Tag Archives: parking lot

Saving Lives

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One Saturday afternoon, I saved three lives. Well, ok, I don’t know I saved those lives. Maybe the people would have been fine without me, but they also could have died had I not been there.

It was the last Saturday I would work the parking lot before the start of the 2018 camping season. The box truck with new merchandise for the mercantile would arrive later that afternoon, and my coworkers and I would spend the next few days setting up the store for the opening later in the week. I’d be working retail, but that Saturday I was selling access passes and answering questions about the trail.

The first people I saved were a lady and her toddler. Judging by her accent, the woman was German, but I can’t be sure of her nationality. She arrived in a vehicle with a license plate that read “consul,” following a car with a license plate sporting the same label. The first car was driven by a woman who was alone in the vehicle. A man was driving the second car. The woman in the first car asked where they could have a picnic, then paid the access fee for both vehicles before they disappeared into the parking lot.

The next time I saw the group, it had expanded to include—in addition to the two drivers and one passenger I’d seen in the front seats of the cars—four little kids who all seemed to be under seven years old and who all belonged to the couple from the second vehicle.

The woman who’d been the passenger in the second car looked to be in her early 50s. She and the middle-age man who’d been driving the second car seemed to be the caregivers of the four little kids, but whether they were the biological parents, grandparents, foster parents or adoptive parents, I could not tell.

When I first saw the woman, she was carrying the littlest kid—a toddler new to walking—and strolling through the parking lot.

White Dodge Ram 1500 Pickup TruckA man in a giant pickup truck had just pulled through the parking lot and was preparing to park in one of the spaces on the asphalt in the front. I could tell by the way he pulled in front of the space that he was going to back into it. The woman holding the toddler must have thought he was going to drive the truck forward and out of the lot because she stepped behind the truck like it wasn’t even there.

I don’t know if the guy driving the giant truck saw the woman with the toddler behind him. I knew he was about to back up, and I knew the woman was directly in his path. If she was in a blind spot and the guy started moving his truck in reverse, there was going to be a catastrophe.

Ma’am! I shouted in her direction. Watch out! That truck is backing up!

Oh? She said, completely oblivious. It’s backing up?

She stepped out of the truck’s path and the disaster was averted.

Later that afternoon, a fellow arrived in the parking lot with two little kids under the age of five. He parked the sports car he was driving in the dirt of the first curve through the lot. I didn’t realize the car wasn’t completely off the road until it was too late; if I had noticed sooner how he had parked, I would have had him move the car completely off of the asphalt.

I saw the fellow and the kids as they walked toward the trail. The boy child was small enough to sit in one of those Man Walking on Top of Mountain Under Blue Skykid-carrying packs the guy had on his back. The girl child with them wasn’t much bigger than the boy, but since the guy had no more room on his back, she had to walk.

The little family wasn’t gone long. I noticed them again when they came back. I watched them idly as the fellow opened the back passenger door (which faced away from the road) and loaded the boy into the car. There must have been a car seat involved, because the adult had his head and upper body in the car for quite some time. While he was distracted by his efforts in the car, the little girl walked around to the driver’s side of the car and disappeared from my view. Her caretaker didn’t seem to notice that she was no longer by his side.

About that time, a new arrival pulled into the parking lot. The Man was working with me that day, and he approached the car that had just come in. I looked back to the fellow with the two tiny kids. He still had his head in the back seat, and the little girl was still standing on the asphalt on the driver’s side of the car. I imagined the newly-arrived car taking the curve a little too fast or the little girl stepping out into its path…I shuddered inwardly.

The Man had taken the driver’s money and handed her a day pass. The car was about to roll.

At the last moment, I stepped up to the car and said, Ma’am?

The driver looked at me attentively.

Please go around this curve slowly and carefully. There’s a very small person on the side of that car (I pointed to the car in question) who’s not being supervised very well. I wanted to let you know she’s there.

