I settled in one of Beth’s dining chairs and stared intently at her. Not one to waste words, I came straight to the point. “My Joe says your Tom told him that you’re going on your first camping trip next weekend. I don’t want you to head off into the wilderness unprepared, so as a lifelong camper I’ve come over to give you some advice.”
Beth grinned at me. “But Mrs. Hinkel, we’re booked at a lovely park with showers, water, trash pickup, and firewood delivery! I would hardly call it the untamed frontier!”
“Honey, it’s that kind of overconfidence that leads to certain disaster!”
Young people today think they know everything about everything, and I am here to set this particular one straight!
“Of course, Mrs. Hinkel, I’m very grateful for your thoughtful concern. I’d love to hear what you have to say!”
“First, tell me the type of camping you’re doing. Tent, trailer, or motorhome? Mountain, desert, lake, forest, river, or ocean beach? Primitive, regular, or hook-up site? Private, city, county, state, or national park? I have to know these details before I can tailor my advice to your situation.”
Beth appeared less assured as she answered me: “Well, I believe it’s a state park, and we’ve just bought a beautiful three-room tent. I’m not sure what kind of site we have, but it’s at the beach.”
“Let’s start with your list of necessary supplies. You may want to take notes, Dear.” I watched as Beth obediently produced pen and paper, and I began rattling off items. “Sleeping bags, pillows, air mattresses and pump, clothing—warm and cool as beach weather is so fickle, matches or lighter, stove, propane, coolers, food, eating and cooking utensils, tarps for under the tent and over your firewood, flashlights for nighttime toilet trips, portable radio, extra batteries, hand soap, shampoo, T.P.—the bathrooms always run out on weekends, paper towels, bath towels and washcloths, Tom’s shaving supplies, baby’s portable crib, diapers, dishcloths and towels, dish detergent, lantern, beach blanket and umbrella, car sun visor…”
I paused to take a breath and let Beth catch up before continuing. “Sunscreen, insect repellent, sunglasses, travel clock, tablecloth, clothespins, rope, hatchet, hammer, folding shovel, dining canopy—for sun and rain protection, sand toys, sandals, stroller, water jug, dishpan, folding chairs, antiseptic spray for the bathrooms— veritable germ meccas, camera and film, deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, first-aid kit—indispensable on campouts, map, Tuck tape, aspirin, can opener, pocketknife, flyswatter—bugs will drive you crazy, mirror, comb and brush, hats…” I stopped again, as I noticed Beth looking rather agitated. “What’s the matter, Honey?”
“Oh, Mrs. Hinkel, how will we fit all this stuff in our car?” she wailed.
“Well, you should’ve thought of that before you booked your site,” I admonished. “Oh, and write m-o-n-e-y at the bottom of the list to buy all the items you will inevitably forget. Just pray there’s a decent market within driving distance as little stores near camp will be understocked and overpriced.”
Why is Beth fidgeting so in her chair? How distracting!
“Now there are some things to be aware of. You needn’t worry about forest fires at the beach, but there’s tsunami danger if an earthquake hits anywhere in the world. I suppose you don’t even know how to swim, do you? There’s no fear of bears getting into your food, but watch out, as hoodlums steal coolers hoping for alcohol. I suggest you tape a sign on yours saying, ‘No beer. Vegetables only.’ Stow your bread, cookies, and crackers in the tent or thieving bands of crows or a pilfering squirrel will carry them away while you’re down at the beach. At sunset, that dark cloud in the sky will be composed of hummingbird-sized mosquitoes, so drench yourselves in repellent unless you want to spend the rest of the weekend scratching bites. Keep your eyes on the baby at all times, as he’s likely to want to play in the fire pit, sample pebbles and assorted bugs, wander off into the brush, poke his eye with sticks, put holes in your air mattresses with sharp rocks, or pick some stinging nettles.”
My, Beth looks a bit peaked, and she’s trembling, too! Must be coming down with something. Maybe I’d better head on home.
A few days later I found I’d wasted my time on Beth, as she’d canceled the park reservations and booked into a beach hotel instead. Some people just aren’t camping types, I guess.
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