Category Archives: Work Camping

Do You Grow?

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It was in the last days of my second season as a camp host when I went to the group campground to check in the astronomy club staying there for the weekend. When I asked around, I was told the person who’d made the reservation had not yet arrived. A nice guy in my age group offered to sign the permit, so I wrote down his address and other pertinent information.

I meant to give him a fire permit too, so using their camp stoves would be legal, but I realized hours later that I’d forgotten to do so.

The next morning when I went back to the group campground, I had the fire permit ready for the same guy to sign. I’d simply copied the man’s address from the camping permit onto the fire permit. When I found the man and asked him to sign the permit, he jokingly asked if I’d memorized his address.

I explained I’d copied his address from the camping permit. Then he asked if I planned to visit.

I began to wonder if the man was flirting with me. Men never flirt with me, so I’m not sure I could recognize flirting if it actually happened. His being in my age group made flirting more probable, but I decided he was just being friendly.

I told him I couldn’t visit because I didn’t even know where his town was.

It’s in Santa Cruz County, he told me. We have a big organic farm. You could park your van on our farm.

(I don’t know exactly who the other people included in his “we” were.)

I made a bland comment about it must be nice to live on a farm. Then I  said, Do you grow…?

I meant to end the sentence with something clever, but nothing clever came to mind. (That’s what I get for I opening my mouth with no plan on how to end what I’ve already started to say.) Instead of ending the sentence with something at least reasonable, if not clever (beets? pumpkins?) I simply let the sentence hang there unfinished.

Then I realized, Santa Cruz County and Do you grow? when taken together have a definite marijuana connotation. What if he thought I was asking if they grew weed on the organic farm?

I’d never ask a stranger if he grew pot. It seems like a rude question, even in California, seeing how marijuana is federally illegal and all. It’s none of my business if someone is growing weed. It’s safer for everyone to keep marijuana cultivation on a need to know basis, and I don’t need to know!

I’m not sure if the man recognized my awkwardness. He started talking about the zucchini he and whoever else lives on the farm grows. He told me all about the big, big zucchini.

Any flirting that may have been going on was entirely incompetent.

 

Update on House and Pet Sitting

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There was recently a discussion about house and pet sitting in one of the online van groups I’m in. Before I posted the two pieces I previously wrote about house and pet sitting (http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/02/23/how-do-you-find-houses-to-sit/ and http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/02/24/more-on-house-and-pet-sitting/), I reread them and found I said I’d share my experiences getting gigs through House Sitters America. I’d totally forgotten that promise, but I’ll make good on it today.

To recap:

A year’s membership with  House Sitters America (http://www.housesittersamerica.com), cost $30. The website’s FAQ (http://www.housesittersamerica.com/sitter-faqs) explains the process this way:

House sitters register to list their profile on the House Sitters America database.

Here they can be seen by US homeowners via the website. These homeowners are able to contact the house sitter directly to discuss potential house sitting.

Registered house sitters are also able to contact any of the homeowners through their adverts.

Once one registers as a house sitter via the House Sitters America website, one can choose the state(s) where one is interested in working. A potential house sitter can set up alerts so s/he is notified when an job in the state(s) of interest is advertised. At that point, a potential house sitter is able to contact the home owner who placed the ad.

I’ve never had a homeowner I didn’t know contact me to ask me to sit. I’ve always been the one to initiate contact after receiving an alert or seeing a homeowner’s ad.

I got four house sitting gigs from the first $30 I spent to join House Sitters America (HSA). The first job I got through the site led to me sitting again for the same woman a few weeks after the initial time she hired me. The woman would have hired me a third time, but I was unavailable when she needed me.

I got the second two gigs through HSA for the time after my camp host job ended and before the temperatures  in the Southwest were pleasant. The first job, which lasted ten days, involved caring for two sweet little dogs. The second job lasted three weeks and involved caring for an extremely independent cat. Neither of the jobs paid any money; in both cases, I had a free place to stay (with running water and electricity and fast internet and a refrigerator and television) in exchange for tending to the pets.