The driver, a middle-age mom type, thanked me for telling her about the kid standing next to the car. She maneuvered the car slowing and carefully around the curve. As the car went by, it seemed to remind the caregiver to pay attention to the little girl, or maybe he’d just finished strapping in the boy child. In any case, he walked to the other side of the car, took the girl by the hand, brought her to the passenger side, and put her in the car too. Another disaster was averted.

I’m often surprised by how little attention some parents pay their kids in the parking lot. They don’t see the dangerous situations I witness every day I work in the lot—people driving too fast, people driving the wrong way on the one-way loop, people who are oblivious and/or distracted—or they would hold their children close. Of all the danger I’ve seen, this day stood out as the worst. I was glad I was there to make the parking lot a little safer.

Photos courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/4k-wallpaper-4×4-auto-automobile-1149058/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-walking-on-top-of-mountain-under-blue-sky-1157386/.

Treachery

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It was the morning of the first day of training for my seasonal job. About a dozen of us workers sat in the small conference room of a shabby Best Western, learning the ins and outs of our jobs on the mountain.

We were wrapping up from a short break when The Big Boss Man said for all to hear, Blaize, it’s a picture of your van!

He was looking at his phone, so I thought a visitor had posted on some review site a photo that included my van. The real story was much more complicated than that.

The message my boss received came from the Forest Service. A visitor to the trail had taken a photo of my van in the parking lot and sent the photo with a message to someone in the Forest Service, but whether the message went to some national email address or directly to someone local, I have no idea.

This is the iron ranger The Man and I were accused of robbing.

This is the (paraphrased) story the visitor told in the message to the Forest Service: The visitor was in the parking lot and saw a van pull up to the iron ranger and two people who didn’t look like they belonged there retrieved the money from the iron ranger. The people seemed to be “under the influence.” After taking the envelopes from the iron ranger, the two shady people stayed in the area, probably to hit other locations.

I don’t know what day or time the reported incident occurred. The Man and I had gone together to empty the iron ranger a few times in the six days we’d been on the mountain before we received this report. Depending on what day the visitor saw us empty the iron ranger, the circumstances were slightly different. The Man thinks the incident probably happened the day he opened the ranger and 35 or 40 envelopes fell into his lap, causing him to yell exuberantly to me, Honey! Honey! Get a bag! Get a bag! I think the incident happened the day I emptied the iron ranger, then The Man and I stayed in the area (parking lot, campground, trail, highway) picking up trash. In any case, please allow me to separate the fact from the fiction in the visitor’s tale.

FACT: The company I work for does not provide me with a vehicle to drive between campgrounds, so I drive my van to the parking lot when I go there to retrieve money from the iron ranger. My van sports no decals or magnets with the company logo. So, yes, the visitor did see my hippie van with out-of-state plates in the parking lot. There is no disputing that the van in the photo is indeed my van.

FICTION: Two people who didn’t belong there retrieved the money from the iron ranger.

FACT:  The Man and I very much belonged there. We were on the company payroll, with instructions to empty the iron ranger.

It seems to me that seeing us emptying the iron ranger in broad daylight would have been a clue we belonged there. It seems to me the fact that we had a key to unlock the padlock protecting the money would have been a clue we were authorized to retrieve the envelopes.

FACT: To be fair, we weren’t in regulation uniforms. I had not been issued uniform pants, so I was wearing a uniform shirt, my uniform jacket, and my nametag from last season along with a pair of tan Carhartt-type pants. The Man was wearing a uniform shirt and uniform jacket with grey sweatpants because he was on his way to paint and didn’t want to ruin his uniform pants before the season even began.

So maybe our attire did not scream professional, but if the concerned citizen had spoken to us, even casually, we could have explained who we were and what we were doing there.

FICTION: We were “under the influence” (presumably of some illicit chemical substance).

FACT: We were certainly not under the influence of any illicit chemical substance. I don’t know where the visitor got that idea. Maybe because we were laughing and joking? Maybe the visitor thinks only people who are chemically altered can have a good time at work?

