What do you do when you’re sitting in your RV looking out the window? We’ve been here at the Wisconsin State Fair RV Park for almost all of our intended month and as always when time to move on approaches I get antsy. When I get antsy I start thinking about an entirely different array of subjects than normal; it’s a manifestation of how antsy I am.
With no volunteer gig at this place, we have no hard routine. With no hard routine we habitually dawdle over breakfast. Our other meals may be more orderly: I cook, we sit down to eat, we chat a little over our meal and then we get up from the table on go on with the day. But at breakfast we eat and sit and chat and chat some more; sometimes longer, other times a shorter time — but we always sit for a chat.
While talking we notice what the neighbors are doing and make up stories about those people. Do you ever do that? Do you ever imagine what their lives are like?
My dear mother did. Dad had purchased an apartment building which I helped him maintain. They occupied an apartment on the ground floor, facing the front of the building. Perhaps not the typical location for a “Super’s” apartment, but certainly the location for the “Owner.” Directly across from our building was another 12 family apartment, on a block of 3 and 4 family apartment buildings. There were a lot of families; plenty to watch and plenty to be seen. And mom had a bay window on the world from which she could sit and make up her stories.
Mom knew the schedules of many of them, specially those living in the building across the street from us. Some were her favorites. Rita had MS and she also had a mobility chair in the days when not a lot of folks had them. Mom would see her 2 miles away from the house, crossing 4 lane streets in her mobility chair and she was amazed at her courage. I think that inspired more courageous stories about Rita. Mom knew the hours of work for various husbands and wives; she monitored the growth of children; she noticed changes in family relationships. She didn’t “gossip” about them, but I often heard her telling dad what was happening as if she was a reporter on camera. I can’t tell you how many times I laughed at something that had become her way of life — her oral “book” about the lives of our neighbors.
Add a few years to the calendar, stick us out on the RV “road” in various campgrounds and guess what? The two of us find ourselves doing the same thing. It’s all short term — you realize. Our neighbors aren’t our neighbors for very long — at least not usually. But we still find stories to tell each other. We know they are fictional. But they are fun nontheless.
This weekend we have a 30-40 something couple across the aisle from us. They hold hands. He opens the car door for her. He brings flowers. They’re cute. Looks like they are leaving today; we’ll miss them. They brought a smile to our face.
Sometimes we know more about our neighbors. Another pair of neighbors come from Arkansas; they have jobs in town, they’ll be her until next March, they have one child who is home schooled. Knowing the backstory spoils the storytelling. When we know the story it’s no fun making up another tale. It just doesn’t work. Why make up a story when you know the truth?
I wonder, sometimes, if “knowing the truth” is the problem with american politics? We know what the media tell us; we choose which of the media we (individually) choose to credit with our trust. The question of whether what we are told is truth seems rarely to be asked, even more rarely answered. It must be true, it’s on TV, or it comes from this source, or that source. We fact-check the people we distrust but we rarely fact check the ones we trust. Answers to our fact-checking depend on which media we consult for research — so we can build error into our fact-checking by consulting fallible sources. In the end, we think we know the truth but we have no certainty of our convictions: we only have certainty of our opinion. And we’ll fight with others who have similar certainty over their opinion. And, of course, no one wants to accept that there could be absolute truth because our society has thrown absolutes out a good many years ago.
I have to say, I’d rather make up stories about my RV neighbors than about other people. The RV-neighbor-stories I know are fictional; I know I made them up for fun, with minimal evidence, just to pass the time of day, and I’m not going to share them with others, and one day soon the subjects of my stories are going to move on and I’ll forget all about them and about my make-believe stories.
It’s harder to do that with politicians; they seem to hang around a lot longer. And we lose our ability to laugh over our make-believe stories; in fact we endow our stories with credibility, and we make decisions based on them. I find that scary.
Life isn’t an RV park. Family and friends aren’t short time neighbors. Politicians aren’t short time neighbors. It’s good to separate fun from reality. It’s good to separate fiction from fact. I never said it was easy…. but it’s good.
Thanks for stopping. I’ll be here again tomorrow to chat, why not stop and see what’s up?