Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I'm Addicted To People Watching

Just sit me and my book on a bench in a busy mall or airport or restaurant for several hours, and I can easily amuse myself alternating between reading a page or two and studying the people around me.

It was no different this past weekend at the campground where we were, other than being in front of a campfire in the woods. I had my book in hand, and plenty of nearby campers to interest and amuse me for hours.  I spent approximately five hours on Saturday afternoon just reading, relaxing, and watching the people in camping sites near ours.  I always get a kick out of watching how other people camp and interact.  I will give you a rundown of what I saw around me.  Site numbers have been changed so that I can tell it how it really was to protect the innocent.

Site #6 - Across the street from us and to the left

This site contained a red Ford Ranger pickup truck, a tent, and a man and woman about in their 50's.  The tent was carefully covered with a rain tarp and the campfire was kept blazing the entire time I watched.  The man had little hair and never wore a shirt, that is, until he got in his truck to leave at the end of their camping adventure.

There was no gear or food visible anywhere on the campsite.  No chairs to sit around the fire.  Interestingly enough, I never saw the man sit down once or leave the campsite.  Where does he go to the bathroom?  I did see the woman leave, probably to use the public bathhouse.  I saw them consume one "meal" -  about 1/3 of a loaf of bread, using the bread bag as the plate, and drinking some cranberry juice right out of the bottle.  Definitely no bacon.

What is their story?  Are they just stopping on their way to somewhere else?  Was it a one night love tryst?  The tent was down and they were on their way Saturday by 11:15 AM.  Site #6 was refilled shortly by another tenting family.

Site #8 - Directly across the street from us

How much stuff can possibly fit onto a camping site?  This group of campers has every square inch of their site filled with stuff.  They are camping in a pop-up camper, and in addition to that they have a screen house for meals, numerous coolers and storage boxes, a stack of firewood, five folding chairs (the kind that fold up and store in canvas bags), toys, bikes, bike helmets, and razor scooters. For some reason they have a small folding table whose sole purpose seems to be to hold a roll of paper towels.  The camper door is left standing wide open all the time.  I'm thinking bugs.  Mosquitos.  Oh well, not my camper.

Now to the cast of characters:  There are three women.  One appears to be a young grandmother.  She sits in her chair and reads all weekend.  Another appears to be the mother of the children in the site.  She wears the same outfit all weekend.  Her sweatpants say LOVE on the arse.  She does all the cooking and caretaking, smoking constantly.  There is a young teenage girl who wears her shorts with the waistband turned over in the trendy way that most teen girls do.  She often sits in her camp chair and sucks her thumb.  Really, she does.  There is also a young boy in the group, perhaps 8 or 9 years old.  He seems to be quiet, well-behaved, and bored.

Things get very loud and annoying interesting at about 11:30 Saturday when a dented blue van pulls up and unloads another young boy, about 5 or 6 years old.  He obviously has some anger management issues, as we hear him often screaming how he hates his mom, and he isn't gonna do this or that.  LOUDLY.  At a decibel level high enough that I consider reporting to the park ranger that there is an inconsiderate family nearby.  He SLAMS his scooter down, repeatedly FALLS off his camp chair tipping it over, THROWS his plastic water bottle to the ground, YELLS LOUDLY, and generally gives me a headache making his non-stopping racket.  My husband calmly announces to me that the boy needs an "attitude adjustment" after he THROWS his scooter and BANGS his bike helmet on the ground.

It wasn't long till the boy discovered the nearby campground water faucet, and filled a small water bottle and began emptying it on anyone and everyone in his site.  Chaos ensued.  His friend defended himself by beating the water boy with a long stick.  

Meanwhile I see the mother trying to clean the dirt off her car floor mats.  I just love the look of a woman beating the heck out of rubber mats with a butt hanging out the side of her mouth.

A bit later I glance across the street and see the boy "mooning" the rest of the group sitting around the fire.  Whatever they are burning over there smells terrible.  The boy announces LOUDLY to all that he needs to go to the bathhouse to make #2 (not in those words).  

Ahhh, camping.  The peace and quiet of the woods.  NOT.

Site #12 - Across the street from us and to the right

In this site there is a grey tent behind a cranberry pickup truck, and a red tent behind a grey pickup truck.  This is a very quiet site.  It is unclear who is camping here, because at least for most of the 5 hours I am watching there are no signs of life at all.