FACT: Yes, we stayed in the area after we emptied the iron ranger. We either went next door to the campground to work there, or we spent the next couple of hours picking up trash.

Honestly, I’m not upset my boss was contacted, although I have to admit I’m a bit miffed about that “under the influence” part. I know The Man and I were doing nothing wrong. However, why can’t people just talk to each other? If the concerned citizen had only spoken to me or The Man, we could have cleared everything up.

 

 

I Saw Something New

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It happened again. Just when I thought I’d seen it all, I saw something new.

It was the beginning of my fourth season on the mountain. The Big Boss Man had asked me and The Man to come up the mountain early to make sure nothing bad happened to the precious yurts in the time between when they were put up and when the hosts of the campground arrived. The Man and I needed money, so The Big Boss Man put us to work immediately. We were preparing campgrounds for campers, collecting access fees at the parking lot on weekends, and picking up the self-pay envelopes stuffed with money visitors were dropping in the iron ranger during the week.

The first weekend we were back, I worked the parking lot on Saturday and Sunday while The Man raked and cleaned fire rings. I was surprised by how busy the parking lot was on both days that weekend. I parked nearly 100 cars on each day, and the season hadn’t even officially started.

With cars came people, and I had a lot of folks to talk with. The most popular question of the weekend was about the most recent fire on the trail. Later in the week when I walked the trail, I saw why people didn’t want to believe they were seeing the aftermath of a prescribed burn. The fire had left a large portion of the downed trees along the trail looking really ugly. It was difficult to believe humans would create such an eyesore on purpose.

The new thing I saw happened on Sunday.

Throughout the weekend, I’d noticed several instances of two young women in a car together, probably on an epic lady road trip. Some of the pairs seemed to be American and some seemed to be European.

On Sunday, a pair of young European women arrived. I could tell they weren’t American because only one (the passenger) spoke while the driver looked past me with a glassy stare of complete lack of comprehension. The talker used choppy sentence with an unusual syntax, but she made herself understood.

I had the young women park right in front, near where I was stationed with my dilapidated chair and my purple backpack. The lot was busy, and it was easier to put them up front rather than send them into the depths of the parking lot and hope they’d find a spot.

It took the women a long time to prepare for their stroll through the trees. I was busy, so I wasn’t watching their every move, but I noticed they didn’t hop out of the car and head immediately towards the trail like most people do.

Finally, I noticed the driver heading across the street. She had her blond hair pulled up into a high ponytail, and she was wearing a close-fitting black jacket and black hiking tights. She managed to appear hip, fit, and sexy all at the same time. Then I noticed her butt, or rather what she had strapped across her butt. It was a thick foam rectangle, the sort of thing a gardener might kneel on to protect the knees from the hard ground. The pad covered both of her butt cheeks; a strap circling her middle held it on.

Of the thousands of visitors I’ve seen cross the road to the trail, this woman was the first I’d ever seen with a cushion strapped to her bottom. I don’t think it was simply a fashion accessory; it seemed too drab and utilitarian to be mere decoration. If the woman had been walking into a sports stadium, I would have guessed the pad was to provide some comfort while sitting on hard seats, but she was going out on a trail. Was she afraid of falling and bruising her tailbone? Maybe. Did she plan to sit for a long time on the cold, hard ground looking up at the trees? Maybe.

I didn’t try to ask her about her butt pad. I don’t know if she would have understood my question or if I would have understood her answer. Besides, if a perspm wants to strap on a butt cushion, it’s not really my place to question her.

 

Welcome Back! (An Update on My Current Situation)

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I hadn’t beein in the forest three minutes, and already a tourist was asking me a question.

The Man and I had been boondocking on public land just outside a mountain town, waiting around until we were

This was the view the last time I dealt with snow in May.

closer to the day we had to report for training for our summer jobs. We could make the trip from where we were to where we needed to be in two days. We were more than a week away from when we planned to leave when I checked the weather forecast and saw we were facing a cold snap. The report said the high on Wednesday was predicted to be 44 degrees with a 70% chance or rain or snow. Snow! In May? Snow in May is not unheard of in the higher elevations.

