Mr. Jack said, Oh, you didn’t know… I could tell he felt pretty bad about blurting the news out that way. Obviously, he thought I’d already heard.

He told me a note had been found in the truck. He didn’t say where. He didn’t tell me exactly what the note said, either (maybe he didn’t know), but whatever the note said, the sheriff’s department decided it meant the man had lit a charcoal fire in his tightly closed truck with the intent to kill himself. I suppose he succeeded, although I bet to his family, it felt like a failure.

Mr. Jack said the young man was only twenty-four.

I teared up. I couldn’t help it. I felt so sad for the young man and his family.

I’ve dealt with depression since I was a child. I’ve had suicidal thoughts at various times throughout my life. I know depression can be immobilizing. I know depression has kept me from achieving goals. I know times of suicidal thoughts are dark and scary times. So when I say I feel sad for the young man and his family, I don’t mean I feel sad in some abstract or theoretical way. I’ve felt like I couldn’t get out of bed, couldn’t put one foot in front of the other, felt like I couldn’t go on. I’ve longed for oblivion. I don’t know what exactly this fellow was facing, but I have a pretty good idea of how he felt when he decided he just couldn’t make it through another day in this world.

To me, in most circumstances, folks who chooses suicide are not in their right mind. Barring terminal illness, I can’t see a mentally healthy person making such a choice. Many people have negative things to say about individuals who have ended their own lives. Because I’ve felt hopeless and useless and low myself, I have great compassion for people who’ve had suicidal thoughts, people who’ve attempted suicide, and people who’ve completed this desperate final task.

I keep thinking about IF I had crossed paths with the youmg man at some point before his death, would I have known he was in crisis? Would I have been able to say or do anything to help? Could I have stopped him from killing himself or at least helped him live one more day, maybe one day long enough to get over being suicidal? What could I have possibly done or said?

I wonder why I was the one who found the dead man. I know someone had to find him, and I was the logical person, since no one had been staying in that campground and I was the camp host on patrol. But was the Universe sending me a message? I know we humans tend to want to find meaning even where there is none, or maybe we simply overlay our own meaning where none was intended.

I’ve found a meaning in this experience. Whether the Universe sent the man to me to teach me this lesson, I don’t know. But if the Universe is saying something to me here, this is what I think it is: Don’t do that suicide shit, because someone is going to have to find you, and why would you wish that on anyone?

Point taken, Universe. Point taken.

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The Lifeline’s website (http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/#) says,

The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, [as well as] prevention and crisis resources…

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

On the website, folks can click on the phone number in blue to Skype or on the word “CHAT” on the top left of the page to instant message with someone. I added the phone number to the contacts in my phone.

 

 

 

Boondoggle

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Some days I make hemp necklaces while sitting in the parking lot. On weekday afternoons, it’s usually slow enough to get some work done between collecting parking fees from the drivers of cars that pull in. By the number of comments I receive, my handicraft is at least as interesting as the trees.

One day, several people (including my boss) thought the bright blue and red hemp I was working with was wire, even though the hemp cord’s not nearly as stiff as wire.

One old woman must not have believed me when I said it wasn’t wire because she reached out to touch it. She didn’t ask permission, just reached out. I drew the cord closer and closer to my body, and she just kept reaching. I suspect if I had lain the cord across my bosom, she would have gone ahead and felt me up in the process of fingering my materials.

Oh! I exclaimed. You’re just going to touch it?!(My implication was not You only want to touch it? but You’re just going to touch it whether I want you to or not!)

Yes! she said, and she did!

I was in a state of disbelief, and my slow brain couldn’t even get it together to say, Back off! or Don’t touch me! or Excuse me? or simply No! This stranger thought it was ok to touch my things, things sitting in my lap. Not ok, lady! Not ok!

But she did it. She reached out and touched my hemp cord. I don’t think she even know her behavior was offensive.

The big question when people see me working on a craft project is, What are you making?

A flat answer of a necklace is meant to discourage conversation. I can’t sell the necklaces in the parking lot, so I don’t much want to talk about them.

Another old lady saw me working and said, Boondoggle!

What? I asked. I was really confused. I thought boondoggle was related to snafu. My hemp wasn’t in a knotted mess. Everything seemed ok.

That’s what it’s called, the old lady said to me.

It’s macramé, I told her.

Same thing, she said and wandered off. (At least she didn’t touch me.)

I looked up the definition of boondoggle. This is what I found, according to http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/boondoggle:

Simple Definition of boondoggle

  • : an expensive and wasteful project usually paid for with public money

    Full Definition of boondoggle

    1. 1 :  a braided cord worn by Boy Scouts as a neckerchief slide, hatband, or ornament

    2. 2 :  a wasteful or impractical project or activity often involving graft

      Did You Know?