From reading the ad for the first job, I figured out I’d be dealing with a guy. Through our correspondence via the House Sitters America messaging system and subsequent phone conversation, I learned he’d be traveling to Hawaii, where his wife was already living. My years of conditioning kicked in and worries started running through my head. What if this is a setup? What if he’s going to lock me in a closet? What if he’s a rapist? Please note, I had no bad feelings about the man himself. He didn’t say anything weird or creepy. I had no negative gut reactions. My instincts told me he was fine. Yet, the worries I’ve been conditioned to have were there.

Instead of passing up the job, I took precautions. I communicated with my trusted friend, the woman I check in with every day when I have phone service. I told her the man’s first and last name. I gave her his address and phone number and email address. I let her know what time I was set to meet him, and asked her to check in with me if she hadn’t heard from me within an hour of that time. When I arrived at the house, I let my friend know I was there. When the man turned out to be a really nice guy (nothing creepy, no red flags, no negative gut reactions), I texted my friend to tell her all was well. I guess something bad could have happened, but I knew someone was looking out for me and would at least know where to begin searching for me if I disappeared.

It’s been very interesting to me to see how different people deal with leaving their home and pets in the hands of a house sitter.

The woman I sat for in my first job through HSA was going on a cruise and would have no cell phone service for most of the time she would be away. When I asked her who I should call in the event of an emergency, she became very defensive and asked me what I thought was going to go wrong. (I think she is one of those people who believes thinking about bad things invites those things to happen.) I tried to tell her I didn’t think anything bad was going to happen, but wanted to be prepared in the event something did. She did not want to discuss anything negative and didn’t leave me with a telephone number for a vet or a plumber or a neighbor or a maintenance person or anyone. I was on my own! Luckily, I didn’t need any of the telephone numbers she hadn’t left for me.

The couple with the independent cat I sat for were the polar opposite of the woman who refused to talk about anything negative. I had both of their cell phone numbers and was encouraged to call or text them if I had any problem. They left me the phone numbers of both their vet and their next door neighbor. The man walked me through the house with a checklist and showed me how to work the appliances.  In the laundry room, he showed me  how to turn off the water input valves on the washer when not in use He told me where the breaker box was and how to shut off the main water valve and main propane valve if any problem occurred. The woman insisted on driving me into town and showing me the locations of the post office and the library and the grocery store. They were both super nice people. I enjoyed talking to them and appreciated being prepared for every situation they could imagine.

The guy whose wife was in Hawaii was somewhere in between the two extremes. He showed me around the house and explained the operation of the newfangled, computerized washer and dryer. He pointed out the magnet on the refrigerator with a phone number for a 24 hour emergency vet. He let me know I could call or text him if I needed anything, and that was that.

I have been very happy with House Sitters America. I’ve gotten four house sitting gigs through the website, all of which have turned out well. Early in November, my HSA membership was up for renewal, and I plunked down my $30 to continue with the service. I think House Sitters America is a great resource for people who want to expand their house sitting possibilities beyond family, friends, and friends of friends.

I took this photo of the view from the back deck of the house where I sat with the independent cat.

I took this photo of the view from the back deck of the house where I sat with the independent cat.

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.

 

 

 

Something Terrible

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Something terrible happened.

A young man died

and I found his body.

I woke up Thursday feeling kind of off. I still had enough sick-time hours to cover my workday, so I left the campground I was babysitting and drove the few miles to my campground. I spent the day working on my book and taking down my privacy tent and generally resting up for the weekend. After eating dinner around 4:30, I felt well enough to put on my uniform and check-in some campers who’d just arrived. As I prepared to drive back to the campground I had to babysit, it occurred to me that I hadn’t been to the group campground I was responsible for since the previous morning. So after emptying the iron ranger at the parking lot, I headed over to the group campground.

I didn’t see the pickup truck until I was on the road running through the middle of the group campground. It was parked as far to the left side of the road as possible. It was still partly in the road, but there was just enough room for a vehicle as large as my van to pass it.

