Why do I do it? I can’t seem to stop myself.
I know I don’t want to follow through. I’m still shell-shocked from our recent experiences (not literally ‘shell’-shocked, but metaphorically tired of having to deal with people as a representative of anyone). I am not ready to put myself back in the same situation. But I can’t help looking at the listings on Volunteer.gov!
I guess I’m no different than thousands of drivers who slow down to look at car wrecks or who go to boxing matches hoping to see boxer beaten to a pulp or going to a stock car race to see a collossal wreck. I just get weird kicks checking out volunteer gigs on offer.
When curiosity and common sense collide:
Enquiring further about a subject
when you know you really
don’t want to know the answer
Lonely Camp Hosts and Other People
It’s good to have friends.
It’s better to have a partner who’s really your friend.
In the last two days Peg and I have been accosted by lonely people. I’m sure it’s happened to you; someone comes up to you and no matter how hard you try you just can’t break away from them!
Wednesday it was Don from Missouri. Don’s a nice guy; Don’s a lonely guy. He knows more about fishing than I know about a lot of things; he makes his own lures — by his own admission he has some 1,000 fishing lures; and he loves telling fishing stories. Peg and I had decided to take showers at the campground showers and Peggy went ahead of me while I finished up what I was writing. I headed off to the shower a few minutes later and by the time I showered, dried, dressed and walked back to Serendipity there was my poor wife trapped by a talkative old guy. She’s way too polite to break away abruptly and so she had to stand there listening, or pretending, while Don went on at length about topics she couldn’t care less about and there was no getting in a word edgewise.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”
– Marcel Proust
Thursday it was the both of us trapped during our morning perambulation around the campground by…. you guessed it… the camp host. Charles is a real Southerner — a lifelong Mississippian — a hard worker all his life and quite the chin-wagger! We learned about HAM radio on Thursday. Did you know at 10 miles distance the earth’s curvature is dropped 66 feet. No wonder you can’t see much more than 7 miles straight ahead on the surface of the earth — in that distance the earth has curved some 34 feet and anything shorter than that would be hidden by the curvature of the earth. We learned about Charley being on his army unity’s Rifle Team, and the fact that he was a records clerk…. we learned all sorts of things about Charley and scarcely had a chance to actually share anything from our own lives.
The funniest part, however, was that as we walked past Charles 5th wheel I could hear him inside scrambling to get his shoes on and get outside to talk with us before we got too far! Charley’s a peach of a guy! I like Charley.
But Charley and Don highlight a fact of RV’ing. Don’s an itinerant — he travels about here and there as the spirit moves him. Charley and Dot have been camp hosts for more than 2 years. They don’t move around so much. But Don is lonely, and so are Charley and Dot. There are a lot of lonely RV’ers.
When we were at the Oregon Dunes part of our Volunteer job was to spend time talking with volunteers. I did not do that part of the job as well as I might have. As so often happens with me I had “things” to do and I didn’t spend as much time with the people as I might have. It’s a character flaw. But it’s also a reality that volunteers need encouragement — they’re out there on the firing line and they need some personal contact with people they aren’t supposed to be overseeing. The nature of volunteering sometimes means that they are ‘stuck’ in a campground much of the week and they just want to talk with someone who doesn’t want something from them and at a time when they want to talk too.
I suppose I could say that there are a lot of lonely old people. While that may be true it’s the RV sector that I’m thinking about. By virtue of having gone RV’ing they display that they are facing aging proactively. They are trying to keep themselves young and alive by keeping life interesting and varied. But in the words of the Old Testament, “Time and chance happen alike to all” and some RV’ers are a lot better off financially than others. I see some of the new RV’s going down the road and the difference between them and us is a whole Fort Knox. Then again I think back on the RV’s that some of our volunteers on the Forest had and there’s a Fort Knox of difference between what they had and what we have…. and our coach is 10 years old already!
For some RV’ers volunteering is their own choice. All RV’ers can’t afford to be driving hundreds of miles very often. Some can hardly afford the fuel it takes to keep their pickup filled with fuel They live humble lives and the contact they have with campers may be their primary human contact at this point in their lives. That’s not an easy situation to be in. Some of our volunteers at the Dunes were a lot like Don and others were a lot like Charles and Dot: nice people, vibrant people, but lonely ones.
There have been times that I have thought about returning to the Dunes — to see if we could do a better job for the Volunteers and not as much of a job for the Forest Service. But the fact of life is that loneliness is a factor of old age regardless of where you are in the world. There comes a time when the world is going faster than you are and your contemporaries — your friends — pass from the scene one by one.
Peg & I are lucky in that we are each other’s best friends. We don’t have to go out and catch people to talk to because we talk with each other. We are also lucky in that we don’t need a lot of people around us to feel content; whereas those who like groups, who have been part of groups all their lives — for them the transitions of age can be challenging. And for those who are considering the move from Sticks & Bricks it’s another factor to consider:
- can you be happy with the people you are going to cross paths with along the way?
- will there be enough of them?
- will there be too many of them?
Thursday morning when I was browsing the Volunteer.gov postings I had been looking at a number of BLM listings. A common factor with many of them was their remoteness; not just being nearly off the grid, but being entirely off the grid. I wonder about the kind of person who volunteers to be that reclusive. This past Spring I had hired a volunteer caretaker for one of the Dunes positions. He was in his early 40’s; a vet with disabilities, wanting a way to make a difference in the world and he had just completed a year long volunteer gig for the BLM out in the middle of nowhere where he was 100 miles (one way) from the nearest town, with spotty cell service (only at specific locations on the BLM property). He’s a great young man (by comparison to myself), but I can’t imagine shutting myself off that much from humanity. I suspect I’d go mad — even WITH my wife around! I need contact with people.
There are no conclusions to today’s blog. I’m just thinking about the folks we’ve been meeting — the Don’s and the Charles’. There have been similar individuals in pretty much every campground/RV park we’ve visited. I think too about those volunteers we left behind at the Oregon Dunes — dear people I learned to care about — a lot!
As we took a walk today I was saying to Peggy that before we retired I really WANTED to volunteer and to have an impact on others in ways I could not when I was working. After having done a couple gigs I find myself saying “I would like to volunteer, but I don’t want to do THAT.” I’m wondering whether this is going to become a sort of pea under our mattress thing? I’ve always given a lot to others — it’s been who I am — but I’ve been looking, wondering, waiting for a new outlet. And I’m wondering why this one aspect of life has been weighing on my mind for months now. I don’t know if it’s something I want to change about how we are RV’ing, or just about how we spend out days while RV’ing. I don’t know. It’s a topic on my mind.
Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll talk with you tomorrow. 🙂