Tag Archives: uniform

You Don’t Belong in This Campground


It was the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. While the Mercantile had been slow all morning, the parking lot had been hopping since at least 10 o’clock. The Mercantile got busy right at noon, and the shopping barely let up for the next four hours.

At 1:30, I ducked out to eat my lunch, leaving the complete operation of the store in the capable hands of the other clerk. As soon as I stepped off the yurt’s deck, I looked across the small front lot and saw a young woman walking toward Javier the camp host. The young woman was speaking loudly enough for me to clearly hear her say, You don’t even belong in this campground!

I looked around. Surely she was speaking to someone other than Javier. Javier was in full uniform–brown shorts, tan shirt with a collar. If anyone belonged in this campground, it was Javier.

I didn’t hear the first few words Javier said to the woman, but I did hear him tell her, You yelling at me is not going to help me help these people.

As this interaction was happening, I’d been walking toward my van. I took a few steps more so I’d be close if Javier needed some sort of backup or support.

I looked over at the woman who’d told Javier he didn’t belong in the campground. She was young, and appeared to be drunk or under the influence of some drug. Her eyes didn’t seem to be focusing correctly, and her face was contorted, but maybe that was from anger or just the way she looked.

We’re trying to help! she insisted.

A large man was standing off to the side, silent. He was ignoring the woman. Maybe he didn’t didn’t know her. Maybe he wished he didn’t know her.

I looked over at Javier. He was standing in front of a small sports car. I glanced over at the car and realized the driver of the car had somehow driven it up over a very large log set there as a barrier. Now the car’s front passenger tire was on the wrong side of the log. Apparently the driver was having a problem getting the tire back over the log, because Javier was asking the fellow who seemed to belong to the car, Do you think it’s light enough  for a bunch of guys to lift it off the log?

At that point the drunk woman seemed to have backed off, and in any case, Javier seemed to be paying her no attention, so I figured my assistance was not needed. I climbed into my van and had some lunch.

Later I asked Javier how they’d released the car from the log. He said a half dozen guys had pushed the car while it was in neutral. It must have been good teamwork because I don’t think the car sat stranded for very long.

How’d they even managed to driver over the log that way? I asked Javier. Let me just repeat, it was a very big log.

Oh, you know, he shrugged, just being themselves.

I probably shouldn’t talk, as just a couple of days before, I backed into a tree and dented my back door. It still closes, and it still locks. The Man says I’m lucky, but I say if I were lucky, I wouldn’t have backed into a tree.

I probably shouldn’t talk, but damn! Driving a little sports car over a big log barrier in a parking lot has got to be a mark of bad driving.

I took this photo.



It was Thursday, so after a slow four hours in the parking lot, I drove my van over to the campground next door to do a patrol for the camp hosts on their day off. I parked the van in the overflow parking area and grabbed my clipboard to check in the folks who’d arrived on site #1. After they were settled, I dropped my clipboard off in the van and walked over to see if the front restrooms needed attention.

As I bustled around, I noticed a couple who had earlier pulled into the parking lot. I thought they might have confused the campground with the parking lot (as happens often), but I didn’t want to insult them if they knew exactly where their car was. Maybe they were checking out the campground for future reference. So I minded my own business.

I peeked into the men’s and women’s restrooms. The men’s was fine, but the women’s needed paper. And—I remembered from the day before—one of the restrooms in the back of the campground was a roll short. I used my key to unlock the storage closet behind the restrooms and grabbed two rolls of toilet paper. Then I replaced the padlock and unwrapped one of the rolls of TP as I walked to the ladies room.

The man and woman I’d recognized earlier approached me. I thought they were going to tell me they couldn’t find their car or ask questions about the campground. Instead, the man said, Do you actually work here? It was not simply a question, but a challenge.

I thought maybe he was making the tired old you’re just a homeless person joke (read about that foolishness here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/09/20/just-a-homeless-person/), but he didn’t really sound as if he were joking.

I must have been looking at him with confusion all over my face. He said, Because your license plate is from [not California].

Then I was really confused. What did my license plate have to do with anything?

That’s your van, right? he asked at he pointed.

Yes, I answered as I looked over to it, as if my van could explain the meaning of this bizarre conversation. (My van explained nothing.)

The man again insinuated I was not actually employed and authorized to take money.

I said, Would I dress like this if I didn’t actually work here? (Note: I was in full uniform, including jacket with the company insignia, cap with the same emblem, and brown polyester-blend pants.)

He said, People will do a lot of things for money. You could be just anybody out here taking money. (Although at the moment, I was not taking money. At the moment I was restocking toilet paper in restrooms.)

I said, Do you want my boss’ business card? I was in shock, confused, and offended all at once. The man was basically calling me a liar and a thief.

Do you have a nametag? the man asked.

Yes, I said as I unzipped my jacket and pulled out my nametag.