I thought the pickup probably belonged to a hunter. It was deer season, and hunters in pickups were all over the place. I thought the hunter had left the truck there and had gone out past the meadow and into the trees to look for a buck.

I noticed a bag of charcoal in the back of the truck. It had been opened, some of the charcoal removed, then the top edge rolled closed, In addition to telling the hunter s/he was parked in a $126 per night campground, I wanted to make sure s/he knew charcoal fires were prohibited.

I didn’t think I would actually talk to the person who’d driven the truck into the campground. I thought I’d end up leaving a courtesy notice under a windshield wiper, but I decided to try to make personal contact before I wrote out a notice.

Hello! Hello! I called out when I left the van. I looked around the campground, but I didn’t see anyone walking about or sitting at a picnic table.

I approached the passenger side of the truck and peered through the dusty window. To my surprise, I saw someone sitting in the driver’s seat. Judging from the person’s short hair and flat chest, the person was male. His face was unlined, young. He seemed to be sleeping—eyes closed, mouth slightly open—although the position of his head and necked looked extremely uncomfortable.

I knocked on the glass of the passenger side window with a series of knuckle tingling thumps—no gentle taps for this camp host in a hurry. The young man’s eyelids did not flutter. His shoulders did not twitch.

Wow! I thought. That kid’s really sleeping hard!

I had a new idea.

I went back to my van and sounded the horn. Honk! Honk! Honk!

Then I laid on the horn for several long seconds—Hooooonnnnnkkkkkk!!!

I walked back over to the truck and peered through the dusty window again. The young man had not moved. At this point I started getting worried.

I rapped loudly on the passenger side window again but saw not a flicker of movement.

I began to focus on my attention on the young man’s chest.

Throughout my nervous life, I’ve concentrated on so many chests—those belonging to children and pets I was caring for, those belonging to the boyfriend I hoped would die in the night and the boyfriends I hoped would live. Always, if I stared at the chest long enough, always, the chest would eventually move. This time though, the breath had run out. I saw no rise, no fall, no movement, no nothing.

I beat on the window with the flat of my fist. Bam! Bam! Bam!

No response. No movement of the young man’s chest.

I thought I should try knocking on the driver’s side window. Maybe the young man was just a really deep sleeper. Maybe the young man was chemically altered. (But his chest wasn’t moving. I knew his chest wasn’t moving. I knew what it meant that his chest wasn’t moving.) I tried to get to the driver’s side window, but the truck was parked up against trees and brush and there was no clear space to easily slip through.

I went back to my van and honked the horn, then laid on it again. When I got back to the truck, the young man had not moved a muscle. Although I was beginning to have to believe he was dead, I pounded on the window a few more times; of course, I received no response.

I stood there and wondered what I should do.

I’ve seen enough cop shows on TV and read enough mystery novels to know I did not want to be the hapless individual who stumbles upon a murder scene and destroys evidence or gets accused of the crime. This didn’t look like a crime scene, but what did I know? I didn’t want my fingerprints all over everything.

Should I try to do CPR on this guy? I haven’t had CPR training in nearly twenty years. Would I remember what to do? Better question: Would CPR do this guy any good? I remember reading or hearing somewhere that CPR can sometimes keep a person alive until EMTs arrive on the scene, but CPR alone is probably not going to save anyone’s life. Even if I got past the brush and dragged the young man out of the truck and performed CPR on him…No professional medical person of any kind was likely to happen down a winding dirt road and into the group campground to take over from me and save this guy’s life.

I decided the best thing I could do was call 911.

Of course, I was nowhere near a telephone. So I jumped in my van and drove fifteen miles to the campground where my boss was stationed. There was a landline there. I drove as fast as I dared on those mountain curves. (Slow down. I’m in a hurry, I  heard a former co-worker quote her grandmother.)

When I arrived at the campground, my boss wasn’t there. The camp host didn’t know where he was or when he’d be back. I was on my own.

