A few years ago when I was in my mid-seventies, I bought an RV—a 32-foot Class C Dodge that had been driven all over the U.S. by missionaries for 35 years. After having the vehicle repaired and restored to good working condition, I planned to camp in Florida state parks with my dog. For my maiden trip, I went to Manatee Springs State Park, an hour from home.
Arriving at the ranger station, I pull up to a stop sign and walk across the road to sign in. That done, I return to the vehicle to drive to my campsite. But there’s a problem. The passenger door scrapes against the stop sign as I try to move forward, making the screeching sound of metal on metal. Putting the engine in reverse, I attempt to back up. Unfortunately, the vehicle has engaged itself with the stop sign and will not move. I can’t proceed in either direction.
Figuring that the ranger may fare better, I call her over. She slips behind the wheel and puts the RV in first. Then she tries reverse. Same result. The RV and stop sign have merged to become one.
The ranger says we’ll have to dismantle the sign. Getting tools from the office, she starts removing screws. I’m doing my best to be witty and apologetic. When the sign is in pieces on the ground and the RV is set free, I thank her profusely. I drive to my assigned campsite.
As I’m backing in, the gravel entry looks clear in the rear view mirrors. However, before the RV moves very far, I feel resistance. How can this be? There’s nothing back there! I push on the accelerator a little more. Now I’m sure there’s resistance.
Getting out to investigate, I see that I’ve backed into the electrical outlet, uprooting it from the ground. Red and black wires dangle from the box. How mortifying. I return to the ranger station where the ranger is still putting the stop sign back together. When I tell her what happened, she laughs patiently an says, “Don’t worry. Happens all the time. Just pick out another site.” I can feel myself blushing.
At the new site, I back in with my eyes glued on the electrical outlet in the rear view mirror. I feel resistance again. Impossible. I’ve got the goddam electrical box right in my line of sight. So I put more pressure on the accelerator. The RV still doesn’t want to move. Time to get out once more. This time I’ve uprooted the faucet, which is poking out of the ground and spraying water everywhere.
There are no words for what I’m feeling. I’d like to sink into the earth and keep going until I reach China. But I know I must return to the ranger and confess. What the hell will I say? I decide that I’ll offer a substantial donation to Manatee Springs State Park—say, one hundred dollars.
This time the ranger’s not smiling anymore. Luckily, when I reach the part of my story that includes the donation, her sense of humor returns. She sends me off to a third campsite.
Now I am top of things! My eyes are trained on both the electric outlet and the water faucet in the rear view mirrors. Yay! I’ve cleared them. Life is good again. I keep backing up until the front end of the RV is well out of the road.
Then…you guessed it. Resistance. Now I am getting angry. This is ridiculous. Absolutely nothing can be back there this time. Reason has left me. I’m a bulldog.
Suddenly I realize that I forgot about the picnic able. I have pushed a massive hardwood table about five feet deeper into the campsite. I’ve dented the back of the RV.
This time I don’t tell anyone.
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