Saturday, August 9, 2014

A Glimpse Of Trailer Park Life

I know, you've already got an image in your mind.  You're thinking run down mobilehomes with 50 kids in the mini yard, a woman falling out of her tank top, smoking a cigarette as she yells at the kids, alcohol bottles littering the road.

We have a MUCH more upstanding outfit here than that.  That's why I call it a campground.  I think it sounds a little classier than trailer park.  It's not at all unusual to see gorgeous rigs like this.

That's a very fancy pants motorhome with several slide outs and all sorts of modern conveniences that many of us don't even have in our homes.  It's luxury camping.  Leather everything.  Shiny everything.  It even has a washer and drier and an outdoor shower.

Camping sure isn't what it used to be.

We can't have tents here, so all we see are motorhomes, trailers and vans.  In fact, for all of my life, we haven't allowed tents, so that's all I've ever seen.

So, when my friend was here and witnessed all manner of people come to the door to register or pay for another night, she was blown away when this pulled in.  She's used to seeing fancy motorhomes like the one above.

It's a Westfalia.  Made by Volkswagon.  The original minivan from the 60s.  This is definitely one from the 60s, not some fancy modern day version.  You can get them for like 50 cents, I think.

And every summer, we get at least one family from Canada who shows up in one, diesel fumes sputtering out the back and, like a clown car, person after person falling out as they pull into their spot.

This time, it was a woman with 3 kids ranging in age from 9 to somewhere around 20.  She herself was probably 50.  And from Quebec.  Because that's the rule.  They have to be French speaking when they chug-a-chug in, innumerable people grinning out the windows.

All 4 of them piled into the office and she registered, saying she'd go night by night because they weren't sure what they would do while they were here.

And when one of the kids asked the other one if she thought I spoke French, I did and blew them all away.  As always, the conversation rode the roller coaster of English, French, Franglais and back again as we talked about paying, shopping, sightseeing etc.

All checked in and ready to go, they piled back into the van, started it up and off they went.

Black smoking trailing.

And my friend sat here opened mouthed, asking if all 4 of them really planned to sleep in there.

Of course, I said.  I never quite understand the configuration, but year after year I see it and year after year, I just shake my head.  The top pops up and there's some kind of bed up there and the back folds down into a bed but I never understand the puzzle of how it all works.  They aren't allowed to sleep on the ground, and I've checked in the past, and somehow, a hundred people really fit into 8 feet of space.

She just shook her head.  And said "that's never going to make it back to Quebec."

Just as I laughed and told her she'd be surprised at the condition of some of the things that show up here year after year, here came the van again, chugging along.  I assumed they were driving through to go to the beach but instead, she made a big circle in the driveway, speeding up, and then drove out.  Then she drove next door and whipped through their driveway and came back and did another circle in ours.

 I was starting to worry that she was completely insane.  Driving the kids into ever shrinking circles until they combusted and evaporated on the spot, leaving only a cloud of diesel exhaust in their wake.

So, I walked over and asked if everything is was ok.  I needn't have asked because as she slowed down, the van started bucking and making the godawfullest noises.

"I think I'm having a problem" she said, in English.  All bets in French were off as I tried to offer my assistance.

And to make this even better, I had to leave to teach at the gym, so I was silently panicking that she was going to be stuck in my driveway at 4pm on a Friday with no one to help.

She asked if there was a mechanic nearby so I recommended one, but it's tricky to give directions.  I got the phone number and told her to put the address in her GPS, but of course, her phone was dead, so I had to give verbal directions.  It's less than a mile away.  But it was 4pm on a Friday and I was really worried that no one would help  her.

She thanked me and went on her way.  All of 10 feet and then it was quiet.  The older daughter, full of piercings, overbleached hair and some outfit from a summer in 1970 came to the door and said "it's not moving" and asked if she could plug in her phone for a minute.  Luckily we have an outdoor plug, so I set  her up and watched as her mother started taking things out of the back of the van, presumably to look at the engine (I'm pretty sure that like the Volkswagon bug, the engine is in the back).

Now I was really panicking.  I had to leave, it was 4pm on a Friday and she was NOT going to sleep in my driveway for the night.

I came in and told k-ster the story and said I hoped she found a mechanic and as I drove off, I told her to ask k-ster for help if she needed anything else.

As I left, it occurred to me that at least she was facing the sites, so if they had to, they could just push the van down the hill, into a spot, and she'd at least have a place to stay.  That was the plan anyway, right?  I texted k-ster of my wild plan.

When I got home from the gym, she wasn't in the driveway but she also wasn't in any of the sites.

K-ster said it went like this:

He heard her call the first mechanic who said they can't do anything until Tuesday.

He helped her find a Volkswagon specialist and listened to the speakerphone as the woman at the dealership was mean to her and would not answer her questions.

He said he'd help her push it down the hill so they'd have a place to stay.

Apparently this was not the first time they had to push the van because she told the kids they would have to push it and they jumped right into action.

I'd like to pause here and let you picture this.  Two blondish women with wild hair, cut off jeans and some fairly unkempt tops.  A yellow, old Westfalia van.  Two younger kids who were no more fashionable than the other two.  And all speaking French.  Getting ready to push a van.

It's a scene from every French movie in 1970, right?

So, add k-ster to the mix and I'm wetting my pants.

I did not know this, but with standard vehicles, if the battery is dead, you don't need a jump.  You just need to get it rolling and pop the clutch and it will spring to life.  Never having owned or driven a standard, I know nothing about this.

Apparently the woman did, because as soon as she popped the clutch and it jumped alive, she drove it to a spot, unpacked and then they all drove out to sightsee!

So, to recap:

We really like to see these:
because they are pleasing to the eye and lend an air of class.

But we never turn away these:
because we all need something to wonder about!

And I'm always contemplating the screenplay I'm going to write and send to National Lampoon.  They'd make a great movie out of this, wouldn't they?

Linking here:

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