I called my boss’s cell phone first and left a message on his voice mail saying I’d found someone I thought was dead and was calling 911.

The 911 call was a farce. The dispatcher had me spell my name but still got it wrong when she read the letters back to me. She asked me the last time I’d been in the campground, and I said between 7am and 9am the day before. She said, So 10am yesterday? Was she even listening to me? Finally, she asked if I could go back to the campground to guide the first responders to the body.

Yes, I said. I can do that.

I sat at the end of the road to the campground for nearly an hour before a deputy arrived. He had me drive in first, while he followed behind. I parked in front of the truck and got out of the van. The interior of the truck was dark, and I couldn’t see the young man in the driver’s seat. I hoped he’d woken up, left the truck, walked out into the meadow to take a leak or shoot a deer, or anything at all, really. I was totally willing to look like a fool for calling 911 if only the young man could be alive.

The officer shined his flashlight into the cab of the truck. The young man was still there.

He hasn’t moved, I said softly.

The officer tried to open the passenger side door. Locked.

Then he squeezed between the truck and the trees and the brush and tried the driver side door. Unlocked. He opened the door and the overhead light came on. I saw the officer reach in and put his fingers on the young man’s neck to check for a pulse.

In a few moments, the officer stepped from the side of the truck and said to me, He is deceased.

Then the officer rummaged around in the back of the dead man’s truck. He told me there was a small charcoal grill behind the passenger seat. He said it had evidence of charcoal that had been lit, but whether the young man had been trying to kill himself or stay warm, he didn’t know.

Medical personnel arrived and the officer and the EMT both squeezed between the truck and the trees to look at the dead man. They managed to get the door open and the overhead light was on again. The officer pointed out the charcoal grill and said he thought the man had died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

If carbon monoxide had killed him, his face would be red, the EMT said. Carbon monoxide poisoning would make his face red like a tomato, the EMT said.

I can vouch for the fact that his face was not red at all.

The deputy and the EMT agreed the young man must have died from suffocation. The fire used up all the oxygen in the tightly closed truck, and the young man had nothing left to breathe.

The EMT left, and the deputy took my statement. I told him I had a group scheduled to arrive in the campground the next afternoon. He said the mobile morgue was on its way and the body and the truck would be going in the morning.

I went back to the campground where I was spending the night. I felt empty and old. I kept remembering how the young man’s face looked while I was trying to wake him. I know it’s a cliché to say I kept seeing his face, but it’s true.

I don’t know if I should write about what happened. It seems so personal, not so much for me as for him. Should I write about a stranger’s death? I was there, for part of it at least, so now this death is a part of my story too.

Please, if you’re going to leave a comment on this post, please be compassionate. I don’t want to read anything negative about how this young man died. I don’t want anyone telling me what I should have done. I did the best I could under the circumstances. I think the young man probably did the best he could too. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinions, but this time, please share the negative ones with someone else.

Too Big

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This post is dedicated to the camp hosts who left the mountain the day before these events occurred. You are missed.

The other camp hosts were gone, and now I was covering three campgrounds and my shifts at the parking lot. The campgrounds were substantially less busy now that the season was drawing to a close, but I still had eight pit toilets to scrub on Sunday afternoon.

I finished my shift at the parking lot and headed next door to clean restrooms.

As I approached the campground, I saw a big pickup truck towing a long 5th wheel. The truck/trailer combo was stopped and entirely blocking the road’s left lane. A car had passed the truck/trailer combo and was now in the right lane, going the wrong way. The wrong-way car was nose to nose with a car traveling in the proper direction in the right lane. Luckily, I was able to turn into the entrance of the campground without getting involved in the vehicular mess.

The campground next to the trail is laid out on a one-way loop. The host’s campsite is at the immediate front of the campground, but to back into it (and to see who’s in the campground), I drive the whole loop whenever I arrive.

I made the circle and found the campground empty. As I approached the front of the loop, I saw the big pickup truck towing the 5th wheel had entered the campground and was trying to navigate the loop’s first turn.