      When “boondoggle” popped up in the pages of the New York Times in 1935, lots of people tried to explain where the word came from. One theory traced it to an Ozarkian word for “gadget,” while another related it to the Tagalog word that gave us “boondocks.” Another hypothesis suggested that “boondoggle” came from the name of leather toys Daniel Boone supposedly made for his dog. But the only theory that is supported by evidence is much simpler. In the 1920s, Robert Link, a scoutmaster for the Boy Scouts of America, apparently coined the word to name the braided leather cords made and worn by scouts. The word came to prominence when such a scout boondoggle was presented to the Prince of Wales at the 1929 World Jamboree, and it’s been with us ever since.

The woman was a bit confused. I wasn’t braiding. I wasn’t working with leather. I wasn’t a Boy Scout. But I don’t think she was implying my project was wasteful or impractical, so I’ve decided not to be mad at her.

  • The 16 inch necklace on the left is made from black and green hemp and has a simple pendent I made. The stone is serpentine, which is believed to help one feel more in control of one's spiritual life and the aid meditation. It costs $16, including postage. The necklace in the middle is 20 inches long and made from black and purple hemp. The stone is amethyst, which is believed to support sobriety; guard against panic attacks; and dispels anger, rage, fear, and anxiety. It costs $18, including postage. The necklace on the right is 20 inches long and made from brown and black hemp. The pendant and the accent stones are carnelian which is believed to stimulate creativity, calm anger, promote positive life choices and remove fear of death. This necklace costs $16, including postage costs.

    I took this photo showing some of the “boondoggles” I’ve made. All are for sale. The 16 inch necklace on the left is made from black and green hemp and has a simple pendent I made. The stone is serpentine, which is believed to help one feel more in control of one’s spiritual life and to aid meditation. It costs $16, including postage. The necklace in the middle is 20 inches long and made from black and purple hemp. The stone is amethyst, which is believed to support sobriety; guard against panic attacks; and dispel anger, rage, fear, and anxiety. It costs $18, including postage. The necklace on the right is 20 inches long and made from brown and black hemp. The pendant and the accent stones are carnelian which is believed to stimulate creativity, calm anger, promote positive life choices, and remove fear of death. This necklace costs $16, including postage costs.

Actual Conversations

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The following are actual conversations I engaged in with visitors to the trail:

 

Driver of a car that’s just arrived: Where’s the parking lot?

Me: You’re in the parking lot.

 

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Visitor: How far is [my destination] from here?

Me: One hundred miles and about three hours.

Visitor: Oh! So about three miles?

 

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Visitor: Will we see a bear here?

Me: Probably not. You’re more likely to see a rattlesnake than a bear on the trail.

 

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Young visitor exiting the trail: Do you remember where we parked?

Me: No. I don’t remember where you parked.

[I’d had never before seen these people; they’d parked in the overflow lot.]

 

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Visitor standing in front of me: Do you have one of those self-guided things [meaning a trail guide]?

Me: No. I’m sorry. We ran out last Sunday.

Visitor: Really? [He acted as if I were lying to him.]

Me: Really. If I had any, I’d be happy to give you one.

 

 

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Me to 20ish male visitor with longish hair, tattoos, and dark sunglasses: There’s a $5 parking fee.

Male visitor to me: What if we don’t have $5 cash?

Me: I hope you have tradeables.

Male visitor: [Silence]

Nervous female companion of male visitor: We have water…and…

Me: Go ahead and park, but next time you come to the mountains, bring some cash. What are you going to do if you have to bribe a cop?

Male visitor: We’re going to hope it doesn’t come to that.

Me: Have fun!

Male Visitor: How long will it take to walk the trail?

Me: That depends on how many trees you want to hug.

[The male visitor never showed a hint of a smile. Maybe he’s too cool to smile. Maybe I’m not as funny as I like to think I am.]

 

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Me, as I hand a trail guide and a day pass to a visitor who’s just handed me a $20 bill: Here’s your day pass and a trail guide. You don’t need to take the day pass back to your car…

Visitor: So I need to put this [indicating the day pass] in the car?

Me: No. As I just said, you don’t need to take the pass back to your car. You will want to take the trail guide with you.

Visitor: And where do I get the trail guide?

Me: It’s in your hand.

 

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Visitor: Those marks on the trees that look like they’re from fire? What are they from?

Me: Fire.

 

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Passenger in a car that’s just entered the parking lot: What’s all the smoke from?

Me: Fire.

 

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Me to a person on a bicycle stopped at the entrance to the trail: Excuse me. The trail is for walking only.

Person on bicycle [said roughly]: I’m just looking at the sign!

Me: I was just letting you know.

