Repellant

Car Camping Trip, Part II

On our recent road trip, we packed just about everything but bug spray.

First: Temper Tantrum Tent Erecting

We also forgot that, traveling eastwards, we would lose an hour, which we did, blam!, near the end of the day, crossing from Idaho into Montana. The sign that we’d just entered Central Mountain Time hit us like the bugs that splattered our windshield. We thought we had another hour or two to find a campground, but now we needed to find one immediately. Which we did, a gorgeous lake-side state campground, in the middle of nowhere, that cost us a mere ten bucks. We’d be eating Fig Newtons for dinner, but LM didn’t complain.

The sparsely-occupied campground nonetheless teemed with unpaid and unwelcome guests: mosquitoes.

Second: Peace and Harmony

MIM suggested that he drive back to an RV park he’d seen a ways back that might stock repellant in its tiny store, but one thing I’d learned from our travels by bike was that the kindness and generosity of total strangers never, ever failed. Despite being an introvert, my protective mama-instincts kicked in, since bugs like LM much better than they like me (I am too bitter), and I said I’d go ask some fellow campers to borrow theirs.

MIM looked at me skeptically. “Well, okay.” What, doubt? From the man who, while driving past miles of occupied porch swings in West Virginia decided that he must meet a bonafide occupant of a West Virginia porch swing. So, he pulled up next to one and asked, sounding pitifully parched and lonely, “Do ya know where I could get a sodapop around here?” knowing full well that they would offer him one. As if there weren’t convenience stores in West Virginia. My eyes nearly rolled right out of my helmet. But that’s how we were introduced to Noble and Madge, who told us stories about riding (and crashing) a Harley in the 1930s. We had likewise extended our hospitality to traveling strangers, like the friendly Texas “bail bondsman” (can you say bounty hunter?) on a Harley who spent the night and accidentally left behind his loaded gun in a purple velvet Crown Royal whisky bag.

A Naturally-Occuring Shape in Nature

So why MIM’s skepticism in a campground peppered with like-minded souls? Off I marched towards the campsite across the cul-de-sac that is so prevalent in nature (witness all campgrounds having to be laid out around this naturally-occurring shape). I approached an elderly couple lounging outside near their smallish-RV.

“Hullo!” I said, in that hale and hearty campers’ version of “if we’re all un-showered together then nobody stinks” greeting. “I’m from site 17, just across the way, and my son is being eaten alive by mosquitoes. We forgot our repellant, gosh darn it, and I’m wondering if you had any that we could borrow? We’re right over there, and I would bring it right back.”

“You mean like this?” The woman held out the green spray can that had sat near her feet.

“Oh, yes, thank you!” I said, stepping forward.

“No,” the man said, as the woman set the can down beneath her lawn chair. “You can’t.”

“Rrrrreally,” I stated. “Really? Really. Wow. That’s…wow. Oooo-kay.” If they had thrown the can at my head and knocked me down with it, I wouldn’t have been more surprised. Gee, maybe we had scared people into submission all those years on the motorcycle? But, no, I sincerely believed in the charitable hearts of the people we had encountered on our travels, like the woman in a very similar RV who brought coffee over to our tent-site one morning, bringing to life a scene that I had written into a short story years beforehand.

The scenery? Or his heart?

“You can go buy some,” the man said.

“Oh, is there a store nearby?”

No, in fact, it turned out by the directions he gave me, there was not.

“I’ll just go ask someone else,” I said, and the woman scratched under her wig as I left.

I refused to give up my faith in humanity and approached a small cluster of people setting up an awning. I explained my situation. “Sure!” the man said. “Just go ask my wife Susan, over there, and tell her that Scott sent you over.”

To get to the door of Susan’s RV, I had to get past a snarling Great Dane. I didn’t think Great Danes frothed and growled. I thought they were all harmless bumblers, like in Disney movies. Two women emerged from the RV, and one collared the Great Dane and wrestled him backwards. The other woman, who turned out to be Susan, had multiple facial piercings, dyed black hair, and lots of tattoos.

I considered whether to tell her that Scott sent me over, because Susan didn’t look like the sort of woman who’d want her husband to tell her to do anything, but I figured I needed an ally on my side, so I repeated my tale of woe. I gushed promises to return the can of poison pronto, wondering how I might casually mention my husband’s tattoo and nipple ring in an “I’m okay, you’re okay, we’re all okay” friendship gesture.

“Oh, sure,” Susan said, picking up can after can of insect repellant, shaking each as she went, disappearing into the RV to find more. She finally handed over three cans to me. “I can’t tell which ones are almost empty. Don’t worry if they run out. Just keep them all if you want.”

