Matter of Laugh or Death
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
CAMPING TRIP? NO THANKS
Once again some well-meaning friends invited me on a camping trip this past summer. Why do they keep asking? I’ve declined their offer ten straight years now. When it comes to sleeping in the woods, all I can say is, “What’s up with that?!”
I would rather have root canal surgery than go camping. I realize it is a billion dollar industry in the U.S., but for the life of me I don’t understand why it is such a popular activity.
Thousands of people—intelligent adults for the most part, I have to assume—plan their summer weekends and their once-a-year vacations around camping. In the history of humankind, the arduous quest to achieve civilization has often been measured by the ability to construct permanent shelters. When most of society can avoid sleeping on the ground, we say they have made a major advancement. So why in this modern age do people allocate so much of their precious money and even more of their precious time living and sleeping on the ground?
Of course, I am making a big assumption when I combine “camping” and “sleeping” in the same discussion. When I walk through the woods, I rarely see a patch of ground that reminds me of a Sealy Posturepedic. Camping enthusiasts get positively giddy when they can pitch their tent on a site that is almost level, and only has a few sharp rocks protruding through the dirt.
As someone who sleeps fitfully when my pillow bunches up or when my Barney the Dinosaur nightlight burns out, I can safely say I would get no more than twenty minutes of actual slumber spending a night in a tent. It is a moot point, however, as I would never last the entire night. I am sure by 1:00 a.m., in a sleep starved fit of frustration, I would be scrambling out of the tent, jumping into the car, and racing to the nearest Holiday Inn.
This is too bad because I would be missing out on that well-known camping treat: the 3:00 a.m. bathroom dilemma. It is annoying enough when the passage of time causes the recharge capacity of the ol’ bladder to be no more than five hours. At home, navigating the bedroom, the hallway, and the bathroom without smashing your toe or stepping on the cat is tough enough. But putting yourself in the position of having to solve this problem in the middle of the woods is nothing short of masochistic.
I suppose the more remote your campsite, the easier this can be. There are usually plenty of good “whizzing trees” nearby. But many people do their camping at those densely populated campground areas. Come sunrise, you may discover that what seemed to be a good “whizzing tree” in the dark was actually the tent of that young couple from Springfield. You just shrug your shoulders and try not to smirk when they ask, “Did you hear that sudden rain storm last night?”
There is another form of camping that I find equally as baffling. It is the Recreational Vehicle. Those monstrous Winnebagos with the “I’m spending my children’s inheritance” bumper stickers make no sense at all. Even if they did not strike terror into the heart of the average Interstate highway traveler who suddenly realizes the white-haired operator can barely see over the steering wheel—let alone use the mirrors properly—these machines are a waste of money. You could stay in a Motel 6 fifty nights per year for thirty years and still not spend as much as the purchase price of these raised-ranches-on-wheels.
Plus, a Motel 6 room comes with clean towels, a flush toilet, and cable TV, if not quite as much floor space. And you’ll never be asked to parallel park a motel room—something to be thankful for.
This year I finally vowed to tell my friends the truth. I resolved to make it crystal clear that I abhor camping and they are never again to mention the subject to me. When the inevitable invitation came to join them for a few nights in the woods, I stood up straight, took a deep breath, looked them square in the eye, and said in a firm voice, “Oh, gee, y’know what? I, uh, I have to work that weekend. Yeah, too bad. Maybe some other time.”
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