The Big Picture & The Small (REDUX)

Happy summer!  It’s been far too long since I wrote to you, my friend, but working at a campground means that July is VERY BUSY.  Everett and I have been working opposite shifts and barely even seeing each other.  The camp is full of folks with questions and problems and issues needing resolution, and the phone has been ringing off the hook with more reservations and . . . well, folks with questions and problems and issues needing resolution.  I was beginning to get into a downward spiral of frustration with the general idiocy of city folk coming to the country for 3 days.  Then I realized that I was missing The Big Picture.

As you know, I am generally a small picture sort of person.  I love the minutia, the details, the small peripheral moments that – for me – make life a rich tapestry.  But sometimes (like July in a campground) you have to step back from those to look at what’s happening OVERALL to appreciate the full fabric of this wonderful world.

For example – An irritable woman arrived at the front desk around 8:30pm one evening.  Her family was already in camp, but she’d had to work later than expected and drive alone from Boston to join them.  It was hot.  She was alone.  She was tired, but still cranked from her day of work and traffic and worry.  She snapped at our staff and tried to hurry us through our (admittedly tedious) procedure of issuing her gate pass.  She snatched it from my hand when it was ready and was out the door before I could explain how to use it.  No surprise then, that when she tried to go through the gate it wouldn’t open for her.  She honked her horn and screamed out her car window as  I walked the 50 feet or so to the gate to help her.  “It doesn’t work!” is about the only thing she said that I can repeat here.  I took the pass and scanned it for her and the gate readily popped open.  She took a deep breath and I was sure I was in for more screaming.  But that tired, tense, anxious and frustrated woman simply took another deep breath and said, “Oh.  I moved too fast – it has to be done in CAMP TIME.”

I hope the rest of her stay with us was in camp time, and that she can dip into that pool of peace when she needs it back home.  I hope that all our visitors can take their big picture lessons from camp time back to their “real” lives.  And I hope that I retain MY big picture lesson to help folks get through the tough moments and the ignorance and negativity that makes lives harder – I need to be on camp time too.


Summer Vaca, Back in the Day

Happy 4th of July folks!  Rising to the “Remember the Time – Summer Vacation Back in the Day” theme challenge (see Emily and Ashley’s link below), I’ve decided to finally explain the origin of my relationship with frogs.  As you’ve seen from previous posts, I DO NOT LIKE frogs.  They haunt my travels and have an almost supernatural tendency to die in my presence.

As I recall, I was roughly 11 or 12 years old the summer our family went camping in Vermont.  We packed 2 parents and 5 kids into the converted little school bus, and drove for hours and hours and hours.  We arrived at a primitive campsite in the woods (probably a State Park) and set up tents  – only parents were allowed to sleep in the bus.  When I say “primitive” campsite, I’m talking primitive in the old school way – this would have been 1969 or ’70.  There were a couple of outhouses, but no bath house, no sinks, no mirrors.  Pop explained that we DID have running water – the stream briskly flowing behind the camper.  So after spending a relatively uncomfortable night sleeping in the tent and having suffered through a camp breakfast (with apologies to Mom who was doing her best on an antiquated gas stove wedged into the short bus behind the driver’s seat), I groggily went to the stream to brush my teeth.  Pop had shown us how to use the “running water” for this chore and to spit downstream (more apologies to the environmentalists – it was a different era, okay?).  I knelt in the rocky sand at the edge of the stream, more focused on my sore knees than anything else.  I dipped my toothbrush into the water as it rushed over upstream rocks, pooling into a small depression in front of me.  My action apparently disturbed the quiet waters at the bottom of the pool . . . and a large, dead, bullfrog popped to the surface – just AFTER I’d put the wet toothbrush into my mouth.  What was a bullfrog doing in a mountain stream?  Who knew?  Who cared? All I knew was that in my mouth was something that had touched a bloated dead carcass!  The screams of a pre-teen female in total hysteria echoed throughout the woods for more than a few minutes.  To this day, I have no memory of what happened after this incident – that camping trip was OVER in my mind and it was many, many years before I went camping again!

Zebra Garden

Campers, Campers, Campers

CampgroundWorkamping (also known by us as “semi-retired”) is teaching us a lot . . . especially humility and patience.  So far this summer, New Hampshire’s Mount Washington Valley has been mostly rainy and cold, but there are still lots of campers.  This Sunday the rec hall was full of mud and sand after a busy afternoon.  Everett swept out the worst then mopped up the rest with a string mop and bucket.  A young boy and his father, who were playing video games, watched him.  “What’s that man doing?” asked the boy.  Dad’s reply:  “Cleaning the floor – that’s why you need to stay in school, so you don’t have to have a job like that.”

I’ve been dealing with phone calls from potential campers like this one:

Caller:  I’d like a reservation, please.

Me: What date will you be arriving?

Caller:  Well, I might be able to get off work in early August, but my friend wants to come a week earlier, and my son-in-law thinks he’ll be coming for just the weekend.

Me:  So … you’re looking for 3 campsites in August?

Caller:  What’s it going to cost?

Me: Will you want tent sites or an RV pull through – they’re different prices.

Caller:  Oh. Well I have a pop-up now, but we’re thinking of getting a 5th wheel.  My son-in-law might be tenting.  Not sure what my friend camps in.  What’s it going to cost?

Me:  Hard telling . . .

And this one:

Caller:  I’d like to reserve a tent site for Memorial Day Weekend.

Me: Wow – that’s really planning ahead. You’ll have your pick of the sites since not many are booking into 2014 yet.

Caller:  What do you mean?  I’m booking for THIS year!

Me:  Well,  this is July – Memorial Day Weekend was the end of May.

Caller:  No it wasn’t!  Memorial Day’s in September!

Me:  Oh, I think you mean Labor Day . . .

Caller:  Are you an idiot?  Labor Day’s in May.

Then there was the camper who was extremely agitated that his Kindle e-reader wouldn’t work.  He seemed to think it was our fault, something to do with our wi-fi service.  But when I looked at his Kindle, the screen showed a message from Amazon telling him he needed to register a credit card to purchase a new book.  He angrily told me he’d had the Kindle for years and already had a card registered to it and it MUST be something to do with our campground.  The look on his face was priceless when I asked if he’d recently gotten a replacement card from his bank after the old one expired.  Oops.

On Monday, a man pulled up to the registration office with an older camper and said he’d just bought it “from a guy” and could we advise him how to “de-winterize” it?  Everett went out to look it over and gave the man several tips before telling him, “It’ll be easier to show you after you’re set-up on your site, just go check in.”  “Check in?” said the man, “I’m not STAYING here!”