I thanked her profusely and headed back to my site. Yes, I considered crossing back through Couple Number One’s site, proclaiming that there were still Good Samaritans left in the world.

In telling my tale to my family later, my aunt said, “I hope you juggled those cans while you walked past them.” My dad gave his enthusiastic both-thumbs-down gesture and said, “I hope you [neener-neener sounds] those tightwads while you tromped through their site.”

Although it’s in my DNA to slap the other cheek, gentle reader, I did not. I simply walked back to our tents. And, boy, I regret not juggling those cans. If only I’d thought of it in time! It’s highly unsatisfying to take the high road and not make dipwads aware that they are dipwads.
What better place to cool off instead of staying all hot and bothered?

But, here’s an original thought: you just can’t judge folks by appearances. The kindly-looking blue-hairs wouldn’t give me a whisker from their chins, while the scary vampire girl (or Northwest espresso barrista—it’s hard to tell the two apart) did not bat an eye (albeit this feat might have been impossible what with all of the mascara she would have had to bench-press) at handing over some of her worldly possessions.

In relating the story to a friend, I said, “Well, who knows what the story on that elderly couple was? She had a wig. Maybe she was dying of cancer or something.”

“So, what?” my friend said. “She wanted her last act on earth to be mean and greedy so that she could go straight to Hell? Like, I’m on my way out so screw all of you? Have some West Nile Virus on me, losers?”

True, I can’t figure how the cancer connection would excuse her. But, still, that was her repellant and she had every right to say no. I think of how I sometimes lose patience (quietly and politely) when someone turtles along in a crosswalk while I wait (okay, I’m muttering obscenities at this point) for them to pass. But then I think, “Well, maybe they’re bleeding internally, and I just don’t know it.” I mean, haven’t you ever been moseying along in a parking lot, blocking all the cars as you poke along down the middle of a row, when suddenly you begin to hemorrhage? And here’s someone honking at you, not helping matters any. Don’t you just hate that? Who knows what the true story is?

Likewise, I must admit that those among us who are more organized than others can sometimes pop a gasket when we are once again expected to be the ones holding the Band-aids, or the nail clippers, or the bug repellant for the unorganized masses who did not properly prepare. This sums up my marriage, and, for the record, the bug repellant was packed, but the male person who loaded up the car somehow left it behind. However, that male person can do things like fix the antique desk I purchased but dropped because I thought capable moi could carry it upstairs without his stinking biceps, which had the gall to be off on a business trip. He can take the door-jamb apart when I buy a bed that, oops, won’t fit through the door; then he gets to sleep in that marvelous bed. It’s a constant tradeoff.

Faux Mennonite Tosses Horseshoes

The point is, when you already have an itchy wig…okay, a wig? Seriously? In a Montana campground in the middle of nowhere? Why not a hat? Or a kerchief? Or bald and proud? Who cares? I sank so low in personal fashion and hygiene that by the end of the trip I simply took to wearing the same loose and long housedress every day, topped by an old coat. One day in Wyoming I passed a Mennonite mother and child in the grocery store, and at first glance they mistook me for one of them. Why the housedress? Precisely because it’s something that could not be worn all those years on the back of a bike.

Back to the point. When you already have an itchy wig, which means that you have not reconciled yourself to having no hair, and your personal view of the world involves hoarding your repellant for whatever logical reason you have, someone juggling bugspray is not going to inspire any epiphanies on your part.

Later in the trip, a guy on a motorcycle walked over to our campsite and offered me some ice. “I can’t use the whole bag and I hate to see it go to waste.”

I thanked him but declined, saying that I was used to traveling light from our motorcycle days (ahem) and we had no ice chest. He walked on to the next site, looking for someone else to accept his donation. How much easier it would have been to just dump it under the nearest tree. But, like he said, “It gets me out to meet my neighbors.” (He was kinda cute, too, and I suspect he’d bathed more recently than I had.)

Indeed. Love thy neighbor (when they aren’t crazy), and repel them not when they cometh seeking of your precious toxins.

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2 thoughts on “Repellant

  1. The joys of camping couldn’t have found a better post. And it points out the two types of people, those that rejoice in others frustration and those that help to ease them. Getting a flat tire will also separate the two. But lucky for you (and us), you found both 🙂 As to judging books and people, the difference between an asshole and a whole ass (and what lies between) requires reading the whole book. But I do admit, of the covers, I am more partial to the back than the front 🙂

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