Person on bicycle [said roughly and dismissively]: You let me know! Thank you!

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Visitor: Those are some pretty amazing trees.

Me: They sure are.

Visitor: God was on his toes when he made those.

Me: [Silence]

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I took all of the photos in this post.

Giving Directions

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It was a Friday morning at the parking lot, and we weren’t too busy. I was working on a scarf when I wasn’t helping my coworker any time two or more cars formed a line at the entrance. A woman, middle-age and wearing her ponytail on the top of her head, asked me how to get to MegaBabylon.

This is a question I get asked a lot. I know the answer. I know the answer so well I can rattle it off rapidly, but I try to speak slowly, give step-by-step directions so people can actually understand what I’m telling them. I spoke slowly for this woman, told her exactly what to do, but I failed to see even a glimmer of understanding in her eyes.

What about Highway X? she asked me.

Highway X does not figure into getting to Mega Babylon from where we were standing. I told her she didn’t need to worry about Highway X.

Someone had told her she’d need to take Highway X, she insisted.

Now she was irritating me. She’d asked me for directions. I’d given them to her. She’d asked about Highway X, and I’d told her it wasn’t involved. Why was she insisting? If she didn’t trust me to give her directions, why’d she asked me in the first place?

I’ve noticed that when some people ask me a question, they seem to only want me to confirm what they already believe. If my answer doesn’t confirm what the questioner already believes, s/he will ask the question again, maybe reframing it, in hopes of getting the answer s/he thinks is correct. Such a line of questioning really annoys me because I feel as if the person asking the questions thinks I don’t know what I’m talking about. I’m not infallible, but by now I usually know the answers to most of the questions I’m asked in the parking lot. If I don’t know an answer, I admit it.

The woman in front of me was convinced she needed to take Highway X and wanted me to confirm what she thought. I knew Highway X was not involved with her trip. We were at a standoff.

The woman looked over at my coworker and asked him for directions to MegaBabylon, as if he hadn’t just heard her entire exchange with me.

I get really pissed off when a person asks me a question, I give an accurate and complete answer, then the person turns to my coworker and asks him the same question. If the little lady can’t be trusted to give the correct answer, don’t ask the little lady the question in the first place!

Bless his heart, my coworker said to the woman, I think she [meaning me] just told you how to get there. But he also offered to show her on a map, which I realized I should have done instead of getting annoyed. I guess I just wanted her to trust me because I knew I was right.

During my entire interaction with the woman, a young Asian man had been standing nearby. He was waiting for his friends to arrive. (We found out later his friends were at the overflow parking area at the campground next door, waiting for him to arrive.) He’d latched on to my coworker and had been standing around for at least 15 minutes. When my coworker mentioned a map, the young Asian man pulled out his phone.

I don’t know if he already had a map pulled up or if he had some kind of map app that didn’t use the internet, but the whole time my coworker was unfolding his map, the young Asian man was trying to get the woman to look at his phone.

When the woman saw my coworker’s paper map (as opposed to the phone’s small screen, I suppose), she said, Oh! You have a big one!

Without missing a beat, my coworker said, Thank you. That’s what I’ve been told.

Maybe I was the only one who got the joke because I was the only one snickering. But then it got better.

I guess the young Asian man was still shoving his phone with the small map on it in the woman’s face, because I heard my coworker tell the man, Cut it out! I’ve got this! Let me do my job!

The young Asian man didn’t seem to take offense because he continued to hang around after my coworker finished giving the woman directions and assuring her Highway X wasn’t involved. (See! I told you! my inner brat wanted to exclaim while sticking out its tongue at her. Fortunately, my inner adult stayed in control of the situation.)

The woman wandered off, presumably to her vehicle, and the sitcom that is my life went to commercial break.

I swear, every word of this story is true.

 

Will We Be Safe?

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Many people ask me and my coworker if they will be safe on the trail. Mostly, people are afraid of bears. For some reason, my reassurance that they’re more likely to see a rattlesnake than a bear on the trail doesn’t seem to comfort most people.

My kinder answer to worried visitors preparing to walk the trail is that 100 screaming children and 35 barking dogs have already been on the trail to scare the bears away. To visitors who arrive earlier in the day, before the multitudes of screaming children and barking dogs have scared the bears, I tell them the bears in the National Forest are hunted, which makes them timid and wary of people. While some visitors are disappointed by the slim chance of seeing a bear, most are relieved.

Some people seem to want to feel as if they are in danger. Maybe they are otherwise lacking excitement in their lives. When the mountain was nearly deserted due to the nearby fire, a group of Germans arrived at the trail. In addition to demanding the hosts at the campground across from the trail tell them when the electricity where they were staying would be back on (never mind that the campground where they were standing never has electricity), they also wanted to know if the animals were angry. Despite the camp hosts’ assurance that the visitors would more than likely be fine, one of the Germans clutched a medium size Maglite to use as a weapon in defense against a potentially angry animal.

