Saturday, September 5, 2009

The way of the pioneers

This being Labor Day Weekend, a good number of people will be heading out to the nation's campground for one last big hurrah around the campfire. Some of them are people I know and love and will never understand. Because, camping? Could there possibly be any activity more likely to kill your love of the great outdoors? And possibly get you eaten by a bear? Or even worse, sprayed by a skunk?

My personal feeling is that everyone should have to take one camping trip per lifetime so that they can experience the hellishness of it all and be sensible and view Nature through windows, as God intended. People have tried to argue with me about this, but I am impervious. Talk to my clean, uncallused hand that has not been scratched by the twigs I (reluctantly) gathered for the campfire or burned with sticky marshmallow residue. They try to tell me about "getting away from it all" or "breathing the fresh air" or "bonding with the family," but people who love camping are big liars who just want you to be as miserable as they are. Yes, I went there.

Some of my friends who are camping this weekend are the parents of young children, and I have to say right now that I just cannot imagine. Just. Can't. Imagine. But really, is camping with older kids that much better? I mean, you don't have to worry about teenagers playing in the fire, but you do have to listen to them complain about the heat, the mosquitos, the lack of a cell phone signal and the dullness of the entertainment.

My friends with young children say that their young children don't sleep well in sleeping bags, but what they don't realize is that the kids won't sleep any better when they're older than they did when they were younger, because who can sleep in a sleeping bag? THERE'S a misnomer if there ever was one. Those things should be called Wide Awake, Sweating and Cursing the Name of Coleman Bags. Plus, the bags are on the ground, which is painfully hard and sometimes bone-chillingly damp, in spite of the fact that you 1) are roasting in the airless tent or camper; and 2) brought a waterproof ground cloth. And do not speak to me of air mattresses, which we all know are a trick of the devil to make you think you're going to spend the night in comfort, when we all know that they gradually deflate during the night, leaving your weary body resting on the bosom of Mother Nature. Which is made of granite.

Music seems to be part of the camping experience, and perhaps someone you're camping with will bring a guitar. Or better yet, someone at the next campsite will have one. They'll start out singing stuff like the greatest hits of the Eagles, America, Arlo Guthrie and James Taylor, but pretty soon, it will degenerate into Tennessee Ernie Ford, Willie Nelson and the patriotic standards of our United States. You will want to shoot the guitarist.

Don't get me started about the bathroom facilities. The last time I went camping, which was not nearly long enough ago because I still remember it and I don't even think a CRACK addiction could erase those memories from my mind, the girls and I went to the communal restroom, ladies on one side, gents on the other. We went there to shower. Meelyn, who was six years old at the time, said, "Mommy, there's a funny balloon in my shower." And then she stuck her hand under the divider between our stalls AND SHE WAS HOLDING A USED CONDOM. I died a little, right then.

Camping is a bad, bad thing to do, as evidenced by the fact that there's no privacy -- you can't even squeak out a little fart without half the campground yelling, "PEE YEW WHO DEALT THAT ONE?" -- so people have to go and have their sex up against the mildewed walls of the ladies' shower and leave their nasty condoms lying on the floor. Where tiny children will pick them up and cause their mothers to die from shock and gross-outedness and leave them as little orphans.

You might as well take the family to a truck stop for a weekend of family togetherness. At least you could all go into the restaurant part and sleep all scrunched up in a booth. Believe me, that is more comfortable than attempting what passes for sleep in a sleeping bag. But there is electricity. And air conditioning! And undoubtedly someone tossing a used condom out the window of a big rig somewhere there in the parking lot, but if you hurry straight to the restaurant from the car, no one in your family will probably see it and/or pick it up. Can you tell that I was personally offended and even, well, yes, I'm going to go there, SCARRED FOR LIFE by my camping experience? If my family wishes to bond with me, they're going to have to come inside, away from all that nature, in where all the thermostats set on 74 degrees and televisions and computers and curling irons and BEDS and TOILETS are.

If I'd wanted to be a pioneer, I would have arranged to have myself born in 1816.

You know, this is actually a reason why I know camping is wrong. Indiana, you see, became a state in 1816. It was considered the "wild west." Bears lived here, and other creatures who would get you if you didn't get them first. The people lived in log cabins with very few amenities. The women were old and stooped and grey and toothless and they were only, like, 26. The men all had hollow eyes and long beards stained with tobacco juice and they were often missing a limb from accidents with axes and they were 28. We don't know what any of these people would have looked like at 60 because they were all dead by then. And why? Because their lives were ONE GIANT PERMANENT CAMPING TRIP, that's why.

Oh, Laura Ingalls Wilder tried to convince all of us little girls that riding around the prairie in a covered wagon and never letting Jack ride and Ma slapping at the Indians with her sunbonnet and everyone getting lost in blizzards and burning up the furniture to stay warm was a bunch of fun, but she was a sadist and a liar. Pioneering was not fun and neither is its modern counterpart, camping. Progress was made so that the citizens of Indiana and all the other states wouldn't have to BE campers anymore. Now we have cities! Stores! Restaurants! And, for those inclined to travel, hotels! Or even the homes of friends and family members. WE DO NOT HAVE TO REGRESS, PEOPLE!

If you don't believe me, ask yourself this question and answer honestly: Do these people look like they're having fun?


Amy said...

The next time that I think I'm depriving my children of some Americana experience by not taking them camping, I'm going to shake myself out of it by reading this.

Rehoboth said...

You sure did sum up my feelings about camping (and, yes, I went there, too). My idea of roughing it is a Motel 6 with no room service.

Rosemary & Garlic said...

Come camping with us sometime. My sons believe that the only way to camp to start by hiking with your backpack at least five miles to get away from all the vehicles! The good news is, by that point, you'd sleep in anything, on anything :)

Kayte said...

Pretty much sums up my feelings about camping as well...the guys love it...seems to be a guy type thing. I use the dogs as an excuse to stay home, before we had the dogs, I used any number of excuses. I think they are onto me.