I could wait out a day of cold at the library or a coffee shop, and The Man and the dog and I could cuddle down for a night in the mid 20s, but I was concerned about what rain and snow would do to the road that brought us into and out of our camping spot. It was a red dirt road, already rutted and rocky. I was afraid a day of rain or a melted blanket of snow would turn it into a mudyy, mushy, soupy mess. I didn’t want to get stuck in the mud, and I didn’t want to get stuck on our campsite because I was avoiding the road. The Man and I decided we’d leave on Tuesday, before the weather turned bad.

We were up Tuesday morning early. We cooked and ate breakfast, packed up our kitchen and the last few items we had lying around. Our last two errands in town were to dump our trash and hit up the food bank. We were on the road by 9:30.

We drove through rain, but made it to our stopping point just fine. We hadn’t been there long when my phone rang with a number I didn’t recognize. When I answered, I found The Big Boss Man on the other end of the line.

He had a favor to ask, he said. Maybe we could help him. The crew was coming to the main campground on our side of the mountain in the next few days to put up the yurts. Once the yurts were up, he’d need someone to babysit them, especially at night. Did we think we could get up the mountain before the training?

That might work, I said and told him we were already more than halfway there. We could be there in the next couple of days, I let him know.

I asked him if he actually had work for us so we could start earning money and he said we could rake and paint and clean firepits, and do whatever needed to be done to get the campgrounds ready to open. He could certainly keep us busy and pay us for our work.

When I got off the phone, I talked to The Man about the situation. We agreed we were ready to get up the mountain and get to work so we could start making money.

We drove the next day and made it up the mountain. Before we’d left cell phone service behind, I’d called The Big Boss Man and left a message letting him know we were on our way. I knew once we got on the mountain, we’d have no cell service and wouldn’t be able to call anyone.

I decided to go to the main campground first to see if the boss was there supervising yurt construction. I found myself driving behind a medium-sized rented motorhome. It passed the trail’s parking lot and pulled into the lower part of the long, wide driveway of the campground next door. I pulled my van into the campground’s driveway too, and The Man followed me with his van. The gate was closed and appeared locked. I jumped out of my van to determine if the padlock was actually locked or only dummy locked. It was actually locked; no one was working in that campground.

I walked over to The Man’s minivan to let him know the gate was locked. We decided to go to the campground where we would be living for the summer and wait for the Big Boss Man to come to us. The Man zipped around the motorhome and was out of there fast. I was climbing back into my van when I saw a woman emerge from the passenger side of the motorhome. She walked over to my van, a yellow sheet of paper in her hand. Oh no! Here we go! I thought as she approached me. Then I realized if I let myself be annoyed in my first three minutes back, it was going to be a long season.

I opened my door (because my window doesn’t roll down) and said, Yes?

She pointed to the map on her yellow sheet of paper. We are here? Her accent was definitely not American. She was looking for the trail.

I pointed back the way we’d come. The parking lot for the trail is about 200 yards that way.

The tourist season had officially begun for me.

I took the photo in this post.

Stupid Questions

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There are no stupid questions, educators like to say, but that’s clearly a lie. I’m no stranger to stupid questions. Anyone who works with the public has probably heard plenty of questions eliciting an eye roll or shaking of the head. Of course, we think we’ve heard it all until the next one comes along. I didn’t think I was capable of being surprised but in about 30 minutes one September afternoon, I heard two of the dumbest questions to ever stimulate my eardrums.

I walked out of the back door of the mercantile, step stool in hand, ready to close the yurt’s windows. An SUV was stopped on the road between the mercantile and the camp host’s site. A woman jumped out of the SUV, smiled, and said hi to me. I greeted her, and she asked, The ones with the open signs? Are they open?

She was referring to campsites. Any campsite that’s not been reserved is marked with a sign that reads “open.” Apparently the woman didn’t trust signs and didn’t believe the campsites clearly marked “open” were actually available. I didn’t trust myself to answer her question without saying something snarky, so I simply directed her to the camp host.