The weirdest safety conversation all season was one I overheard my coworker have with the driver of a truck. Neither the driver nor any of his passengers walked the trail. The driver didn’t even park the truck; he just looped through the parking lot to turn around. Before he exited, he stopped to talk to my coworker.

He only had daughters, he said. These boys in the truck were his nephews, he said. He wanted to bring his daughters to see the trees, but would they be safe from mountain lions and bears?

My coworker assured the driver the girls would be safe. My coworker gave him the rap about the bears being timid and rarely spotted near the trail. (Occasionally my coworker sees a bear crossing the road in the early morning or sees the garbage from the parking lot’s trash cans strewn about bear style.) As for mountain lions, my coworker told the man, there’s never been a report of evidence of a mountain lion on or near the trail or parking lot.

After my coworker told the man the trail is safe even for females, the truck full of men drove away.

What was he talking about?  I asked my coworker. Does he really think bears and mountain lions will attack women but not men?

My coworker just shook his head. He didn’t understand the man any better than I had.

Maybe the driver thought the nephews could defend themselves against mountain lions and bears but the daughters could not. I don’t know. I was very confused, and I suspect this mystery will never be solved for me.

Happy Campers

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My shift at the parking lot was almost over when the small and shiny Jeep SUV pulled in. I approached the vehicle and found white folks inside. There were only two of them, an older couple, both speaking with accents my lazy ear could only identify as “European.” They were asking about campgrounds, so I sent them next door to ask about availability there. They soon returned to the parking lot, asking if I were the camp host next door. I told them I wasn’t, explained I was the host at the campground two miles down the road. They said it looked as if all the sites next door were reserved but said they hadn’t seen the camp hosts to speak to them. I thought they wanted to camp next door so they could walk to the trail from their campsite, so I sent them back to talk to the camp hosts. I also told them to come to my campground if things didn’t work out for them next door. Every site in my campground was open.

I packed my chair, water bottle, and backpack, then walked down to the restrooms to restock toilet paper. It didn’t take me long, and I was soon on my way back to my campground.

When I pulled in, I saw the same small Jeep SUV already parked on site #6. After getting the van backed into my spot, I walked over to site #6 where the woman exclaimed, Now this is a campground!

The other campground was just too busy, she said. Too many people. She wasn’t happy with the yurts, either. Talking about them made her shudder, although she called them by some cute name I wish I could remember.

When I checked them in, I found out they were from Austria. They had so recently arrived in the U.S., they were still suffering from jet lag.

They asked me if the my campground was likely to stay quiet all night. They said they’d had experienced campgrounds where people were partying and loud. I told them I couldn’t guarantee people wouldn’t show up and be loud, but I said they could let me know if anyone bothered them, and I would put a stop to the disturbance.

Only one other vehicle pulled into the campground that evening. A young couple and a wolfy dog were in the white SUV. They were looking for a camping spot, they said, but is there anywhere that doesn’t cost $21? the young woman asked me after I’d run through the campground info. I told them about the nearest free campground and dispersed camping. They said they’d go check out the free campground and maybe come back, but they never did.

The campground was empty all night, save for me and the Austrians. I got into my van around 7pm and didn’t hear a noise outside until morning.

The next morning, the Austrian man approached the restrooms moments after I’d finished cleaning the first one.

How was your night? I asked. Did you enjoy the quiet?

The man stretched out his arms and declared, This is better than a five-star hotel!

He asked if he could use one of the restrooms. I pointed to the one I’d just finished, and said, That one’s clean.

He gestured to the one I hadn’t started on yet and said, That one’s spotless too.

A little before 9:30, as I’d suggested to them in order to beat the crowd at the trail, the Austrian couple left the campground. When I arrived at the parking lot at 10am, I saw their rental car parked near the front. It was after one o’clock when the couple emerged from the trail. They told me they’d enjoyed seeing the trees and thanked me for my advice to arrive early. They said they’d decided to stay another night at my campground.

When I got back to the campground, I found the Austrian couple eating a late lunch. I collected that night’s camping fee from them and got the man’s signature on the camping permit. When I returned to my van, I saw the free travel booklets my boss had dumped on me that day. The booklets contain information about the National Forest and a couple of National Parks. I knew the Austrians were headed to a National Park, so I thought the booklet might be useful to them.

I brought one over, saying I’m sorry to bother you again, then explaining I thought the information in the booklet might help them. They were quite grateful and the woman said, You are the best camp host we have ever had!

It’s nice to be appreciated, but it’s even nicer to know I’ve made my campers happy.