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.