After closing the windows, I went back inside and told the mercantile manager what the woman had asked me. We shook our heads and rolled our eyes and felt assured this one took the cake.

But wait! There’s more!

Just as the manager was about to shut the doors for the day, a car pulled into the parking area in front of the store. The people in the car wanted to walk the trail, so the manager said we could sell them the access pass before we closed the register.  The tourist lady was talking a mile a minute as she walked up the ramp to the mercantile. She must have asked the manager what the platforms throughout the campground were for. The manager said, yurts, but before she could explain what a yurt was or say that the actual structures had been taken down for the winter, the tourist lady busted out with Do you have to bring your own yurt?

Perhaps the woman didn’t know what exactly a yurt is. Maybe she` thought “yurt” is just another name for “tent.” She must not have known that yurts are big (the ones the company I work for rents out to campers are 15 feet in diameter) and expensive. While yurts are movable, it’s quite a bit of work to set one up, then take it down. Most people probably don’t have a yurt and those that do probably aren’t traveling with them.

I couldn’t help giggling a little when I heard the woman ask if she needed to bring her own yurt. I had settled my face into a neutral expression by the time the woman entered the store. I took her money and handed her an access pass, and she went on her way.

Bring your own yurt? the manager and I said to each other and laughed. This question really did take the cake.

I’d planned to end this post here, but on my last weekend working at the parking lot, I got what is quite possibly the stupidest question ever. I can’t imagine a dumber question, but then again, people never cease to amaze me.

I was working at the parking lot on the very last day of the season. The sky was hazy with smoke from a wildfire fifty miles away. The fire had been burning for at least a week, and every morning, the sky was hazy from its smoke. By the afternoon, the smoke cleared and the sky was blue until the sun set.

All day people had been asking about the smoke and the air quality. Campers from one campground I was covering decided not to stay another night because they were worried about hiking the next morning with smoke in the air. Honestly, I don’t know if the air quality was dangerous. No one bothered to give me that information. We were’t wading through low-lying smoke and there was no ash falling on our heads, so the air quality seemed ok to me.

A car pulled into the parking lot, and I wasn’t surprised when the passenger’s first question was about the smoke. It’s what she asked that earned her the distinction of stupidest question ever.

Is the smoke from fire?

I didn’t even ask her if it’s possible for smoke to come from any other source.

Offering

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A man tried to give me a kid one morning at the overflow parking lot.

I don’t mean he used a bad pickup line on me like, Hey, baby, let’s make a baby.  I mean he offered me one of his already born offspring.

He was only joking, I know, and it’s not the first time it happened. (Once a lady in a pickup offered me her friend’s dog in exchange for the parking fee, then the friend offered me the first lady’s infant.) It’s always an awkward situation for me because I usually don’t know what to say.

On the morning in question, the family pulled into the overflow lot at the campground before I made it to the main parking lot. I showed them where to park and told them about the $5 access fee. While I wrote out the pass, the whole family tumbled from the vehicle—mom, dad, and four wholesome-looking blond kids. Soon the parents were having a Do you have cash? No. Don’t you have cash? conversation.

Mom had her wallet but there was no cash in it. Dad had cash in his wallet but had left it back where they were staying. (I hope they were staying in a cabin or a lodge or at a friend’s house. I hope Dad hadn’t left a wallet full of money in a tent somewhere.)

Gee, he was really sorry, Dad said. It looked like they didn’t have any cash, but I was welcome to take one of the kids instead.

I looked over at a big boulder where the four kids were lined up, grinning. Apparently this was a joke Dad used often. Apparently none of the kids were yet old enough to find the joke corny or annoying.

This time I came up with an answer rather quickly.

I really can’t take one, I said. I live in a van with a man and a dog, and there’s really no room for a kid. Don’t worry about the access fee. Just go enjoy the trail.

I was gathering up my belongings for my walk to the main parking lot when the dad called out to me, My daughter has $5. We really want to pay.