He took a cursory look at it and seemed satisfied. He must not have realized that someone who would go to the trouble of acquiring a complete uniform and preprinted day passes designed to hang from review mirrors (and including a tear-off ticket for the worker to keep track of sales), anyone who would go through all that trouble then stand in front of a sign asking visitors to pay the uniformed employee, anyone who’d do all that could easily make an ID tag like the cheap ass one the company I work for issued to me. (No one even bothered to sign it on the line under the words authorized by.)

Don’t you see how it could be suspicious, the man asked me, that your van has a [not California] plate?

I didn’t try too hard to keep the you are an idiot tone out of my voice when I said, No. Their license plate (pointing to the camp hosts’ vehicle) has Ohio plates. People come from all over the country to work out here.

He said, Is this some kind of seasonal work?

I said yes and got away from them as quickly as possible. I was totally offended and did not want to chat. Honestly, I was afraid I was going to say something completely rude. Is it ok to call someone a liar and a thief because the license plate on her vehicle doesn’t match the state she’s working in? What about the people who live in Kansas and work in Kansas City, Missouri? What about all the people who live in Connecticut and work in NYC?

The man was not acting casual or interested. His attitude was accusatory, as if he were Mattlock or Jessica Fletcher, and he’d just solved the case.

I would have understood his suspicion if I’d been wearing jeans and a sweatshirt. I’d have understood his suspicion if I’d have been collecting money at a place that didn’t have a sign advising visitors to pay the uniformed employee. I’d have (maybe) understood his suspicion if I’d been loading a case of toilet paper in my van. But he was questioning me while I was in the process of servicing a restroom. Who’s going to do that while impersonating someone authorized to collect money?

The weirdest part of the whole interaction was that when he handed over his $5 in the parking lot, he never questioned me. I would have been offended if he had questioned me in the parking lot. (I wonder if the guy goes into Burger King and asks the cashiers if they are really employees or just pretending to work there so they can steal money.) But in the parking lot, his questioning would not have surprised or confused me so much.

I wonder what he planned to do if I hadn’t produced a name tag, if I hadn’t alleviated his skepticism about my employment status. Was he going to put me under citizen’s arrest? Drive ten mountain miles to the nearest payphone and call 9-1-1? Demand his $5 back?


Another Story of No Money


Early Saturday morning (before eight o’clock) a car pulled into the campground. I was cleaning a fire ring, so I walked over to talk to the people in the car, two young men, just out of their teens (maybe). I asked if they were looking for a spot to camp, and they said they were.

I only had one campsite rented, two brothers on a bucket list trip who’d rolled in the previous evening. The first brother was driving a newer, red Corvette. He balked when I told him the fee for camping was $22. He thought that was too much to pay for a campsite. He asked if there were an AARP discount, and made a face when I said no. I asked if he had a Golden Age pass. He did and was happy when I said it would get him a campsite for half price. He was less happy soon aftter when I had to break it to him that there would be a $7 extra car fee for the 1936 International his brother (who wanted to share the campsite) was driving.

Hey! I understand wanting to save a buck. I live to save a buck. But it’s a little difficult for me to feel sorry for an old white guy driving a red Corvette on a bucket list trip. If he wants people to have sympathy for his financial situation, he should probably leave his Corvette at home. And if he doesn’t want to pay a $7 extra car fee, maybe he and his brother should ride in the same car!

But I digress.

I told the young men I had plenty of room for them, the cost of a site was $22, and the campground had no water, no showers. The guy who’d been driving asked if we took cards. I said no, only cash and checks. Then he asked if there were any stores nearby. I told him about the one fifteen miles away, but said I thought it didn’t open until nine o’clock, and I didn’t think it had an ATM. I also said I didn’t know if they could get cash back with a purchase.

The guy who’d been driving said he had a card, but only $4 in cash. The other guy said he had no cash. I told them they could have a site for $4, and they got really excited. The driver hadn’t been camping in years, he said, and the othe rguy had never been camping. The driver wanted to know if they could have a fire (yes, in a fire ring with no sticks sticking out, no flames higher than their knees), and the other guy wanted to know about bears (none sited since I’d been there, no food in the tent, keep food in the car, don’t a fight a bear for food).

I went back a little later with the paperwork, and the guy gave me his $4 in cash. The other guy said softly, I wish I had something to give you, what could I give you… I had a strong feeling he was contemplating giving me weed.

Did I think he wanted to give me weed because we were in California and he was a young man? Maybe. But I felt a vibe, and sometimes I just know these things.

I’m glad he didn’t actually offer me weed. It would have been awkward when I turned him down. I haven’t touched the stuff in almost two years, and I wouldn’t want to have it in the van while I’m doing this job. There wouldn’t be a point in having it. I’m not going to smoke it. (I hate feeling paranoid. I hate coughing. I hate feeling stupid.) In other circles, I’d know who to give it to, but here? No idea.

Perhaps my uniform protected me from an awkward gift. When one wears long hippie skirts and sells hemp jewelry by the side of the road, people make certain assumptions about one’s habits. When one wears brown, polyester-blend pants and a polo shirt bearing the company logo, the assumptions people make are totally different.