Archive for Sunday, July 5, 2009

Jest for Grins: A new commandment: Thou shalt not camp

July 5, 2009


If God had given Moses an 11th commandment, I’m convinced it would have been: “Thou Shalt Not Camp!”

I’m not quite as bad as sister Lesta, whose husband claims she is roughing it if forced to stay in a four- instead of five-star hotel. But I draw the line at sleeping on the ground in a tent.

As a child, I remember Grams spending the night outside with my sisters and me to show us the Northern Lights and point out various constellations. Even then, we were lying on Army cots, safe from creepy crawlers like ticks and snakes.

Friends Rosemarie and Otto spent three months camping in Alaska last summer. While their motorhome is a beautiful home away from home, I don’t consider it a vacation when you haul your kitchen along with you.

However, on a recent trip to Gettysburg, as we passed motorhome after motorhome on the highway, it occurred to me that those folks didn’t have to worry about what bed they would sleep in that night. All I want from a motel is cleanliness and comfort and yet — even in some pretty pricey motels — I don’t always get it.

A couple of years ago, husband Ray and I stopped at a western Kansas hotel that we always relied on to be clean. The tip-off that the maid skipped changing the sheets was hair (yuk!) in the bed and make-up on the pillows. Hair on sheets or in bathtubs totally freaks me out!

When the boys were little, we stayed in a motel near Chattanooga’s Lookout Mountain that stretched our thin budget to the limit. One bed was full of hair. Ray went to the manager to request clean sheets and returned empty-handed, so I went to the office ready for battle. The night manager was friendly, smiling and asking if everything was fine with the room. As I said it was, I understood why Ray came back without sheets. The manager was in a wheelchair because he had no legs! Today Ray and I would handle the situation tactfully and sleep on clean sheets; then, we were young and clueless and slept on top of the bedspread.

Our historic hotel in Gettysburg was luxurious, but I’ve read the spooky articles about bedbugs in nice hotels and thoroughly checked the bed for vermin. No bugs, so what we’ll always remember about that hotel is the guy I thought was going to deck me. While Ray napped in our bug-free bed, I visited with friend Tom and a woman at a table in the hotel’s hospitality room where Dad’s WW II buddies were having a reunion. The woman’s brawny husband, nephew of a veteran, came over, sat beside me and asked which presidential candidate I voted for.

When I told him, he didn’t like the answer and slammed the table with both fists, making drinks and snacks jump (but not nearly so high as I). Then he put his hand about 3 inches from my nose and growled, “That makes me REALLY MAD!”

He lectured me loudly at length and I’m proud to say I handled it better than the sheets at Chattanooga. Much later he conciliatory told me he didn’t care who I voted for (could have fooled me). That evening, when Ray and I entered the hospitality room, Tom said, “So, Marsha, who did you vote for?” and then diagnosed the guy as “Batpoop crazy!”

When I admitted I had been afraid the man might hit me, but was confident Tom would intervene if he did, Tom said, “I’d have screamed like a girl and run!”

Later, I learned the angry guy was taking steroids for a medical condition, so I now sympathetically understand his aggressiveness, although it was very scary at the time.

But scarier than bedbugs in the bed or a snake in a bedroll? Scarier than hauling my kitchen along on a three-month vacation?


— Marsha Henry Goff is a freelance writer in Lawrence whose latest book is “Human Nature Calls.”


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