I would have been happy to let them go, but I put down all my stuff and walked over to the SUV where the oldest girl was fishing out a $5 bill. I handed her the pass and wished them all a good day.

I took this photo of a giant sequoia.

Abusive Relationships

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Trigger warning: This post is about an abusive relationship I was in and an abusive incident I witnessed. It does NOT contain graphic violence, but may be upsetting to some readers.

Man Standing on Parking LotI was still in the parking lot of the Denny’s in Escondido. I’d already seen a presumably homeless man treated unkindly in the restaurant,and now I was hearing a man yelling at a woman in the parking lot. Suffering seems so much harder to escape in the Babylon. I think it’s because when there are so many people living packed together, there’s a better chance of seeing some of them having a difficult time in public.

I heard the yelling when I rushed out of the van on my way into Denny’s to deal with a restroom emergency.

The car was parked several spaces closer to the building than I was, but still on the outskirts of the lot. A man and a woman were standing outside the car. The guy was yelling words like fucking bitch and fucking liar, while the woman stood silently.

I tried to pass them without gawking. For one thing, I needed to make it to the restroom immediately. Also, I try not to be a Nosey Nelly even in low-drama situations; people don’t need me staring at them while they try to live their lives. During verbal altercations, there’s probably little I can do to make things better, so I just kept walking.

From my own experience, I think it’s better not to get involved in the abusive relationships of strangers. Very seldom did a stranger try to intervene when my abusive boyfriend was clearly treating me badly. The times someone did try to get involved, watch out! My ex wanted to fight the person who wanted to help, sometimes leading to that person calling the cops. A stranger trying to help might break the immediate cycle of violence, but I’d pay for the intervention later.

I’m not saying don’t intervene if you witness abuse happening. Each of us has to decide on an individual basis what to do in such a situation, but be advised, your intervention could be dangerous for you and/or the person being abused. Also, the abused person is probably not going to allow her/himself to be rescued. S/he’s probably not going to allow you to whisk her (him) away. The person being abused may not be ready to leave the abuser for a whole list of reasons.

When I came out of Denny’s the guy was still yelling at the woman. He was also pulling things (her things, I assumed) out of the car and dumping them on the asphalt. The theme of his tirade seemed to be lying bitch.

The Man was using the internet on his phone when I got back in the van. I don’t think he’d even noticed the screaming. He knows how to focus on the task at hand.

It’s weird how this isn’t even triggering me, I’d thought as I walked across the parking lot. I hadn’t realized that being triggered doesn’t necessarily lead to being huddled in a ball, sobbing, unable to function.

I certainly felt upset. Granted, I hadn’t gotten much sleep, it was early in the morning, and I was jacked up on coffee. But what was going on outside my van hit a little too close to what my life had once been. I had been the woman listening to someone who claimed to love me call me a liar and a bad person while he threw my belongings out of the window of our moving vehicle or destroyed my things in front of me.

While I sat in the van feeling upset, the yelling guy got in the car and sped out of the parking lot. I saw the woman climb over the low spot in the fence separating the parking area from the scrubby vacant lot next to it.

I felt like I had to do something, say something to help the woman. I didn’t really have a plan, but I grabbed a few bucks and walked over to the woman. I figured if she’d been dumped with no money, she might need bus fare or a cup of coffee or a hamburger. Giving her a few bucks seemed like the least I could do.

Her back was to me when I walked up. Are you ok? I asked from a distance. I didn’t want to startle her.

She turned around. She was young, probably no more than 25. Her hair was bleached platinum and her heavy eyeliner had run with her tears.

I”m ok, she said, then stooped to retrieve something from the ground. He threw my things over the fence, she said apologetically.

That wasn’t kind, I said. Then, I used to have a boyfriend who threw my stuff out of the windows of the van.

I couldn’t tell if she heard me or was too distracted to register what I said. I didn’t really want to talk about me, but I wanted her to know she wasn’t the only person this sort of thing had happened to.