Eventually 3 adults (2 grandparents and a parent) and 1 very young child show up, retrieve a small red raincoat (it is a sunny and clear day) and fishing rods from a trunk, and leave with the now-raincoated child in cowboy boots in a stroller to go fishing.

They come.
They go.
They fish.
They return.
They go.

Where they come from and where they go to, I don't know.  Interesting.  I wonder what their story is.  

Site #18 - Down the road and out of our sight

We can't see this family, but we can definitely hear them:

12:00  Toddler screaming.
1:00  Screaming toddler.
2:00 Toddler still screaming, won't stop.
3:00  I want to muzzle the screaming toddler.
4:00  I want my husband to march down there right now and demand that the parents silence the screaming toddler.
4:50 - 4:52  Toddler is silent.  (Must be eating.)
4:52  Screaming again.
5:00  I feel like screaming.

Site #20 - In a site on our side of the road and way down to our right

When I arrived at the campground Friday evening, I noticed this calm Mennonite family moving their gear from their truck up into their secluded tent site.  There were 10 children quietly sitting at a picnic table waiting while Mom and Dad set up camp.  All but the oldest of the 6 girls have long braided hair and wear short-sleeved long dresses throughout the weekend.  The 4 boys wear striped polo shirts and jeans, cuffs rolled up whenever they are riding their bikes, which they seemed to love to do.  The trail leading to their private back-in-the-woods site looks like a used bicycle lot.

After a bit, the 6 girls pass by our site, the oldest one pulling a wagon loaded with sand toys and 2 little sisters.  The girl in charge is wearing her hair up and under a Mennonite net cap.  Must be going to the beach for a bit of play time.  (No swimsuits of course.)

Next the father shows up at the water faucet near our site to fill a blue and white water cooler which is darn near the size of a trash can with drinking water for his crew.  Plus a one gallon plastic jug.   ???  Somehow he manages to carry them both back into the woods.

After an hour or so, the "sand girls" pass us returning with the wagon to their site.  It is not long until Dad is seen next with the wagon at the water spout washing the sand out of the wagon and refilling the water cooler again.

Excitement!  Two of the park ranger vehicles speed by us, much faster than the 5 mph speed limit in the campground, toward the Mennonite family's site and hurry in there with some sort of a briefcase.  I'm fearing a snakebite, but we overhear the ranger telling the accident victim to "keep ice on it."  A minor injury I suppose, thank goodness.  Just a week ago there was a child bitten in the foot in this campground by a copperhead snake.  Read my blog post about it here.

For the next several hours the young boys and girls of the clan amuse themselves, and us, by coasting two at a time in their wagon down the hill from their site, past our site, and stopping at the crossroads where the bathhouse is.  The first time we see them coming, we are wondering how they will stop the thing without a crash, but then realize the wagon has a large brake lever.  These kids are having a ball and it is a delight to watch them.

Site #30 - Around the corner and behind us to the left

The lone camper here appears to be a bachelor, tenting it.  I am amused to see that he stores his cooking paraphernalia in a plastic hanging file storage box.  He prepares to make a meal by removing a small cast iron pot from the box and carefully cleaning it with several paper towels.  After his meal he reverses the process - he carefully wipes the gunk out of the pan with paper towels and returns it to his file box.

At all times he leaves his tent door wide open.  Again, I'm thinking bugs and mosquitos.  And snakes.
In some ways he is meticulous about his equipment.  I see him using a paper towel to wipe inside his tent entrance and collect debris out of there.  After the cleanup, he collapses and packs away his tent.

Next I am fascinated to watch how he cleans his ground cloth from under the tent.  First he uses a branch of leaves to sweep it off.  Then he folds it lengthwise into thirds, sweeping again the parts that had touched the ground.  Then lastly, he rolls it up, about 2 inches at a time, a process of roll then sweep, roll then sweep until it is ready to pack away.

His equipment was all packed neatly away by Saturday at noon.  At 12:05 the sun came out.

Two hours after "tent man" has vacated site #30, a small Sunline travel trailer pulls in and an older couple get busy setting up camp.

For the next several hours, I watch as the old wrinkly man tends their campfire in his boxers.  

Oh my, the views here in the woods are just something.

Time to make some dinner and mind my own business, or at least give the other campers something to wonder about US.


1 comment:

  1. Hilarious stories. As camp hosts we've seen our fair share of "odd" behaviors. I think every one of your neighbors has camped at our park at some point :)

    My favorite has been two different guys wearing kilts. Quite a fashion statement.