Now that we have made a commitment to get off the road as full time RV’ers and to live a more stationary life I’ve been reflecting on how it was we happened to make the decision. Lifestyle changes are never easy; why does one run headlong into all the fuss and bother that goes along with making a major life change?
When I was in my 20’s I loved getting dressed up, going out, having a quiet good time. I was into fine restaurants (when my wallet could tolerate them), elegance, good books, travel, opera, they symphony…. all that stuff. Now in my late 60’s I’ve given up pretty much all of that. Oh, I’ll still listen to classical music on my iPod, and I read books, but I find I’m a better cook than most of the stuff I get in restaurants, and I hate neckties, and white shirts… well, I can stain a shirt faster than a speeding bullet. I sometimes feel I’ve turned into Anti-Peter. So, lifestyle changes are understandable
“The great difference between voyages
rests not with the ships,
but with the people
you meet on them.”
– Amelia E. Barr
For a short while in life I was involved in sales related jobs. I realized quickly that was not where my strengths lived, but I learned one important lesson. It may be less true today — it seems that the almighty price tag has overcome most other rules of sale but I’m not sure greed has changed this one fundamental:
People buy from people
A salesman will do better by getting by letting people know who they are as a saleperson. (assuming that you’re a decent sort in the first place). Buyers will be affected by your personality, by your honesty, by how much you care about them. People buy from people.
Take me for example. I hate any kind of automated phone system. I want to talk to a human. Don’t give make me listen to 7 choices — (none of which are what I want) and waste 90 seconds listening to a machine. I could have simply said, “I want to talk to a representative” in 1 1/2 seconds and been on my proverbial way getting things done. Don’t tell me you care about my business and then put me on hold for 17 minutes and 36 seconds. I’m not stupid. Nor do I like gatekeepers. If a company is so complex that I have to go through a secretary to get to you I really don’t want to deal with you or your company — except that’s the way business in the U.S. is going — bigger is better we seem to think and as large companies swallow up smaller companies it’s getting harder and harder to find the person who has the authority to accomplish anything.
When we settled in for the winter two years ago — a couple hundred feet from where I’m sitting as I write this — we both felt an immediate sensation of comfort. But why?
On that first visit we quickly started thinking about what it would be like to come here regularly; to stay longer than we had planned. In those first few months we quickly got out and started shopping parks: were there “better” parks than this? Where else could we find what we liked if not in this RV park? That year we scouted over 50 parks — that’s how much we liked this place. But I have not answered “What is it that we like here?”
If you were to look at our past history, we ought not to care for this area at all. For one thing it’s semi-arid. We are accustomed to lots of green: forests and verdant fields. Rolling hills are wonderful. Hardwoods and rivers and rich black loam. Texas is none of those things. Not in any parts of Texas we’ve seen. Oh, you can tell me they have the Piney Woods and Hill country, but for a guy from the Upper Midwest these things are all just imitations.
I’ll be direct in saying that here I miss my PBS — local public broadcasting sucks big time. One thing about Wisconsin and Minnesota: they may have higher taxes but you get come culture and some services along with the taxes and both states have excellent public broadcasting.
I haven’t mentioned the fact that more people speak Spanish here than English — though they are always quick to switch to English when needed — and me not remembering anything from my 1 semester of Spanish in something like 5th grade. My 4 years of German do me no good here. My travel-acquired French does me no good here. I’m thinking of finding a tutor to teach me how to speak…. Yesterday we went looking at cars; as we pulled out of the driveway Peggy said “I didn’t understand half of what he said,” Accents and English as a second language don’t simplify life, they complicate it.
And yet we like this place….
Well, for one thing South Texas is workingman’s country. People here work with their hands, they aren’t afraid of the weather — even when it’s horribly hot. This is not a land of high tech anything — one sees a lot of grunt work going on that up north might be done by machine. People make an honest living (well, maybe a little under the table) but they aren’t making their living by cheating/defrauding/manipulating others. I have become more and more a blue collar kind of guy and I appreciate people who aren’t afraid to work hard for their income. They charge a decent price and you get a decent job in return.
We have been struck by how welcoming the entire area has been. New residents are welcome. Winter Texans are welcome. The longtime residents aren’t standoffish, they aren’t resentful of visitors. That’s a lot to like. I feel like I did when I was a youth walking down the street saying “hi” to all my neighbors and chatting with them as I passed. My dad has this “thing” about Canada; he always said that going to Canada was like going back 10 years in U.S. history — the people treated you like U.S. citizens used to treat you. Well, I’m beginning to think that being here in South Texas is very similar: in the regular day to day business of life there’s a gentler, friendlier way about life. People remember their manners — in fact I have to keep check on myself when I fall into my Northern ways and forget to be say Hi, and forget to ask a person’s name, or to give my name, or to say and do all the things my momma taught me, but that years of business had weaned out of me.
A year or two down the line we may not feel the same. First perceptions aren’t always accurate. But one thing is sure. Everyone we have met is not part of the same scheme to fool us into thinking S. Texas is different than it really is. We can’t be that far off on our estimation of conditions we’ve found here.
One thing RV’ing taught us is the truth of that Amelia Barr quotation. What changes when you go from place to place isn’t just the place…. it’s the people. Each part of this country has it’s own personality. If you pay attention you’ll see it.
Thanks for stopping by, I’ll be here again tomorrow. Why not check in and see what’s up?