About that time, a guy on a bicycle rode through the parking lot, and the woman was concerned about her backpack sitting next to the parking space her dude had vacated. I don’t want that guy to steal my stuff, she said, then hopped over the fence and strode purposefully over to her backpack. The fellow on the bike didn’t seem to be paying attention to her or her things.

I want you to have this, I said, handing her the cash. I thought maybe you could use it.

Really? she said. Thank you so much! She said it like I’d just handed her one of those giant checks Publishers Clearinghouse gives to their sweepstakes winners.

You really deserve someone who is kind to you, I said awkwardly while she stuffed things she’d retrieved from the vacant lot into her bag. I feared I wasn’t doing a very good job counseling her. I hoped my pep talk sounded better to her than it did to me.

I wish I could do something to really help you, I told her. I don’t live in this town…I’m only here because I drove my guy out here to buy a car… I knew I was talking too much, but that’s what I do when I can’t do anything actually helpful.

She started talking about where she was born. I guess we’d both realized talking about what was actually happening was too awkward.

About that time her guy roared his car back into the parking lot,and the woman gathered her things quickly. I said bye or good luck or something equally useless and high-tailed it out of there. The last thing I wanted was to interact with her recently screaming guy.

By the time I got in the van, the woman had gotten into the car, and it was squealing out of the parking lot. I guess this wasn’t going to be the day she left the guy.

The Man was still on his phone. He’d missed the whole thing.

I need to talk about what just happened, I said to The Man, and bless him, he listened. He listened to me talk about how hearing that guy yelling at that woman not only brought up memories of my ex doing the same to me but also triggered the feelings I had when he did it.

The Man didn’t try to tell me what I should do or how I should feel. He simply listened to what I had to say and witnessed me, just like I’d witnessed the woman left in the parking lot. The Man couldn’t change my past, and I couldn’t change the woman’s present, but he could be my witness like I had been hers. Sometimes showing someone they’re not invisible is the best we can do.

Photo courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-standing-on-parking-lot-163772/.

Stupid

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I’m so proud of myself. For once, I kept my big mouth shut.

It was the end of the camping season, and I was spending my Sunday afternoon collecting access fees in the campground’s overflow parking lot.

A Jeep pulled into the campground’s driveway. It was followed by one of those minivan/station wagon hybrid vehicles.

I approached the woman driving the Jeep. Yes, they wanted to walk the trail she said in response to my first question. I told her there was a $5 access fee, and she pulled out a twenty.

I want to pay for the kids behind me, she told me.

While I was making change, I noticed the vehicle behind her backing out.

Are you with them? I asked the woman in the Jeep. They’re backing out.

She said she was with them, so I started gesturing at the second vehicle so the driver would not back out.

That’s my daughter in the car, the woman in the Jeep told me. Her boyfriend is driving. He’s kind of stupid.

I didn’t know how best to respond to that allegation, so I simply said, I’m sorry.

I am too! the woman laughed

I looked back at the second vehicle and saw the stupid boyfriend had stopped backing up and was pulling forward again.

Maybe she’ll get over it, I suggested optimistically to the woman in the Jeep.

I hope so, she said.

It was only later I realized I’d done a good job and not said anything regrettable. I thought about all the scandalous words that could have popped out of my mouth had I been less vigilant.

Maybe he has other talents. (said in a wink wink, nudge nudge double entendre voice)

Maybe he’s good in bed.

Maybe he’s got a big cock.

Maybe she wants to be sure she’s the smartest person in the relationship.

Maybe he lets her spend his money.

I’m so proud of myself. I didn’t let my big mouth embarrass me for once.

 

Biker

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I was working the main parking lot on the penultimate Saturday of the season. I hadn’t been there clouds, countryside, forestlong when a bunch of folks on motorcycles pulled in. That’s when I remembered the same thing happened late in the season the year before. There was a motorcycle rally in the valley and the bikers were coming up the mountain to enjoy driving the winding, turning, curvy roads. Lots of bikers roared past the parking lot, but just as many decided to stop and see the sequoias.