The campground was really not designed for big RVs. I think it was designed for tent camping, but some of the sites can accommodate small-to-medium motor homes or small camper trailers. But I couldn’t think of a single spot where such a long combo would fit.

I backed into the camp host’s spot. As I did so, I heard the driver of the truck telling the passenger(s), There’s a place! I realized he was pointing to the host’s spot. Ummmm, no.

I got out of my van and strode over to where the truck and the 5th wheel were totally blocking the roadway.

Are  y’all looking for a place to camp? I asked the driver, a white man probably in his 50s. He said he was.

I explained the campground is small, with small sites. I told him I didn’t think any of the sites would work for his big rig.

That one would have worked, he pointed to the host’s site, but he already took it.

I explained I was the camp host and that was the camp host’s site.

No wonder you backed in so damn fast! the man said with disgust.

Yep, that’s my spot, I reaffirmed.

I suppose I could have let them park in the host’s space. In retrospect, I can’t think of a rule against doing so. But the location of the host’s site lets me easily see who’s entering the campground.  Also, the water tank–which I’m supposed to ensure is not tampered with–is on the host’s site. I think I was justified in keeping the spot to myself.

I told the man he was welcome to drive around the loop and decide if any of the sites worked for him

What if I walk around? he asked.

I told him that would be fine, but you are blocking my roadway.

I think the man was (justifiably) afraid he was going to get his big rig stuck in the little campground.

About that time, the passenger appeared. She was a small Latina woman with a pronounced accent, about the same age as the man.

They were trying to get to the National Park, she said. I told her they still a had a long way to go.

She wanted to know where they could camp.

They could camp here, I told her, if their rig fit on any of the sites, which I didn’t think it would. I also told her about the free camping area up the road, which I though might work for them since it’s basically dispersed camping with no real sites. I also mentioned a fee campground past the free campground. I said several times that I didn’t know if either campground could accommodate them or how it would be to pull that rig on the winding mountain roads.

How would they get to the National Park? the woman wanted to know.

I started giving her directions, and she said, Wait! Wait! Let me get the maps!

She ran to the truck and came back with two dreadful maps. General maps of California seldom show the small roads people must use to get around in the area where I work. One map was barely adequate, and I pointed out the tiny lines representing the roads they needed to follow.

I give the couple props for actually having maps and a general idea of how to use them. However, I don’t understand people who tow such big rigs on unfamiliar mountain roads with no plans for where to park for the night and only a vague idea of how to get where the want to go.

Once I’d give them ideas of where to camp and directions to where they wanted to go, the man asked if they could park and walk the trail. The overflow lot was mostly empty, so I said yes, but told him he’d have to back the trailer in between a sign and a log. He said I could help him back up so he wouldn’t hit the sign. Ummmm, no.

I said, She (indicating the Latino woman traveling with him) can help you back up.

He muttered something about her being too nervous, but after I collected the $5 parking fee, I busied myself with preparations for scrubbing pit toilets. I did not want the responsibility of telling the man how he should back up his shiny, new, unscratched, undented, mulit-thousand-dollar-probably-owed-to-the-bank recreational vehicle. Besides, he and his passenger lady needed to learn to work as a team.

I cleaned the back toilets first. When I returned to the front of the campground, the truck and 5th wheel were parked in the overflow area and the couple was gone, off to the trail, I suppose.

I scrubbed the front toilets, then positioned folding road work barricades in front of both doors, in hopes of keeping visitors out. I didn’t want anyone slipping on the wet floors, and I didn’t want anyone tracking dirt onto my clean floors.

I finished up my chores and climbed into the van to drive to my campground where I still had four pit toilets to scrub. As I approached the campground gate, I saw the couple of the 5th wheel approaching the obviously closed restrooms.

The man gestured to the barricade in front of the men’s restroom with a look on his face that clearly said, WTF?

I’m sorry, I called from my small side window, those restrooms are closed! The restrooms in the parking lot next door are open.

Or go use the one in your big shiny 5th wheel, I muttered under my breath.

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.