'Matter of Laugh or Death,' the award-winning humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
TAKING UMBRAGE WITH R.V. ‘CAMPERS’
A few weeks ago I wrote about a traumatic experience that happened to me while camping 20 years ago. When a creepy little insect crawled into my nostril as I tried to sleep in a tent, I vowed that I would spend every night for the rest of my life inside a well-constructed building.
I listed some of the reasons why it’s impossible to get a good night’s sleep inside a tent, and I made a light-hearted comment about the construction standards of a certain motel chain. Ha ha. It was just a joke, guys. Who would’ve thought a company with cute, homey commercials, and an even cuter slogan, “We’ll leave the light on for you,” would have no sense of humor? And who would’ve thought this particular company would have at its disposal a fleet of humorless corporate attorneys who use highfalutin legal phrases such as, “Take umbrage with your disparaging comments…,” “Negative economic impact…,” and, “We’ll sue your pants off, pal”?
Anyway, some of my friends also took umbrage with my disparaging comments. No, my friends are not corporate lawyers representing a motel chain; they are campers.
“Bill!” one of my friends exclaimed, “I can’t believe you actually dissed camping!”
“Dave!” I replied, “I can’t believe a middle-aged guy like you actually used the word ‘dissed’!”
It seems Dave and his family go on camping trips every year. As he described all the fun and enjoyment of camping, including a spectacular three-week cross country trip they took a few years ago, I started to become suspicious.
“Wait a minute, Dave,” I interrupted. “Are you telling me that you went to the West Coast and back, and spent every night for three weeks inside a tent?!”
“Well, no,” he said. “Not a tent, a camper. You know, my R.V.”
“Ah ha!” I exclaimed. “Would you please describe for the jury the exact construction standards of this so-called camper?”
Well, needless to say, within five minutes Dave was sweating profusely and stammering, and he finally offered to work out a plea bargain agreement. It turns out that Dave’s so-called camper, his R.V., is actually a well-constructed three-bedroom raised ranch house with a two-car garage that just happens to be mounted on top of a diesel truck chassis.
Most people assume R.V. stands for Recreational Vehicle. But it’s actually the abbreviation of a Latin phrase, ridiculosii voluminus, which means “ridiculously large.”
When I offered disparaging comments about camping a few weeks ago, I did not have in mind some of the features found on Dave’s R.V., including: air conditioning, microwave oven, refrigerator, shower, flush toilet, satellite TV, high-speed Internet connection, and tennis court. (OK, I’m exaggerating about the tennis court, but that’s only because Dave decided at the last minute to install a miniature golf course instead.)
Just because you call it “going camping,” and just because you park your sleeping quarters in a spot technically called a “campsite” (which has electricity, water, and sewer utility hookups), does not automatically mean that you are having a camping experience. It simply means you own a vacation home that is capable of clogging up traffic for miles on the Interstate highway when you accidentally get into the “Exact change, cars only” lane at the toll booth.
The main features of the camping experience I was referring to (and disparaging) are: sleeping on the lumpy ground, peeing in the woods, waiting for insects to crawl into your nostrils, and being soaking wet at daybreak from either rain or dew. That is real camping, and that, needless to say, is no fun.
At this point I’d better quit making disparaging comments about camping. If I get any more sue-happy corporate lawyers mad at me, I could wind up living in a tent.
If that happens, maybe I can talk Dave into letting me stay in his guest bedroom—which is located on the third floor of the east wing of his R.V.
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