The majority of bikers were men, and most were traveling in groups of 3 to 6. I did see a handful of women and a few lone wolves, but while none of the groups seemed to be organized gangs, men traveling together was the order of the day.

At one point, a small group of guys was milling about near the front of the parking lot. Most of them were probably in their 20s, while maybe two of their number were middle age. One man was older, with glasses and a grey ponytail. He looked like Jerry Garcia might have looked had he lived another decade. I could see the older man was looking at me, but I thought I probably had dirt on my nose.

Finally, he approached me. He must have been looking at me trying to get his courage up because he asked me in a low voice, as if he were embarrassed, Is this hike hard? I’m an old man. I don’t get around like I used to.

headlight, motorbike, motorcycleMy heart went out to him. Here was this tough guy biker, hair in a ponytail, wearing black clothes and boots, worried he wouldn’t be able to keep up with the young bucks on a walk through the trees.

Don’t worry, I answered softly so none of his buddies would overhear. It’s more of a stroll than a hike, It’s paved and wheelchair accessible. There are lots of benches on the trail too, I told him. If you need to sit and rest, just tell the others you’re basking in the glory of the trees.

After my reassurance, he walked away with a grin on his face.

Even the toughest of us will be old someday, but we’ll always want to be able to keep up with the kids.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/clouds-countryside-forest-idyllic-319833/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/headlight-motorbike-motorcycle-vehicle-1658/.

Scruffy

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Shortly before Labor Day Weekend, two coworkers quit suddenly. The Man was sent to work my old job in the parking lot, and I continued to staff the mercantile. The manager and I worked alone on the two days the other had off each week, and we worked together on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

After Labor Day, weekdays were very slow. Some weekdays, the mercantile took in less than $100. Slow was fine with me. I entertained myself by writing or reading, and I got paid the same no matter what I sold.

One Wednesday I was working alone. The weather was cold and rainy, and only a few people had been in the store all day. Late in the afternoon, a man and a woman—both with totally white hair—came in.

Are y’all here for the trail? I asked the couple.

They said they were. I told them there was a $5 parking fee.

The fellow with the white hair started to laugh. That’s what the guy down the road told me, he said.  I told him to take a hike!

I assured him the parking fee was real. The fellow with the white hair insinuated The Man (who was working the parking lot alone that day) was an imposter ripping people off $5 at a time.

Don’t you think it’s a long way to come up this mountain to hustle people?  I asked the fellow with the white hair. It’s a pretty slow day for that too, I told him.

He didn’t have on a uniform, the woman said.

He didn’t have on a uniform? I asked incredulously. I was confident The Man was wearing a uniform when he’d dropped me off at the mercantile that morning. He wasn’t wearing a jacket like this? I asked,  gesturing to the company insignia on the jacket I was wearing.

He was wearing a uniform, the fellow with the white hair said, sounding irritated.

That’s not what you told me, the woman said.

The fellow with the white hair looked at me and said, He was kind of scruffy.

I was aghast. That’s my boyfriend! I told the fellow with the white hair. He had the decency to look embarrassed.

The Man has facial hair, it’s true, and his jacket may not have been pristine clean since we live away from civilization and can’t always do laundry the moment our outerwear gets dirty. However, I’d call him handsome, perhaps rugged, but not scruffy.

The fellow with the white hair continued to defend his doubts about The Man’s validity as an employee empowered to collect parking fees. He knew a woman, he said, who hustled people by collecting money in parking lots…

Where? I shot back at him. Grateful Dead shows?

He nodded, while his lady friend grew increasingly embarrassed.

I told him again it sure was a long way up the mountain on a slow and rainy day to tell lies just to get a few bucks. He continued to look embarrassed, but not nearly as embarrassed as the woman with him.

The fellow with the white hair may have doubted The Man’s valididy, but he didn’t doubt mine. Not only was I wearing a uniform and a photo ID, I was standing behind a cash register in a store. I collected that old coot’s $5 parking fee before he went back to his car.