I Wish I Had Handled It Differently


I hadn’t been a camp hot very long, but that’s really no excuse…

When I returned to my campground from collecting parking fees in the lot near the trail, I saw a tent pitched on the edge of the meadow. It was not in any designated campsite, which was an absolute no-no. There was a lot of leeway as to where a camper coluld pitch a tent within a designated site, but by no stretch of the imagination was this tent within a designated site. I saw a bicycle leaning against a tree near the tent, and as I drove the van closer, I saw a man standing there.

After pulling up next to the man, I opened the small triangle-shaped window, since my driver’s side window doesn’t roll down. I know I sounded cross when I told him he couldn’t camp there, that he had to pitch his tent in a designated campsite. He said he didn’t mind paying the camping fee, that he was only trying to leave spots open for people in cars who needed a full campsite. I told him again he’d have to move his tent, then said I’d be over soon to collect the camping fee.

This is what I wish I’d done: I wish I had parked the van first, then walked over to the man and talked to him eye-to-eye rather than trying to communicate from inside the van, through a tiny window. I wish I’d kept my tone pleasant and friendly instead of sounding (even to my own ears) aggravated and short-tempered. I know I wouldn’t want someone to bark at me from within a vehicle, especially if I truly thought I were doing something to make the lives of others easier.

My goal for the summer of 2016 is to show more kindness and compassion. I want to answer questions (even the stupid, stupid ones I’ve already heard countless times) as if I were being asked a reasonable question for the first time. I want to treat other people as I want to be treated.

Treating people with kindness and compassion (in my opinion) does not mean I have to get involved in their made-up dramas. It does mean answering their questions in a pleasant tone and giving them whatever information I have to allow them to solve their problem(s). It also means not assuming visitors should know what’s going on.

So what happened with the man who’d pitched his tent on the edge of the meadow?

He moved his tent and gear to site #5. When I walked over to collect his camping fee, I found out he was from Israel and was biking through the National Forest. He said he thought it was unfair that he–one person on a bicycle–had to pay the same fee to camp as six people in a motor vehicle. While I totally saw his point, I explained it would be a logistical nightmare if I had to charge different fees depending on the number of campers and the kind of vehicle they were driving.

I don’t think I changed his mind. However, I didn’t suggest he should travel with friends who would share a campsite–and its cost–with him. I simply collected his money and moved on.

About Blaize Sun

I live in my van, which makes me a rubber tramp. I like to see places I've never seen before, and I like to visit the places I love again and again. I like to play with color. I make collages and hemp jewelry and cheerful winter hats. I take photographs and (sometimes, not in a long time) write poetry. All of those things make me an artist. Although I like to spread joy and to make people laugh, my wit can be sharp. I try to stay positives in all situations, to find the goodness in all people. But I often feel compelled to point out bullshit when I smell it. I like to have fun, to dance, to eat yummy food, to sit by a fire and share stories. I want to know what people hold dear and important, not just make surface small talk. This blog is a way for me to share stories. This blog is made up of my stories, rants, and observations, as well as my photographs.

4 Responses »

  1. When I get people who complain about the price, or argue that they should pay less, I let them know that there are a zillion acres of forest out there, where they don’t have to pay to camp. Some people have no idea!! A man on a bicycle, in a tent, he could could very easily “boondock” for free. I have a little difficulty with people who enter a clearly marked Fee Area, then complain about paying a fee. Go somewhere else for Pete’s sake.

    But yes, keeping a pleasant, or at least neutral tone, can be a challenge sometimes. I’m trying to practice your “blank face technique” rather than letting my feelings show on my face.

    • Boondocking is a great advice, Tammi. As I said, it was early in the camp host game for me, and I hadn’t realized it would be ok to (politely) tell people they were surrounded by free camping spots. I think most people are not prepared to be without a toilet (even of the pit or vault variety), but I never told people who weren’t camping in my campground that they couldn’t use the restrooms.

      Let me know how the blank face technique works for you. I find it extremely helpful.

      As always, Tammi, thanks for reading and commenting.

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